SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The
Veterans Affairs Department has long resisted disability claims from
service members who said chemical residue left in Vietnam War-era planes
that were used to spray defoliants over Southeast Asia caused them
severe illnesses, including cancer.
This summer, a panel of
independent scientists will try to determine whether those veterans
could have been exposed to the toxins in defoliants, including Agent
Orange, at a level that would be dangerous to their health.
the panel, which hosts the first of a series of closed meetings and
public hearings on May 15, finds a link, the service members could be
eligible for tax-free disability compensation up to several thousand
dollars a month.
That's something Wes Carter, a retired Air Force major, believes is long overdue.
got some sick folks that are not allowed to go into the VA," said
Carter, a former Oregon resident leading the crusade and who believes
his prostate cancer and other disorders are due to his exposure to
dioxin, a contaminant found in Agent Orange.
on C-123s in the Air Force Reserves as a medic from 1974 to 1980. The
planes were used to spray millions of gallons of defoliants to destroy
crops and eliminate jungle cover used by the North Vietnamese Army and
The military stopped the spraying by early
1971 over concerns that some defoliants contained compounds harmful to
humans. The fleet returned stateside, but Air Force Reserve units
continued to fly them on cargo and medevac missions until the early
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