26 March 2024

VA Disability Claim Form VA 526EZ now includes Agent Orange C-123 details

 Reference VA Form 526EZ disability claim form.

I hadn't noticed but Veterans Benefit Administration now includes C-123 veterans in their Agent Orange exposure section. BTW: if you haven't checked with VA for their full range of toxic exposure disabilities, do so NOW!


07 March 2024

Our association's second response to proposed new VA regulation on veterans' hazardous exposure issues.

Our association has posted a second response to the proposed new VA regulation covering veterans' hazardous exposure issues. (First response here.)

The proposed regulation does much to address a wide range of exposure locations and does finally address members of the Reserve Components. It does not mention three earlier failed assurances by the Department of Veterans Affairs in the Federal Register that it would care for veterans who did not serve in the Republic of Vietnam, but were exposed to herbicide agents. Pages from the Federal Register are attached (Federal Register Vol. 66, No. 89, May 8, 2001 and Vol. 73, No. 74, April 16, 2008 and Vol. 75, No. 168, August 31, 2010.)

Instead, Veterans Benefits Administration took steps to insure veterans were refused all care and benefits they should have received for their exposures,  dishonoring VA responses published in the Federal Register.

Between 2001 and 2010, the Department of Veterans Affairs proposed important regulatory changes in the care offered veterans exposed to military herbicides. Responding to public concern for veterans exposed in situations outside the Republic of Vietnam, in three separate and deceptive answers, the VA specifically said no regulatory changes were needed or would be made because:

"If a veteran who did not serve in the Republic of Vietnam, but was
to an herbicide agent 
defined in 38 CFR 3.307(a)(6) during active military service, has a disease on the list of diseases subject to presumptive service connection, VA will presume that the disease is due to the exposure to herbicides. (See 38 CFR 3.309(e)). 

We therefore believe that there is no need to revise the regulation based on this comment."

By implication, these three deceptive VA responses it also assured Congress that no legislation would be necessary for protection of the affected veterans because the VA had already arranged to offer the same full range of exposure benefits provided Vietnam War veterans.

VA was deceptive between 2001 and 2015 in that, despite assuring the public and Congress that veterans exposed to military herbicides would receive benefits, it instead routinely refused to honor virtually all such claims. A VBA physician and Agent Orange subject matter expert with the "Agent Orange Desk" stated to the Associated Press, "We have to draw the line somewhere." 

The C-123 Veterans Association believes any such "line" may only be drawn in accord with law and regulation, not the preference of VBA staffers determined to block veterans' valid herbicide exposure claims.

VA Regulation M21-1 required it check with the Joint Services Records Research Agency for support of non-Vietnam exposures, but then refused confirmation when offered unless the Agent Orange Desk first requested such confirmation. In many instances, the Agent Orange Desk either refused to make such a request or wouldn't accept JSRRC confirmation even when offered.

This is not ancient history. Veterans and their families were assured of exposure benefits by theVA with empty, dishonored promises made in the Federal Register but were denied those benefits. Note must be made as VA seeks to publish this newest regulation to address earlier failures and deceptions on the same subject.

Respectfully submitted,

W. Carter, The C-123 Veterans Association

15 February 2024

VA proposes vast new coverage for non-Vietnam Agent Orange exposures. We offered comment on the new regulation.

AR10-Proposed Rule-Adjudication Regulations for Disability or Death Benefit Claims Related to Exposure to Certain Herbicide Agents


We commend the Department of Veterans Affairs for advancing benefits to affected veterans in this manner and, on the whole, this change is comprehensive and in accord with current law and regulations. There are some flaws. This proposed regulation is not in accord with numerous earlier entries by VA regarding non-Vietnam Agent Orange exposures 
The proposal fails to reference prior commitments made in the Federal Register by VA on this issue. The Department repeatedly assured Congress over the decades that every veteran who did not serve in the Republic of Vietnam but was exposed to Agent Orange during active military service would, upon proof, be offered presumptive service connection for the list of diseases associated with that herbicide. (see Federal Register Vol. 66, No. 89, May 8, 2001 and Vol. 73, No. 74 April 16, 2008 and Vol. 75, No. 168, August 31, 2010). It never met this obligation and denied virtually all such claims.
When affected veterans sought presumptive service connection, even when citing VA promises in the Federal Register, the Department’s Veterans Health Administration Post-Deployment Public Health Section and its Agent Orange Veterans Benefit Administration Agent Orange Desk blocked claims specifically because exposed veterans lacked Vietnam service or, in some cases, because veterans failed to scientifically prove an exposure plus subsequent “bioavailability.” Per the Federal Register entries, proof of exposure alone was all that was required. Redefining the concept of exposure to require “bioavailability” was never in accord with any law or regulation dealing with veterans and Agent Orange. Rather, it was an unofficial office policy. It was also bad science. 
VA denying the fact of an exposure by also requiring proof of bioavailability was deceptive. Bioavailability is a related but separate concept in toxicology, as confirmed by the Director, National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences. Specifically addressing VA using the issue of bioavailability to deny Agent Orange exposure claims, she wrote, “In all my years as a toxicologist, I have never heard bioavailability as part of the exposure definition.” 
The Department’s failure with firm commitments first made in 2001 has been to the great disservice of affected veterans and their families. VA repeatedly assured Congress that it needed no new legislation or revision to regulations to meet its obligation. VA withstood Congressional concern with Agent Orange claims for veterans’ exposures outside the Republic of Vietnam using deceptive assurances while at the same time denying virtually all such claims. The Federal Register must account for earlier entries from the Department of Veterans Affairs in its submission of this newer regulation or else muddy the Register’s historical record. Clearly, “exposure” was the sole requirement for presumptive service connection, yet VA failed to honor the three assurances made to Congress. Cited below is the Federal Register Vol. 66, No. 89, May 8, 2001, the first of these failed assurances:
“…if a veteran who did not serve in the Republic of Vietnam, but was exposed to an herbicide agent defined in 38 CFR 3.307(a)(6) during active military service, has a disease on the list of diseases subject to presumptive service connection, VA will presume that the disease is due to the exposure to herbicides. (See 38 CFR 3.309(e).”

