Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Air Force Reservists Say Agent Orange Residue Damaged Their Health
'These Health Issues Start Popping Up'
At the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, a looping video shows off C-123 planes — aircraft used to spray the chemical defoliant Agent Orange and pesticides during the Vietnam War.
The only actual C-123 you can still see here, nicknamed "Patches," has been on display inside this big hangar since the mid-1990s, when it was decontaminated. It's a wide, clunky-looking cargo plane.
A Fairchild C-123K Provider at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. 
"They're big and slow, and they're extremely noisy," says Ed Kienle, laughing. For most of the 1970s, he was a flight mechanic on a plane just like Patches at Rickenbacker Air Force Base in Columbus. "We know that most of the airplanes we flew had done duty in Vietnam."
'We're A Learning Organization'
Jeanne Stellman, a public health professor who has done extensive research on Agent Orange at Columbia University, worked on an article published last year in the journal Environmental Research that blasts the VA for ignoring the science.
"It seemed to us to be a total no-brainer that there was exposure possible," she says.
Since 2011, a growing group of reservists and their families has been calling for the VA to recognize C-123 vets. A study released in January, commissioned by the VA, confirms that many reservists very likely were exposed.
Dr. Ralph Erickson, a VA health expert, says a task force will make recommendations to the VA secretary within months on next steps.
"I think we're a learning organization, we're able to make the adjustments that are necessary, and we're basically moving forward at this point," Erickson says.
For Barbara Carson, it feels like too little, too late. Her husband, who worked on a C-123 at Rickenbacker, died of non-Hodgkin lymphoma at age 54. Years later, she filed a claim with the VA for survivors benefits linked to Agent Orange exposure. That claim was denied, a ruling she is appealing.
She says it's frustrating because if her husband had been on the ground in Vietnam, she'd be eligible for benefits owing to the presumption of exposure.
"I guess I was naive enough to believe that they would've been responsible in their reaction," Carson says.


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