04 March 2015

VFW National Commander Statement on C-123 Veterans to Joint Senate & House Veterans Affairs Committees

VFW's National Commander John Stroud issued a statement today before the Joint Senate & House Veterans Affairs Committees. The story was also reported in the Springfield Republican, with more local detail. 

Regardless, VA Under Secretary Allison Hickey announced to Stars and Stripes on 11 March 2015 the VA reconsideration of its initial plans to care for C-123 veterans.

"C-123 Veterans: 

During the Vietnam War, C-123 aircraft were utilized to spray toxic herbicides throughout Vietnam. After the Vietnam War, those same C-123 aircraft were repurposed and reassigned to Air Force Reserve units throughout the country, where they were used by Air Force reservists for training, military airlifts, and medical and cargo transportation, as well as mosquito abatement spraying.

Many of these veterans now suffer from many of the conditions that have been linked to exposure to Agent Orange. However, VA has vehemently opposed any notion that these veterans where exposed to enough Agent Orange during their duties aboard the previously exposed aircraft to cause adverse health effects.

In its recent report, “Post-Vietnam Dioxin Exposure in Agent Orange Contaminated C-123 Aircraft,” IOM estimated that up to 2,100 Air Force Reservists worked on C-123 aircraft that had been previously used to spray herbicides during the Vietnam War.

After diligently considering relevant evidence, available sample data, and the current body of work on the health effects associated with exposure to Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (TCDD), the Committee determined that Air Force Reservists who worked on previously exposed C-123 aircraft “were exposed (in the technical sense of the word of having bodily contact with the chemicals) to the components of [Agent Orange] to some extent.

VA has acknowledged that this IOM report contradicts its stance on whether C-123 veterans were exposed to enough TCDD to cause adverse health effects. In response to the IOM report, VA has established a workgroup to review IOM’s report and make recommendations.

On January 31, 2015, the VFW sent a letter to VA Secretary McDonald urging him to extend Agent Orange presumptive authority to the aircrews of these aircraft. The VFW will not accept any action short of granting C-123 veterans the care and benefits they deserve."

This includes amending VA regulations so veterans who served as pilots and aircrews on these contaminated aircraft receive equitable treatment when applying for VA disability compensation."

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