Respectfully submitted,

The C-123 Veterans Association

09 February 2024

BULLETIN: VA to ease benefits rules for exposures to Agent Orange in the US

VA eases rules for exposures to Agent Orange in the US

Thousands of veterans exposed to Agent Orange while serving in the United States will for the first time be eligible for fast-track disability benefits under plans unveiled by the Department of Veterans Affairs on Friday. As readers of this blog are aware (and as the new rules reiterate,C-123 veterans are already considered presumptively exposed to Agent Orange and eligible for full veterans' benefits thereby. This coverage dates from June 2015.

The move represents another major expansion of toxic exposure benefits for veterans, this time for individuals suffering from illnesses dating back to the Vietnam War era. The changes follow mandates included in the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act — better known as the PACT Act — passed by Congress in August 2022.

Over the last two years, a combination of administration moves and new legislation opened access to disability benefits for millions of veterans who incurred injuries from burn pit smoke, radiation contamination and other military toxic exposure events.

In a statement, VA Secretary Denis McDonough said the proposed moves “would make it easier for veterans exposed to herbicides who served outside Vietnam to access the benefits they so rightly deserve.

“Our goal is to provide every veteran of every era with the VA health care and benefits they deserve, and this is another step in the right direction,” McDonough said.

Rules outlining the change were filed in the Federal Register on Friday, and will still take several months before going into effect. The new proposal would give presumptive benefits status to veterans who served in “locations where herbicides were tested, used, or stored outside of Vietnam.”

That includes military locations in 12 states — Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, New York, Tennessee, Texas and Utah — where Agent Orange was present in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. A full list of the specific states and times is available on the VA website.

The rule would also cover troops stationed at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in New Brunswick, Canada, in June 1966 and June 1967; individuals stationed in Kumbla, India, in 1945 and 1946; and expanded timelines for troops who served in Cambodia, the Johnston Atoll, Guam, American Samoa, Korea, Laos, and Thailand during the 1960s and 1970s.

A full list of these foreign locations is also available on VA websites.

Troops who served in Vietnam between January 1962 and May 1975 — either on the ground or in waterways around the country — already qualify for presumptive benefits status by the department because of Agent Orange exposure.

The toxic defoliant has been linked to a host of cancers and heart illnesses. Presumptive status means that individuals who develop certain illnesses believed caused by the chemicals do not have to document specific instances where they were exposed, but instead only provide service records showing they were in the area (or the C-123 unit) to be presumed contaminated.

As a result, advocates have pushed for broader use of presumptive status for troops who served around toxic chemicals while in the military but may not have been able to document every instance of exposure because of records lost over the years.

More information on Agent Orange presumptive benefits is available on the VA website.

05 July 2023

Happy Birthday, Spam! Famous "delicacy" launched 85 years ago today.

 Most of us would prefer something more eatable, but somehow this stuff still sells.

Before eating processed meats, you might want to re-read Upton Sinclair's The Urban Jungle and the industry's use of diseased, rotten and contaminated animal carouses:

"… and as for the other men, who worked in tank rooms full of steam, and in some of which there were open vats near the level of the floor, their peculiar trouble was that they fell into the vats; and when if fished out, there was never enough of them left to be worth exhibiting—so sometimes they would be overlooked and the vat processed anyway, out to the world as Durham's Pure Leaf Lard!"

"They were regular alchemists at Durham’s; they advertised a mushroom-catsup, and the men who made it did not know what a mushroom looked like...  And then there was ‘potted game’ and ‘potted grouse,’ ‘potted ham,’ and ‘deviled ham’—de-vyled, as the men called it. ‘De-vyled’ ham was made out of the waste ends of smoked beef that were too small to be sliced by the machines; and also tripe, dyed with chemicals so that it would not show white; and trimmings of hams and corned beef; and potatoes, skins and all; and finally the hard cartilaginous gullets of beef, after the tongues had been cut out. All this ingenious mixture was ground up and flavored with spices to make it taste like something perhaps eatable."


VA's initial denial of C-123 Agent Orange exposure claims - ABSURD!

A little history about VBA's deceptions and cruelty in treating Agent Orange claims:

We started discussions with VA about C-123 Agent Orange exposure in 2010 and met brick-wall resistance. In 2012 we were told during an in-person conference with Mr. Tom Murphy (Director of VBA Benefits Administration) and his staff that VA had already concluded no C-123 crew or maintainer exposure was possible.

