Wednesday, July 2, 2014

At least 10 C-123 veterans have died after VA denied their Agent Orange claims, groups say
At least 10 veterans exposed to Agent Orange while serving aboard aircraft contaminated by the Vietnam-era defoliant have died after being denied care by the Department of Veterans Affairs, two veterans groups charged Sunday.
The veterans, who served between 1972 and 1982, flew or maintained the C-123 aircraft that were used to spray Agent Orange on Southeast Asian forests during the Vietnam War. They maintain that the residue from those flights exposed them to deadly toxins – a charge the Air Force has disputed.
While the VA has said it presumes that certain illnesses among Vietnam veterans were caused by exposure to Agent Orange, the veterans groups said they don't extend the same presumption to those postwar veterans who flew in contaminated aircraft. The reason is that the agency has adopted an unscientific notion of the definition of "exposure," the groups said.
"VA continues to deny all claims from post-Vietnam C-123 veterans, while at the same time deceptively assuring Congress that claims are considered 'on a case-by-case basis,'" the Vietnam Veterans of America and the C-123 Veterans Association said in a joint statement. "In fact, VA does not tell Congress that all C-123 claims are refused following a year or two delay."
This argument is playing out in a more restrained way before the Institute of Medicine, which recently took testimony on the question of whether C-123 veterans were exposed to dangerously high levels of toxins from contaminated aircraft. On one side was a VA consultant named A.L. Young, who has long argued that any exposure to Agent Orange residues by C-123 crews was "negligible." On the other was a C-123 veteran and an array of scientists including Rutgers professor and microbiology researcher Peter Kahn.
"What the government has been doing," he told the panel earlier in June, is "putting up the fa├žade of scientific objectivity in order to avoid action. I regard it as a failure of political courage and moral courage."

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