Thursday, February 5, 2015

Westover Reservists exposed to Agent Orange, federal officials rule after 4-year battle
After a four-year battle, federal health officials have ruled flight crews at Westover Air Reserve Base were exposed to Agent Orange during the decade they flew recycled planes from Vietnam, but the decision that could grant them full medical benefits is too late for some.

The study released recently by the Institute of Medicine was the veterans' last hope to win their long, research-filled battle to receive the same medical care and disability payments as those who served during the Vietnam War when Agent Orange was used as a defoliant.
"The whole population has waited for four years. There has been predictable suffering, financial loss and death. That is unacceptable," said retired Air Force Major Wesley T. Carter, who served as an air medical technician and flight instructor with the 74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at Westover in Chicopee for 20 years.
In the four years that he and others fought the battle for benefits at least a half-dozen people have grown sicker and sicker and several have died. One, Retired Lt. Col. Paul Bailey, received benefits after a long appeal process only to die a month later of cancer. He was 67.
Carter argued the benefits, which include access to free medications, dental care, optometry and hospice, are invaluable and vital to ill veterans. Financial disability payments come tax free and can be passed onto survivors.

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