30 October 2016

Virginian-Pilot Publishes C-123 Agent Orange vs.VA & Dr. Al Young Report, Part One

This six page newspaper report is the 19th in their series of extraordinary coverage of Agent Orange from the beginning of Vietnam War.

The reporters offer new details on the unique and troubling role of Dr. Alvin Young in guiding the Department of Veterans Affairs for decades in the determined obstruction of veterans' exposure claims.

Dr. Young is named as the "go-to" guy for a predictable negative opinion whenever the VA seeks buttress goods denial of Agent Orange claims. The report offers a tight focus on the role of Dr. Young (and suggests another title of "Dr. Orange") when he and Major Wes Carter appeared before a committee of the Institute of Medicine Investigating veterans' exposure claims.

Veterans won this argument, with the IOM concluding that their exposure aboard their aircraft was harmful. In June 2015 the VA finally yielded, granting presumptive service connection for these veterans for the recognized list of Agent Orange ailments.

The second part of this report publishers on Monday October 31, 2060.


Senior Master Sergeant Richard Haskins, USAF Retired, was born on April 8, 1936 and passed away on Wednesday, October 26, 2016.

SMSGT Haskins was a resident of Longmeadow, Massachusetts at the time of his passing.

Richard was a graduate of W. Bridgewater H.S.

Richard served his country proudly with the US Air Force and made a career with the Dept. of Defense for 35 years. He served his country proudly with the US Air Force and made a career as an Air Reserve Technician for 35 years. He served during the Korean, Vietnam, and Desert Storm wars. After active duty he enlisted with the US Air Force Reserves and received numerous medals awards and citations.

Dick was a flight examiner with the 74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Westover AFB, MA and one of the most experienced aeromedical evacuation technicians.

He was married to Barbara.

Relatives and friends may gather with his family during calling hours on Friday Nov. 4 2016 from 11:00 to 1:00 followed by a Memorial Service with Pastor Barry Andrusik officiating at Browne Memorial Funeral Chapels Enfield CT. Interment with military honors will then take place in the Massachusetts Veteran�s Memorial Cemetery in Agawam MA.

In lieu of flowers the family has requested memorial donations in his memory be made to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute P.O. Box 849168 Boston MA 02284-9168.

29 October 2016

Short Video by ProPublica: C-123 Agent Orange Veterans' Quest For VA Benefits vs. Dr. Al Young

ProPublica and The Virginia Pilot produced a short video on YouTube covering Dr. Al Young and the C-123 veterans' problems with him, the VA and Agent Orange. A follow-on to their excellent in-depth report on the same subject.

• note: related 2014 Vietnam Veterans of America radio interview
• here is a shorter recording, just the IOM opening statements by Maj. Wes Carter and Dr. Al Young
• note: Full recording of Dr. Al Young and others, June 2014 public hearing held by the Institute of Medicine C-123 Agent Orange committee, Washington DC
statement by Professor Philip Kahn (Rutgers University) objecting at IOM hearing to VA foot-dragging
• note: brief summary of some of disappointments veterans had over the decades with Dr. Young
• note: C-123 Veterans Association concerns re: Dr. Al Young & VA, submitted to VA 2014

26 October 2016

ProPublica Publishes Major C-123 Agent Orange Report

Today, ProPublicawhat I call the "NPR of the Internet," together with the Virginian Pilot, published the 19th in the major series on Agent Orange and the problems veterans had over the decades during and since Vietnam. The article is titled "Doctor Orange: The Secret Nemesis of Sick Vets."

It focuses heavily on the role of retired Air Force Col. Dr. Alvin Young. Dr. Young has consistently opposed veterans' claims for Agent Orange illnesses, insisting no serious harm is possible from the toxin. His views are refuted by virtually every government expert outside the VA including those at CDC and the National Institutes of Health and the National Academy of Science-Institute of Medicine.

In one of its most recent reports, the IOM concluded that the Department of Veterans Affairs, which for decades has relied heavily on Young's input, consistently ignored or minimized all evidence supporting veterans claims for Asian orange illnesses.

The veterans paid nothing for the opinions offered my government and industry experts. The VA, despite having evidence from government agencies available up to it paid Dr. Young and his consulting firm $600,000 via a sole source no bid contract. VA got what it paid for, written just the way VA wanted, as Dr. Young even submitted his reports in draft form to ensure they complied with VA policy!