Adding a kicker that this, he told me directly that regardless of what medical, scientific or military evidence we might present then or in the future, absolutely no C-123 claims for Agent Orange exposure would ever be approved. 

For claims that were denied and then appealed to the Board of Veterans Appeals, here is the boilerplate denial verbiage they came up with:

VA's Office of Public Health is noted to have thoroughly reviewed all available scientific information regarding the exposure potential to residual amounts of herbicides on the C-123 aircraft surfaces. It was concluded that the potential exposure for the post-Vietnam crews that flew or maintained the aircraft was extremely low and therefore it was concluded that the risk of long-term health effects was minimal.

Naturally, I inquired as to exactly what was meant by their "thoroughly reviewed all available scientific information". VA's answer was they'd simply reached a staff consensus in the VHA Post-Deployment Public Health office that no exposure threat existed. And if there was any exposure, it wasn't significant "enough" to cause any adverse health effects. In other words, there was NO such thorough review of relevant literature and only a knee-jerk decision to deny claims.

And boy, did they ever deny claims! Every single one of them.*

I'll point out here that prior to meeting with Murphy, VA had been provided input from numerous scientific and medical authorities as to our exposures. Columbia University, Yale, University of Texas, Oregon Health Sciences University and others had specifically concluded that C-123 vets had been exposed to Agent Orange. I'll remind readers that VA is required to give every benefit of the doubt to veterans' claims, to review claims sympathetically and in a pro-veteran manner yet"required" didn't seem to apply to C-123 claims.

Other federal authorities had also chimed in to support us against VA: the CDC Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry had reported to VA that C-123 veterans experienced 180 times the published military exposure threshold for Agent Orange. Further, that we have a 200-fold greater risk of cancers developing. Eventually, even the Army's Joint Services Records Research Center tried to tell VA we met exposure requirements, but VA's Mr. Jim Sampsel refused to recognize such input. Note here that VA's own regulations specified that Joint Services Records Research Center input was authoritative as regards Agent Orange exposure claims. Nonetheless, Sampsel disputed everything. (Later, Sampsel even told VA's Disability Compensation Committee that Agent Orange was merely hype and hysteria.)

It seems VA was very selective as to what "available scientific information" they were willing to consider, and that nothing affirming the veterans' exposure would be acceptable to them. And nothing ever was acceptable, at least until the Institute of Medicine virtually jammed it down their throats in January 2015.

* Here was a special VA deception. Every single C-123 claim was denied until June 2015, yet Sampsel and Murphy insisted there was no "blanket denial" policy. Clearly, their only policy was that none would ever be approved regardless of what the policy might be named. They disingenuously insisted that each claim was carefully evaluated on its merits, while quietly pretending that C-123 claims were without any merit regardless of medical and scientific evidence.

15 June 2023

VA Ripped Off By Phony C-123 Agent Orange Claim!

Some con artists come from our own military ranks. Take this dishonorable clown for instance: A clinic lab tech at Hanscom AFB between 1972-1973 claimed Agent Orange exposure from doing his medical lab work. This was probably for aircrew annual physicals, and probably with gloves on. He even claimed he went to the flight line to "recover medical specimens" form the aircraft!
The VA granted his phony claim in 2022. The USA will waste hundred$ of thousand$ on the clown...tax dollars from his fellow citizens.  His claim (and the resultant money!) will be backdated seven years...he is raking in big bucks with the phony claim and his lies made under sworn testimony.

Citation Nr: 22065492
Decision Date: 11/22/22	Archive Date: 11/22/22
Entitlement to service connection for prostate cancer, secondary to herbicide exposure, is granted.
1. The evidence is at least in approximate balance as to whether the Veteran was exposed to herbicides in service at Hanscom Air Force Base (AFB).
2. The Veteran's diagnosed prostate cancer is presumed to be related to exposure to herbicides during service at Hanscom AFB.
Resolving reasonable doubt in the Veteran's favor, the criteria for entitlement to service connection for prostate cancer, secondary to herbicide exposure, have been met.  38 U.S.C. §§ 1110, 1116, 5107; 38 C.F.R. §§ 3.102, 3.303, 3.307, 3.309.
The Veteran served on active duty in the United States Air Force from October 1970 to October 1974. Entitlement to service connection for prostate cancer, secondary to herbicide exposure, is granted.
Factual Background.??????
The Veteran's service records indicate that he was stationed at Hanscom Air Force Base (AFB) from April 1972 to October 1974 and that his principal duty was medical laboratory specialist, military occupational specialty (MOS) code 90450.  See Service Personnel Records.

In a November 2019 Congressional correspondence, the United States Air Force confirmed that three Ranch Hand C-123 spray aircrafts were utilized as cargo and passenger aircraft at Hanscom AFB between November 1972 and September 1973.  

The Veteran's VA treatment records indicate that he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in July 2015.  

In an October 2015 Notice of Disagreement (NOD), the Veteran asserted that, while stationed at Hanscom AFB, he was required to analyze bodily fluids and other material that had been transported by C-123 aircrafts.

In a November 2017 VA Form 9, the Veteran asserted that, while stationed at Hanscom AFB, he was directly involved with receiving medical specimens, equipment, and personnel that had been transported on C-123 aircraft.  The Veteran also stated that this was performed without protective gear.  

