Yesterday, Chief Robert Frank testified at the Joint Senate-House Joint Committees on Veterans Affairs, calling on the VA to recognize C-123 veterans' exposure claims.
Reserve Airmen who flew the C-123 Provider military cargo aircraft after the Vietnam War that were used during the War to drop the defoliant Agent Orange were exposed to that defoliant through residue left in those aircraft.
It is estimated that over 2,000 Reserve crew members, flight nurses, and maintenance workers were exposed between 1972 and 1982 in missions using these former “spray birds.”
During a Veterans Affairs hearing on the Senate side in late January, VA Secretary McDonald indicated that the VA, which had previously denied such claims, appears ready to change its mind in the wake of a January report from the Institute of Medicine concluding that C-123 Reservists were likely exposed to dangerous levels of dioxin, the toxic chemical in Agent Orange.
We urge these Committees to ensure that the VA recognize their obligation and be given the wherewithal to provide care and compensation for these C-123 Reserve crews. "The Air Force Officers Corps is very good for just two basic reasons:
1. Many of us are "mustangs," former non-commissioned officers
2. The rest of us are supported by outstanding professional non-commissioned officers