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.
If the panel, which hosted the first of a series of closed meetings and public hearings Thursday, 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.
“We’ve 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.
Carter served 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 Vietcong.
Harmful to humans
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 1980s.
Over the years veterans who flew in those planes have been getting sick, and like many Vietnam veterans, they’re blaming the defoliants.
Carter said he found out they still had dried herbicide residue in them after he was diagnosed in 2011 with prostate cancer, one of nearly 20 illnesses VA deems service-connected among Vietnam veterans, due to possible herbicide exposure.READ MORE: http://www.heraldandnews.com/news/oregon/panel-to-study-at-agent-orange-residue-exposure/article_aa600a32-dc88-11e3-9838-001a4bcf887a.html