In an October 2018 correspondence, the Veteran stated that, while stationed at Hanscom AFB, he attended all patients requiring lab work, including C-123 crew members, and performed lab testing on medical specimens that were transported by C-123 aircraft.  See October 2018 Veteran Correspondence. 

In the October 2020 Board hearing, the Veteran TESTIFIED (to a VA administrative judge) that, while stationed at Hanscom AFB, he frequently went to the flight line to retrieve medical specimens that had been transported by C-123 aircraft.  The Veteran estimated that he came in contact with a C-123 aircraft approximately 30 times. 

19 March 2023

Colorado LSC initial cost estimate of $4.5 million for HCR 23-1002 (TDIU) was inaccurate

The Colorado LSC initial cost estimate of $4.5 million for TDIU was inaccurate
(see revised budget impact from LSC correction below, based on this analysis)

The Cost for Total Disability for Individual Unemployability (TDIU) Property Tax Exemption

1. TDIU is regulatory, not statutory. The key section of the regulation reads:
“Total disability ratings for compensation may be assigned, where the schedular rating is less than total, when the disabled person is, in the judgment of the rating agency, unable to secure or follow a substantially gainful occupation as a result of service-connected disabilities. Provided that, if there is only one such disability, this disability shall be ratable at 60% or more, and that, if there are two or more disabilities, there shall be at least one disability ratable at 40% or more, and sufficient additional disability to bring the combined rating to 70% or more.” (38 CFR § 4.16a.)
2. TDIU benefits granted under the VA Rating Schedule are intended to compensate veterans for the average impairment in earning capacity that results from service-connected disease or injury. TDIU is a special additional benefit to address the truly unique disability picture of a veteran who is unemployable solely from service-connected disability, but for whom the application of the Rating Schedule does not fully reflect the veteran’s level of impairment. TDIU allows the veteran to receive compensation at a rate equivalent to that of a 100% schedular award.
3. VA pays basic compensation benefits to veterans incurring disabilities from injuries or diseases that were incurred or aggravated while on active military duty. VA rates the severity of all service-connected disabilities by using its Schedule for Rating Disabilities. The schedule lists a multitude of disabilities and assigns each disability a percentage rating, which is intended to represent an average earning impairment the veteran would experience in civilian occupations because of the disability. Veterans awarded service-connected disabilities are assigned single or combined (in case of multiple disabilities) ratings ranging from 0 to 100%, in increments of 10%, based on the rating schedule; this is known as a schedular rating. Diseases and injuries incurred or aggravated while on active duty are called service-connected disabilities. To avoid an unfair “one size fits all” disability evaluation, disability compensation can be increased to the full 100% level if VA determines that the veteran is factually unemployable (not able to engage in substantially gainful employment) based only on the service-connected disability exceeding in severity anticipated in the rating schedules. VA can assign a total disability rating of 100% to veterans who cannot perform substantial gainful employment because of service-connected disabilities, even though their schedular rating is significant but less than 100%...but is in fact totally disabling.
The cost estimate of $4.5 million if approved by the public is inaccurate. Several facts need to be considered that should reduce this significantly:
1. Most importantly, the GAO reports that 54% of TDIU veterans are age 65 or older, and thus already eligible for the senior property tax exemption if in their home ten years or more. Those TDIU veterans present no additional burden for the property tax exemption program. An unknown number of TDIU veterans under age 65 have partners over age 65 and thus otherwise eligible for the exemption.
2. 2847 Colorado TDIU veterans who are permanently and totally disabled from line-of-duty injuries are barred from the exemption. Colorado has 13589 VA 100% permanently and totally disabled veterans, 76% of whom are homeowners No VA data seems available to determine how many of these are “P&T (permanent and total)” to qualify for the current property tax exemption. VA reports the ratio of TDIU/100% veterans is about 45/100, and 46% of TDIU veterans are age 65 or younger. Thus, Colorado is ignoring the needs of 20% of our totally disabled homeowning vets under age 65. The exemption for TDIU veterans would be under $2 million annually.
3. Colorado seems unique among the states in distinguishing between VA 100% schedular and TDIU. Military.com rates Colorado, prizing ourself as “Veteran Friendly,” only as a mediocre 27th among the states offering veterans’ benefits.
4. 60%+ of TDIU veterans are in the World War II-Vietnam era. The age group 50-65 represents 28% of all TDIU recipients. Their participation in a property tax exemption program is just for a few years before aging into the senior exemption...they “age out” of any potential TDIU burden on the state.
According to the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, the total veteran
population is set to decline from 20.8 million in 2015 to 12.0 million by 2045; total annual change is -1.8
5. 27.2% of Colorado’s veteran households have an “extraordinarily high” burden of total income for housing. 6.9% of veterans live below the poverty line, although totally disabled veterans’ disability benefits are above that level unless family size is considered.
6. 35% of TDIU beneficiaries have mental health conditions as their major diagnosis (of which more than two-thirds are posttraumatic stress disorder [PTSD] diagnoses), followed by musculoskeletal conditions (29%), and cardiovascular conditions (13%.)