Defying input from other government agencies and dozens of universities in medical schools, VA denied every C-123 vet's claim, insisting since 2011 that it had "an overwhelming preponderance of evidence" against their exposure claims.

VA was wrong.

Their so-called "evidence" consisted of Young's flawed opinions, the VA web page statement of position, and certain staffers' preferences to, as they told the Associated Press, "hold the line" against further such claims.

Congratulations are due Charles Ornstein and his team at both ProPublica and the Virginian Pilot for this report which joins the other eighteen in this exceptional series.

13 October 2016

Patches & the IOM C-123 Agent Orange Report

Visiting the USAF Museum, Wright-Patterson AFB and home of "Patches," our Agent Orange-contaminated C-123.

To all post-Vietnam C-123 Veterans
: if you haven't already, contact VA and arrange your Agent Orange Registry physical. This is a free comprehensive exam looking for any possible Agent Orange exposure medical issues and it is vital whether you have any such illnesses or not. The first friend I talk into having the physical was found to have a life-threatening heart problem, and the physical perhaps saved his life. Call VA now!

I'm holding the report from the Institute of Medicine/National Academy of Sciences that convinced the VA our aircraft had been contaminated, we were exposed to Agent Orange, and we were harmed greatly by that exposure. Behind me is Patches, now decontaminated, of course. CDC actually notified VA that Patches and our other aircraft were too contaminated to be flown in American airspace, and the crews all should have been wearing full hazmat!
The report summary can be downloaded free at https://www.google.com/url…
The archives at the museum revealed the evidence of testing back in 1979 and 1994 and 1996, and the evidence that USAF bioenvironmental scientists concluded the airplane was "heavily contaminated with dioxin on all test surfaces, STILL after its last spray missions in 1968 during the Vietnam War.
We started flying Patches in 1972 and were exposed to the Agent Orange residue for the next decade. Although the CDC informed VA and USAF that the aircrews and maintainers had been exposed, officials at VA continued to insist otherwise and stated VA had "an overwhelming preponderance of evidence" against any harm being done.
In 2014 it became clear, based on the IOM study and the report I'm holding, that VA's position was based solely on its policy decision to block additional Agent Orange claims like ours. Policy, not science. Policy, not law.

The US Senate agreed. Under leadership from Senator Burr of North Carolina and Senator Merkley of Oregon the Senate blocked all VA confirmations until the C-123 issue was resolved. The national commander of the VFW testified to Congress that that full benefits for C-123 vets must be authorized,  All six major veterans organizations insisted VA act, with the Vietnam Veterans of America leading their joint efforts.

The media was behind us all the way. The first press coverage was in early 2011 in the Air Force Times where reporter Patricia Kime detailed our USAF Inspector General complaint wherein the service was asked, but refused, to notify our veterans of their potential exposures. Subsequent articles appeared in the Washington Post, Springfield Republican, American Legion Magazine, the Oregonian, Associated Press, CBS News, Pittsburgh Gazette, NPR All Things Considered, Boston Globe, Air Force Magazine, plus Military.Com and other Internet outlets. Air Force Times and the Springfield Republican both ran editorials insisting VA act in our behalf.

In 2009 Dr. Alvin Young, VA's principal consultant on Agent Orange, had strongly recommended to the USAF the immediate destruction of all C-123s stored in a hazardous material quarantine section of Davis-Mothan Air Force Base because, among other reasons, our already exposed air crews and maintenance veterans might approach the VA seeking care for Agent Orange illnesses. Destruction of the aircraft would help prevent such claims, especially, as it was pointed out, if the aircraft disappeared without public attention. Preventing claims seems to of been awfully important to the VA and so many others. It seemed so important to Dr. Young because in 2011 he denigrated us as "trash haulers, freeloaders looking for a tax-free dollar from a sympathetic congressman." The VA certainly found the right voice to help it oppose our claims – VA had found a man who holds us in contempt to help VA avoid treating our illnesses.

