Friday, May 8, 2015

Agent Orange report comes after years of VA denials
A new Institute of Medicine report that found veterans were exposed to Agent Orange while flying in C-123 aircraft after the Vietnam War came three years after another federal agency reached a similar conclusion.
But despite a pronouncement in January 2012 by the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry that these crews' levels of exposure to dioxin were 182 times higher than acceptable amounts, representing a 200-fold risk for cancer, the Veterans Affairs Department refused to acknowledge any link between the veterans' current illnesses and a history of serving on that aircraft.
Instead, VA public health officials insisted that trace amounts of dioxin on internal aircraft surfaces were not "biologically available for skin absorption or inhalation because dioxin is not water- or sweat-soluble and does not give off airborne particles."
Meanwhile, since veterans found out in 2011 they may have been exposed, at least 10 with diseases associated with Agent Orange have had VA disability claims denied and some have died — although just how many have passed away as a result of exposure-related illnesses is difficult to pin down, said retired Air Force Maj. Wes Carter, founder of the C-123 Veterans Association.
Carter said that between 1,500 and 2,100 veterans flew the aircraft, used during the Vietnam War to spray the highly toxic defoliant and then kept in service for almost a decade after the conflict. He said his association knows of fewer than a handful of veterans whose claims have been approved, including just one who triumphed without having to file an appeal.
"[The numbers] are terribly vague. We scattered decades ago, and unlike many Navy folks, had no ship's association to keep us in touch. ... We want to simply say that there has been death and suffering," said Carter, a C-123 medical services officer who is among those whose claims were denied.
VA's fight to deny health treatment and claims to what may amount to a small number of former service members comes as no surprise to veterans organizations and lawmakers who have pushed VA for years to recognize certain environmental exposures.
Related: Report: C-123 fliers exposed to Agent Orange

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