7. Of all Colorado veterans receiving disability compensation, 6% are rated as 100% permanently and totally disabled. 4.5% of Colorado’s total veteran population have a disability rating of TDIU.
8. It is absolutely incorrect to refer to this category of veterans as “individually
unemployed.” Rather, they are totally disabled veterans who, solely because of their military injuries or illnesses, have been carefully assessed by VA physicians, claims officials and vocational specialists as being totally and permanently disabled, unable to work above any marginal employment. The term “total disability for individual unemployability” should be used throughout, rather than “unemployed!” TDIU veterans aren’t unemployed; they have left active duty service physically unable to work, whereas VA-rated 100% disabled veterans are often able to continue useful employment, trained for other opportunities, other careers, and are encouraged to find work for obvious financial and mental health reasons. “Extraneous” factors, such as nonservice-connected disabilities, injuries occurring after military service, availability of work, or voluntary withdrawal from the market are not considered as factors for TDIU ratings.
Where the rating schedule is found to be inadequate to fairly compensate a veteran for the inability to be gainfully employed, Veteran Benefit Administration (the administrative portion of VA) may refer cases consideration of a TDIU rating on an “extrascheduler” basis
9. The US Department of Veterans Affairs has two categories of veterans assessed to be totally and permanently disabled due to their injuries or illnesses. There are no differences in their federal benefits or compensation.
a. VA “100% permanent and total schedular.” is a rating schedule which assigns a degree of total disability using a formula set by law ( 38 CFR 3.340, 38 CFR 3.341(a), and 38 CFR 4.16) for a full range of illnesses and/or injuries suffered by veterans while on active duty (or, for Reserve Components, while on active training status for when called to federal service.)
b. The second is TDIU, a unique program created in 1933 to “fill the gap” in situations where a veteran’s line-of-duty illnesses or injuries are far more serious and exceed the schedular provisions, or when the combination of the veteran’s active duty illness or injuries are at least 70% but when considered with with other, lesser military injuries or illness have made the veteran totally disabled. This involves separate medical and administrative assessments: one evaluating military-related disabilities and a second to consider whether those military disabilities alone make employment impossible. This leaves the TDIU veteran at a fixed disability compensation at the 100% level, never able to continue productive employment.
TDIU criteria for unemployability are quite similar to those used by the Social Security Administration to determine total disability, except TDIU is far more restrictive, being based solely on military line-of-duty injuries or illnesses. SSDI considers the broader picture, including all military and civilian issues to determine total disability. A veteran can be SSDI-eligible for overall disability yet unqualified for TDIU unless military disabilities make anything above-marginal employment impossible. Note that many veterans having between 10%-90% VA disability (neither 100% nor TDIU) but are qualified to receive SSDI. Between SSDI, VA 100% disability and TDIU, TDIU is the most serious and restrictive disability scheme.
Like SSDI, a TDIU veteran is monitored for their continuing total disability. Earned income, whether employed or self-employed, other than sheltered workshop or below-poverty level income is disqualifying. Such a situation would result in termination of federal TDIU and any related state benefits. This limit applies only to the veteran's earnings, and not to the veteran's unearned income or household income. Managing TDIU benefits involves not only assessing initial eligibility for benefits, but also ensuring beneficiaries’ ongoing eligibility by identifying those who are not in compliance with the earnings limit.
VA rating specialists initiate TDIU evaluations when a veteran or their VA physician submits an application for TDIU benefits or his or her application for compensation benefits contains clear evidence of unemployability. In all cases, before granting benefits, rating specialists must evaluate the impact that the veteran’s service-connected disability(ies) have on his or her ability to perform gainful employment, which for decision-making purposes is generally interpreted as employment that is more than “marginal employment.”
Marginal employment for a TDIU veteran may also be held to exist, on a case-by-case basis, for a veteran maintaining employment at a sheltered workshop or family business with annual earnings at or below the poverty threshold.
VA rating specialists are to rely on various sources of information for the evidence needed to support such a determination, including an employment and earnings history furnished by the claimant, basic employment information from the claimant’s employers (if any), and a medical exam report from Veterans Health Administration (the medical side of VA.) If the claimant had received vocational rehabilitation assistance from VA or disability benefits from SSA, the rating specialist might also seek information on these services or benefit decisions. Many veterans seeking TDIU benefits seek a vocational evaluation, offered by many states’ employment agencies to assess any remaining employability.
Quality of life reduction, a serious issue and often a factor in other disability compensation programs, is not assessed in VA issues. About 30% of totally disabled veterans receive assistance from family members with activities of daily life impairments, thus greatly reducing household income.
Wes Carter, Chair
The C-123 Veterans Association

23 February 2023

Interesting Article for Agent Orange Veterans: Agent Orange Reviewed: Potential Role in Peripheral Neuropathy

Suzanne M de la Monte
PMID: 36785586 PMCID: PMC9920643 (available on 2023-04-01)


Agent Orange, a dioxin-containing toxin, was used as an herbicide during the Vietnam War. Exposures to Agent Orange were initially linked to birth defects among Vietnamese civilians residing near aerially sprayed regions. Years later, returning South Korean and U.S. Veterans exposed to Agent Orange exhibited increased rates of malignancy, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and birth defects in their offspring. 

Growing evidence that herbicides and pesticides contribute to chronic diseases including neurodegeneration raises concern that Agent Orange exposures may have increased the risk for later development of peripheral or central nervous system (CNS) degeneration. This article reviews published data on the main systemic effects and the prevalence rates, relative risks, characteristics and correlates of Agent Orange-associated peripheral neuropathy and CNS dementia-associated diseases. 

The critical findings were that relatively high levels of Agent Orange exposure increased risk of developing peripheral neuropathy either alone or as a co-factor complication of diabetes mellitus and likely contributed to the pathogenesis of CNS degenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and vascular dementias. Given the protracted intervals between the Agent Orange exposures and disease emergence, additional research is needed to identify mechanistic correlates of the related neurological disorders, including lifestyle co-factors.

02 October 2022

Is Russia making it too easy for Ukraine to recapture their stolen territory? I think so.

Ukrainian defenders have bravely charged back into their home territories stolen by the Russians. The world marvels at the "mouse that roared." How has a much smaller nation with a far smaller military been so successful against Mother Russia?

Reading of their advances against Russia, I'm reminded  of how the Nazi juggernaut easily rolled over Russia's initial ineffective defense. The Soviet Union's defeat seemed inevitable.

But Hitler, like Napoleon before him, overlooked one of Russia's two most powerful defenses: One –Stalin knew he could trade territory for time, and Two – huge population from which to form hundreds of divisions that took that territory back, even the Ukraine which Germany had seized and controlled for two years. 

I fear Russia has allowed Ukraine to roll back into their stolen eastern regions. Pulling back his heavy forces, Russia may have tricked Ukraine into extended its own lines of communication and support far from the country's more populated western region. And much further from NATO's resupply from Poland. This might invite easy interdiction by Russian air power, destroying everything from the Polish-Ukrainian boarder east to the Ukrainian-Russian boarder; Russia has earlier bombed within twelve miles of Poland.  

The Ukrainian interior presents 1,100km of soft rail and highway targets inviting sudden Russian destruction.

By pulling back, Russia seems to have invited Ukrainian forces to mass within easy striking distance from behind the boarder. I believe Russian forces are reorganizing and resupplying on their "home turf, " letting the defenders exhaust much of their strength in the advance to retake eastern provinces. If Ukrainian lines of communication are interdicted by Russian rocket and air power, with NATO equipment destroyed by the Russians before it could resupply the defenders, lessons from World War II might be seen again with a Russian steamroller . 

It would be a fatal blow if Belarus then sent its forces into Ukraine. Ukrainian forces would be smashed from both front and rear, and possibly from the south as well if Russian military in Crimea assumes the offensive. 

31 August 2022

VA makes all toxic-exposure conditions presumptive immediately following signing of PACT Act! Great News - no further waiting!

13 June 2022

Most Ridiculous c-123 Agent Orange Exposure VA Disability Claims

OUTRAGEOUS! Where do they make these things up? Ever since June 2015 once VA acknowledged the C-123 Agent Orange contamination with their new regulation granting service connection, we've seen the most ridiculous statements from vets trying to climb onto the FREELOADER disability bandwagon.

Granted, their claimed ailments may be legitimate, but judge for yourself these phony claims of C-123 exposure. These are taken from VA Board of Veterans Appeals records.

1. C-123 aircraft flew from my aircraft carrier and exposed me to Agent Orange herbicide.

2. I was a Navy medic on many C-123 aeromedical evacuation missions in Guam (or from Guam to
Thailand, Japan, etc., pick one.

3. I was a security policeman and flew armed escort on many C-123 missions in the USA.

4. I refueled C-123 aircraft in Alaska (or California, or Thailand, Guam, whatever) that had sprayed Agent Orange in Vietnam.

5. I often flew in a C-123 as a member of the Air Force band in Europe.

6. I was a passenger on a C-123 flight.

7. A C-123 was parked next to my aircraft AT (fill in whatever base name interests you.)

8. I cleaned Agent Orange spills from C-123 airplanes in the Philippines (or Guam, Thailand, Korea, etc.)

9. I built a C-123 Agent Orange storage shed in the Philippines.

10. I loaded drums of Agent Orange aboard C-123s in (pick any country, any state.)

11. I worked C-123 aircraft as an air traffic controller at Clark Air Base, Philippines.

12. I was exposed as a Navy stock clerk while stationed in Naha, Okinawa, Japan, from June 1969 to March 1971.

13. I was exposed to herbicides while serving at Howard Air Force Base in Panama as a security policeman and guarded the C-123 aircraft, which carried herbicides to the Republic of Vietnam, and guarded other areas where herbicide agents were regularly sprayed.

14. I was exposed to herbicides during Operation Ranch Hand while stationed at Dover Air Force Base. I worked on C-133 and C-141 aircraft on nightshifts and he moved barrels with unknown liquids from the aircraft.

15. I was exposed to C-123 at Gunter, Lackland, Maxwell without any foreign service.

16, As an inventory supply management specialist, my herbicide exposure was gained while moving herbicide-laden C-123 aircraft parts at Williams Air Force Base. The aircraft parts were from aircraft that were returning from Vietnam. My duties included tagging parts, putting them in a box and sending them to various places to be reused, fixed or for some other purpose.

17. I was a refueling specialist and serviced numerous airplanes returning from Vietnam, including C-123, C-124, and F-100 airplanes, from 1962 to 1966 while stationed at Biggs, Malmstrom, and Ramey Air Force Bases.

18. I refueled various aircraft, including C-123s, at Shemya Air force base in Alaska and at the Langley Air force base in Virginia.

19. While stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (DMAFB) in Tucson, Arizona, as a Law Enforcement Specialist (LES), I was exposed to both toxic substances and agent orange. C-123 aircraft stationed at DMAFB were contaminated with agent orange.

06 June 2022

US Court of Appeals agrees Agent Orange exposure & PTST can be disabling despite absence of medical diagnosis



"In some situations, such as for post-traumatic stress disorder, herbicide exposure in Vietnam, and unexplained illnesses affecting Middle East veterans, medical science simply has been unable, as of yet, to diagnose the disabling impact of service for veterans affected by these conditions." 

This ruling might help vets claim disabilities not included in the VA's recognized list of Agent Orange illnesses.

13 April 2022

06 April 2022

New Diagnosis - Parkinson's Disease

New Diagnosis - Parkinson's Disease

They might have figured out some of the problems I've been having...I got diagnosed with Parkinson's last week. The symptoms are there but don't seem to be advancing too fast, so at age 75 I can hope to "age out" of the worst of it.

Another blessing brought to us by Agent Orange! Parkinson's, Parkinsonism and Parkinsons-like symptoms are now considered Agent Orange presumptive illnesses, along with bladder cancer and all the old favorites!

21 February 2022

College Roommate VA Disability Max'd Up to 100%!

Yesterday my college roommate Paul heard from VA that his supplemental claim for disability has been approved. He's now backdated 100% to December 2020! Great news, following the first claim being approved earlier for hearing loss at 40%. My strategy helping him was to tie certain current problems to his hearing loss as secondary issues. VA has agreed, following an appeal that reversed their initial denial.

Now, he will get a better disability compensation, medical care for himself and family, some state benefits and, if and hen needed, nursing home or other such advanced care.

These are earned entitlements which he has been denied for the past half-century. Denied VA medical care, GI home loan, every state benefit withheld. There's no catch-up for what he's been refused.

Remember: this is a good outcome but it really is an immense VA failure! Paul first applied for VA disability benefits when he was released from active duty in 1969. He lived with his disability and forgot all about the VA claim which, decades later, was finally found in his Army dental records. The VA never found this critical document: It took his attorney Katrina Eagle a couple hours. Perhaps...VA don't give a damn?

A veteran has a reasonable beef with the VA when they take half a century to resolve a claim, meanwhile denying all federal and state benefits. Paul has a beef, but right now he's simply glad things have gotten straightened out.

The VA tried. Dragged it out fifty years, and if only the process had taken a bit longer, until Paul had passed, VA could cancel his claim altogether because when the vet dies, so does the claim. Too bad, VA. At least you made it into your disgusting "Claim Ignored 50 Years Club."

16 December 2021

Helped my college roommate win huge, 52-year old VA disability claim!

$155,000. It will be in his bank on Monday," said his attorney K. E, when she called to give me the great news. My old college roommate has won a 52-year old VA claim he'd long-forgotten having submitting in 1969 when he left active duty. 

I got his initial VA claim approved earlier this year at 40% disability with an initial check for $7,000, paying what was due from November 2020 when I mailed it. However, I knew he needed professional help trying to get other serious disabilities related to what the VA decided is already service-connected.

I recommended the attorney I knew best, who also has her solo veteran-focused practice near my friend. Her expertise uncovered the fact that his initial claim had been submitted back in 1969, filed and lost somehow into his VA dental records and never adjudicated. She slapped the paperwork into the mail to catch up with this VA error, and today's great news comes as a blessing for my old friend.

What a happy day!

11 November 2021

Update on VA use of AFSC codes for C-123 service:

Update on VA use of AFSC codes for C-123 service:

I argued with VA recently about their poor quality collection of eligible AFSCs for establishing C-123 service, and they apparently now will accept an AFSC on their list as well as a specific description of duties involving C-123 contact. They are covering aircrews, maintainers, AME and others. Most importantly, I believe this should help Aerial Port personnel apply and succeed with Agent Orange claims. Let me know.


Their letters to/from me:


Hello, Dr. Erickson spoke very highly of you and so it was nice to see your email.

BVA actions are a legal review process over which I have no jurisdiction, but I am happy to forward your email and the attachment to VBA and the office that handles Agent Orange related actions. 

I will ask that they review the unit name change from 33rd AES (Pittsburgh) to the 911th and the occupational codes.  I will also make them aware that Mr. Dominic Baldini at JSRRC is available to address questions as necessary.

Thank you



Dr. xxx

Chief Consultant, Post-Deployment Health Services  (10P4Q)

Patient Care Services, 810 Vermont Ave NW, Washington, DC 20420

O: 202-xxx-xxxx


VA Motto: ICARE [Integrity-Commitment-Advocacy-Respect-Excellence]


From: Wes Carter <
Sent: Saturday, May 23, 2020 9:14 AM
To: Hxxxa R. 


Dear Dr. Hxxx,

Please forgive another intrusion on an issue involving C-123 veterans. We continue to have BVA claims denied on the basis of veterans having AFSCs not listed, or units not listed, or units which are the same organization but have changed names.

In on case most troubling to me, a widow's 2008 claim continues being denied by VBA and BVA. Her husband's AFSC 90250 (medical technician) is for aeromedical evacuation technician but isn't on the various lists, at least not those used by BVA to deny claims. Her husband's C-123 aeromedical evacuation squadron was the 33rd AES at Pittsburgh, now changed names to the 911th as shown on VA lists but her claim was denied by BVA disregarding that detail.

Once BVA has successfully denied a claim the veteran or survivor is lost unless able to afford an attorney and this woman, living on Social Security, is not so fortunate. 

Five years ago C-123 veterans won Agent Orange benefits. Four years ago I provided expert details to support her claim, and last year her claim was successfully opposed by BVA citing the AFSC and unit name.

I realize this is but one claim but it is a person, one of our veteran's widows and thus particularly important to every Air Force veteran. Please do what you can to invite Mr. Dominic Baldini at JSRRC to update VA on the basis of Air Force documents I've provided him, and do what you can to update BVA on the injustice they do blocking worthwhile claims.

Here is the BVA language used to prevent a claim's approval. Even though the text mentions medical crew members, the claim is denied because no listing of medical crew AFSCs is shown.  Fortunately, some BVA judges are less concerned with using the issue for preventing approvals and realize the problem, thus permitting flight nurses, flight surgeons and aeromedical evacuation technicians' claims to be considered even though not one of their AFSCs is listed.

VA has published a list of military units who had regular and repeated exposure to contaminated Operation Ranch Hand C-123s, used to spray Agent Orange in Vietnam, as flight, maintenance, or medical crew members.  VA has also published a list of specialty codes for military personnel who had regular and repeated exposure to contaminated Operation Ranch Hand C-123s, used to spray Agent Orange in Vietnam, as flight, maintenance, or medical crew members. Those codes for enlisted personnel are flight engineer/aircraft loadmaster (1130-1149), aircrew life support specialist (1220-1229), and aircraft maintenance specialist/flight technicians (4313-4359). Id. 
Thus, to warrant presumptive exposure based on contact with a C-123, a Veteran must have been stationed at one of the identified bases during the specified time period with one of the listed units. The Veteran must also have a military occupational specialty that entailed that he regularly and repeatedly operated, maintained or served onboard C-123 aircraft.
And from another BVA decision:
Screen Shot 2020-05-23 at 6.10.26 AM.png

Can you please bring this to the attention of VA folks able to correct the injustice being done these claimants?

Thank you,


   Wes Carter

VA includes C-123 veterans in Agent Orange publication

 They haven't forgotten about our little group of veterans! The VA included our agent orange exposure in this recent publication titled: 

Garrison exposures and health concerns


Passing of Dave Fitzgerald, 731st Nav

Sad to say, I missed this email from John Harris about the passing of Dave Fitzgerald in August. 

Friends and fellow reservists,
It is with sadness that I tell you that my good friend and fine gentleman Dave Fitzgerald passed away Sunday from a complication from an Agent Orange disease. Dave was 83, a retired navigator in the 731st, and a school teacher here in Mashpee.


Susie and I met him and his wife Sue at our fitness center frequently and met for lunch or dinner occasionally over the years. He was a very popular teacher and the PA Announcer for the High School football team. He was always ready to tell his students stories about his time in the 731st. (Don't worry, he always cleaned them up, according to my sons who were both in his Spanish class!)
The ceremony will be for family only at the VA cemetery at Bourne.

John Harris

04 November 2021

Who says VA has no sense of humor? NOT ME!!


"Not so," I insisted and whipped out my ID cards. "Oh, bother," said the claims agent as she looked forward to an entire afternoon correcting VA's boo-boo. Here's how VA posted the changes: (Third line under "STATUS of Your Claim")

11 August 2021

Msgt Tom Sutherin has passed; veteran of Rickenbacker's C-123 "Buckeye" Wing

Thomas H. "Tom" Sutherin, Retired (USAF) Master Seargent , age 77 of Troy, passed away Friday, August 6, 2021. He was born March 19, 1944 in Jefferson, OH to the late Hugh and Emma (Hartline) Sutherin.

He was preceded in death by his daughter Rae Ann Sutherin and two brothers, Hugh E. "Sonny" Sutherin and Jerry Sutherin.

Those left to cherish Tom's memory include his wife Connie (Myers) Sutherin, whom he married April 18, 1993; daughters Natalie Miller (Terry) of Columbus and Natosha Schaefer (Patrick) of Troy; son Seth Payne (Tracy) of Somerset; five grandsons, four granddaughters, and two great-grandchildren, and many special relatives and friends.

Tom was a graduate of Toronto High School and soon after joined the Air Force where he served his country proudly from 1962-1991 when he retired a decorated Master Seargent. Tom enjoyed golfing, fishing, and camping, but most importantly, he loved spending time with his children and grandchildren. He was a life member of AmVets Post #88, Troy, a life member of VFW Post #5436, Troy, American Legions Post #43, Troy, Troy Eagles #971, life member of Troy Fish and Game, and an original and long-standing member of the Veteran's Memorial Honor Guard of Troy. Tom was also a member of Masonic Lodge #670 in Canal Winchester, OH.

A Celebration of Life will be held at VFW Post #5436 at 2220 Lefevre Rd. in Troy. Details to follow. Memorial contributions may be given to the Veteran's Memorial Honor Guard of Troy in the care of the VFW. Arrangements entrusted to Fisher-Cheney Funeral Home, Troy. Condolences may be left for the family at www.fisher-cheneyfuneralhome.com .

Tom McVey

President 2014-2021
Buckeye Wing Association