In 2013 Dr. Young was in the middle of his unique VA two year $600,000 no-bid sole source Agent Orange consulting contract. He urged Mr. James Sampsel at the VA Agent Orange desk to "hold the line" (his words) against our claims. For his part, Mr. Sampsel informed his VA colleagues and supervisors that all proof confirming our exposure submitted to VA by independent scientific authorities and other federal agencies (CDC, DOD, USPHS, NIH)  was merely the real "problem" for VA – proof Mr. Sampsel and others in VBA would ignore despite VA regulation VAM21-1MR and despite the Veterans Claims Assistance Act.

Dr. Terry Walters at the VHA Post-Deployment Health Section, told the Associated Press that a line had to be drawn against our claims. Hold the line, indeed!

For too many years the VA "held their line" and denied every single claim submitted by our veterans of the post-Vietnam C-123 spray aircraft. While being paid by VA Dr. Young testified before the Institute of Medicine C-123 committee against our exposure claims. He even attacked the IOM report after its publication in January 2015 using arguments similar to ones used earlier when Dow and Monsanto sponsored him. But the committee saw through that. The committee also criticized VA and USAF for routinely dismissing, ignoring or minimizing  proof of veterans' exposures

In June 2015, the Institute of Medicine report I'm holding in the photo was acted upon by Secretary McDonald. He brought truth, science, law, and compassion into the process at last. The 2100 of us who volunteered to serve our country by flying and maintaining our aircraft willingly accepted the hazards of aviation service and now are acknowledged to have also endured hazardous toxin exposures for which the VA will now care.
As VA Secretary McDonald said to me at the White House, "We won." He meant "We" the veterans and "We" the VA, No longer adversaries.

Let's not let this happen again to other veterans facing toxic exposures.

04 October 2016

C-123 Vet Joe Collins Wins VA Agent Orange Claim First Submitted in 2007

Joe Collins, one of the C-123 maintainers from the Hanscom AFB days ('71-'73) whose denied Agent Orange exposure claim and denied appeal I wrote about last month, phoned this morning to say that VA had approved his disability claim! What great news. Joe's exposure claim had been wrongly denied in June by the Boston BVA which cited his service at Hanscom as an air reserve technician as somehow disqualifying him from legal veteran status and thus all Agent Orange benefits.Please...read it yourself at http://www.va.gov/vetapp16/Files3/1622153.txt This was a monster screw up because the denial also discussed his duty as a reservist aircrew member on the C-123. The VA regulations specify that all C-123 veterans claims must be handled only by St. Paul VA regional office which has exclusive jurisdiction. Still, the Boston BVA somehow overlooked that and many other important points, wrongly denying Joe's exposure claim which he first submitted way back in 2007. Joe got great help from the Agawam Town veterans service officer. However, he was poorly served by the Massachusetts Division of Veteran Services which handled his appeal before the BVA on behalf of the American Legion which Joe selected to represent him. VA will award retroactive compensation to Joe but only back to June 2015. Still, it is a worthwhile victory for us, and satisfactory to Joe. In mid-September I happened to spot his denial online in the BVA listing of that month's decisions, without any identification as to who it was about because veterans names are removed for privacy reasons before posting on the Internet. I could see the problem and believed I had a solution but didn't know who try try to help! Our geezers network was able to put different facts together from the claim and appeal, and realized it was about Joe. I tracked him down and with his permission got VA leadership involved – at that point it only took a couple weeks to set the record straight. Joe says this means a lot to him because it will help his wife now and in the future. Other families from the Wing and from the 74th have also benefited, including Paul Bailey, Dick Matte, Bob Ranck, Cliff Turcotte and others from our C-123 days between 1972-1984. The largest retroactive compensation payments have been over $130,000, although most with a total disability rating and claims on or before June 2015 have received around $30,000. Of course, monthly payments from VA continue once the veteran has received "service connection' for whatever Agent Orange ailments exist. Our work to get VA to recognize our Agent Orange exposures began in 2011 and also resulted in these benefits to Pittsburgh Air Force Reserve Station and Rickenbacker Air Force Base C-123 veterans and many active duty troops from Howard Air Base and Clark Air Base. In all, approximately 2100 veterans and our families benefit. Joe's next step? He should apply for Combat Related Special Compensation, disabled veteran property tax exemption, disabled veteran automobile benefits, free VA insurance, and medical care for every medical issue on top of his Agent Orange illnesses. He can get care such as audiology, dental service, optometry and pharmacy. Many vets have full VA coverage for medical issues and yet select there care elsewhere but returned to the VA for these unique benefits.