It's been a tough, four-year battle, but some Westover Air Reserve Base veterans are one step closer now to receiving the medical care they believe they deserve.
Veterans of the Air Force Reserve 741st Tactical Airlift Squadron say they were exposed to Agent Orange during the decade they flew C-123 Provider planes from Vietnam.
According to our media partners Mass Live and The Republican, they could now receive full medical benefits thanks to an Institute of Medicine report.
Federal health officials have ruled flight crews at Westover ARB were exposed to the herbicide, but some veterans say they wish they knew it sooner.
Veterans such as retired Master Sgt. Richard Matte, who after years of hospital visits, learned his three rounds of bladder cancer, lung cancer, nerve disorders and a heart transplant, could be because of Agent Orange, an herbicide used as a defoliant during the Vietnam War.
Matte is now confined to a wheelchair and takes several pills a day. His illnesses began back in the mid-1990's, just before he retired.
“You know, little things,” he said of his symptoms. “All of a sudden, I need glasses.”
Matte never served in Vietnam, but he did fly C-123 Provider planes that had flown there, ones that had dumped Agent Orange throughout the country. Those planes have since been shredded, according to our media partners Mass Live and The Republican.
"Because it was a distinct, foul odor that emanated from some of these planes," Matte said.
When asked if he remembered that smell, he said, “Oh, yes.”
The VA helps those exposed to Agent Orange who fought in Vietnam, but hadn't helped those like Matte who were exposed to the chemical, until now.
The Institute of Medicine committee studied the issue and found these men and women could have ingested Agent Orange.
"Ecstatic, but it's not finished,” Matte said of the report, adding there is still work to be done.