LAKE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A little-known U.S. Army manual may be key to veterans fighting for Agent Orange benefits with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The field manual for the Tactical Employment of Herbicides warns there should be a 500-meter buffer zone between Agent Orange and anything that is not to be damaged.
That flies in the face of how the V.A. makes its decisions about who is eligible for benefits and who isn’t, like Air Force veteran John McKenney of Umatilla, Florida.
In 1969-70, Mr. McKenney was stationed in Thailand at the Ubon Royal Air Force base to support the Vietnam war. His job was an Aero-Medical specialist.
“When planes crashed, we had to go out to the site collect the body parts and photograph,” Mr. McKenney said. There were plenty of crashes sites to document, as well as a 1970 battle scene following an attack on the base by North Vietnamese soldiers.
There were plenty of crashes sites to document, as well as a 1970 battle scene following an attack on the base by North Vietnamese soldiers.
“They were after the planes that were bombing North Vietnam and the Ho Chi Minh trail,” Mr. McKenney noted. “January 13th, the base got attacked and I had to go out and pick up the body parts.”
The Air Force sprayed Agent Orange around the perimeter of Ubon to eliminate enemy cover. The herbicide is linked to several cancers and diseases.
The V.A. requires Thailand veterans to prove their jobs required they work on base perimeters, in order to qualify for Agent Orange benefits. But Army field manual blows holes in that logic.
It points out when spraying Agent Orange, “A 500-meter buffer distance should be maintained to avoid damage to desirable vegetation near the target.”