By Debbie Gregory.
A group of up to 2,100 Air Force personnel and reservists will finally receive service-connected benefits due to their exposure to Agent Orange residue lingering in airplanes.
Affected reservists may have served from 1969 to 1986: the 906th and 907th Tactical Air groups or 355th and 356th Tactical Airlift squadrons at Lockbourne/Rickenbacker Air Force Base, Ohio; the 731st Tactical Air Squadron and 74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts; and the 758th Airlift Squadron, Pittsburgh.
The military personnel flew or worked on Fairchild C-123 aircraft. Samples taken from planes in the 1990s and 2010 showed toxic residue, and crew members had a much higher risk of cancer, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Those affected will be now be eligible for disability aid, including survivor benefits and medical care. The veterans must show they worked on a contaminated plane and later developed prostate cancer, diabetes, leukemia, or other conditions the US Department of Veteran Affairs has connected to Agent Orange.
The VA had denied claims submitted since 2011 by C-123 reservists, saying it was unlikely they were exposed to Agent Orange residue. But earlier this year, the Institute of Medicine concluded that the veterans had been exposed to dioxins in Agent Orange while flying the aircraft after they had been used in Operation Ranch Hand.
Retired Air Force Maj. Wes Carter, a former C-123 officer who has led the charge for health benefits and compensation for C-123 veterans, called the VA decision “a relief” that is unfortunately “tempered by the grief felt for lost comrades.”
Claims will not be awarded retroactively. If you have any questions related to herbicide exposure on C-123 aircraft can call VA’s special C-123 Hotline at 800-749-8387 or via e-mail.
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VA Approves Coverage for Agent Orange Exposure: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory