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Apr-11-2014 14:26printcomments

Study Suggests Veteran's Agent Orange Exposure for C-123 Crews Will Cost $1.8 Million

Veterans have been forced to resort to expensive legal procedures to access necessary scientific and administrative documents.

C-123 Provider by Fairchild

(SALEM) - This week it was estimated that an Institute of Medicine study of veterans’ Agent Orange exposure aboard C-123 transports will cost approximately $1,800,000.00.

The study, ordered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, addresses exposure concerns raised by veterans who flew these former Agent Orange spray transports between 1972-1982.

VA presently denies all C-123 veteran’s exposure disability claim. Yet, decades of Air Force tests already establish the Agent Orange contamination of the airplanes. USAF toxicologists judged the transports “heavily contaminated on all test surfaces.”

The law specifies only that veterans prove Agent Orange exposure to receive treatment for related diseases. VA, however, developed its unique redefinition of exposure whereby even direct skin contact with a toxin is not considered exposure. The IOM study is a waste of money. Many sister federal agencies such as National Institutes of Health and Center for Disease Control, with their scientific expertise and statutory authority in this area, have already concluded the aircraft were contaminated and the veterans exposed. The VA had these confirmations years ago, submitted to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs by the CDC and NIH.

VA didn't even acknowledge the correspondence, and has disregarded every proof submitted by other federal agencies such as US Public Health Service, universities, medical schools, physicians and scientists.

VA has further obstructed veterans’ claims by refusing release of public records demanded under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA.) Veterans have been forced to resort to expensive legal procedures to access necessary scientific and administrative documents.

The IOM C-123 report, due in September, will be concluded before court proceedings can force release of the FOIA materials. Because VA won’t make essential documents available to the IOM or the veterans, the C-123 study may offer a helpful perspective but not one that changes the law or the fact of the veterans' harmful exposures.

Several legislators suggest the study is a waste of money also because of recent juried scientific articles have concluded the veterans had harmful exposures to the dioxin. Co-authored by OHSU’s Dr. Fred Berman, these, too, are dismissed. Every proof, agency finding, scientific article, physicians' opinion and contamination study has been disregarded by VA officials, seemingly determined to continue their years of blocking C-123 exposure claims. The IOM C-123 study certainly seems a waste of time from the veterans' perspective, because VA is seizing another year or so to delay recognizing completely legitimate claims from C-123 veterans.

VA claims officials keep VA hospital doors locked when those doors should have been opened with the first C-123 Agent Orange exposure claims! This is something the VA can set right, and set right immediately, if only their administrators would be guided by law, science and ethics. What is the source within VA that is so dedicated to prevention of C-123 exposure claims, and why? What will be the VA's analysis of its inappropriate stonewalling after the IOM report is issued? Who in VA will answer for allowing their personal whims to block hospital doors to veterans seeking care?

Wes Carter, Major, USAF Retired
Former McMinnville resident
Chair, C-123 Veterans Association



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