The Vietnam Veterans of America has put out a statement attacking the VA for delaying its decision on benefits for C-123 reservist veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange.
“It is an outrage that the VA, in effect, is continuing to deny these veterans justice,” John Rowan, National President of Vietnam Veterans of America, said in a statement. “These VA bureaucrats attempting to delay justice ought to be relieved of their duties so that they can no longer abuse veterans with their tactic of ‘delay, deny, until they die.’ There is no excuse for why these worthy veterans are still not being treated with the appreciation and the respect their service warrants.”
Despite reports and statements from VA officials that an announcement was pending regarding the benefits status of Agent Orange C-123 reservists exposed to toxic herbicides, no decision has been announced. The VA now says there is no set date for when the agency will announce its decision.
Rowan praised Wes Carter, the leader of the C-123 Veterans Association, for his spunk and spirit: “You’ve got to keep on keeping on,” Rowan urged, “and VVA will be at your side to convince the VA hierarchy that to continue to delay justice is to deny justice.”
For more than five years, retired Air Force Reserve Major Wes Carter has led the fight to get the Department of Veterans Affairs to acknowledge that the C-123 Provider military cargo planes which transported Agent Orange to and from Vietnam had, in fact, been contaminated with dioxin. A number of reputable scientists and epidemiologists at federal agencies have gone on record, endorsing Carter’s stance that these craft remained hazardous to the health of the 2,100 crew members, flight nurses, and maintenance workers who serviced them between 1972 and 1982.
“Yet the VA, in all its wisdom, maintained that these men and women who had been exposed to Agent Orange ought not be eligible to receive the same healthcare and disability compensation benefits that boots-on-the-ground veterans of Vietnam receive,” Rowan noted.
“VVA has long supported Major Carter in his quest for justice,” Rowan said. “When the Institute of Medicine (IOM) concluded, in a study funded by the VA, that the planes were actively contaminated when Air Force Reservists flew them, we were as pleased as Wes Carter, who exulted, ‘We won!’ The IOM report was released in January 2015, yet Major Carter and those who have been sickened with maladies the VA concedes are associated with exposure to Agent Orange have still not received the justice they deserve. Why? Because a few bad actors in the office of Public Health & Environmental Hazards at the VA continue their attempts to delay justice despite the conclusive report by the IOM.”
On January 9, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies released a report stating the airmen were exposed to toxic herbicide residue in the C-123s, including Agent Orange.
The report titled “Post-Vietnam Dioxin Exposure In Agent Orange-Contaminated Aircraft”, released Friday, Jan. 9, 2015, found that these Air Force Reserve members may be at risk for developing diseases and conditions related to Agent Orange.
The IOM scientific panel, comprised of public health experts, said they could state “with confidence” that some of the 1,500 to 2,100 Air Force Reserve personnel who served on these C-123s after the Vietnam War were exposed to dioxin levels exceeding health guidelines for workers in enclosed spaces. This exposure increases the risk for these airmen for developing diseases, illnesses or conditions consistent with exposure to herbicides, including Agent Orange, according to the study.