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Apr-23-2014 13:20printcomments

Oregon State Director of Veterans Affairs C-123 Veterans' Agent Orange Exposure Claims

A spokesperson for the C-123 Veterans Association expressed appreciation for Director Smith's direct and very effective support, noting that Marines like him can always be counted on when the Air Force needs help.

Director Cameron Smith, OR Veterans Affairs
Director Cameron Smith, OR Veterans Affairs

(SALEM) - Himself a Gulf War veteran, Director Cameron Smith of the State of Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs,  formally wrote VA Secretary Shinseki detailing C-123 veterans' eligibility for VA Agent Orange exposure benefits!

While mostly symbolic in addressing federal benefits, Director Smith's letter puts the VA on notice that yet another agency concurs with C-123 veterans' claims for having been exposed to Agent Orange and its contaminant, dioxin, during post-Vietnam decade of flying those warplanes. Any decision from the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to confront his own Veterans Health Administration regarding its unexplained blanket policy preventing C-123 veterans' access to VA medical care rests with the Secretary, but the moral weight of Oregon now has been offered the affected veterans.

Director Smith cited the fact that VA's refusal to permit C-123 veterans' claims to be approved violates both the spirit and the letter of several regulations, which he proceeded to detail.

Not touched on but directly applicable is another foundation of the C-123 veterans' legal claim, that of the Federal Register of 8 May 2001 page 21366 where VA states veterans exposed to herbicides outside the scope of the Vietnam War (boots on the ground) will be treated the same as Vietnam War veterans. This is where VA is unscientifically, redefining "exposure" specifically to block C-123 veterans' exposure claims. VA repeated their commitment to treat exposures in the 31 August 2010 Federal Register, but continues to utilize its unique redefinition of exposure.

VA has recently integrated into their view of exposure the separate toxicological concept of bioavailability. VA insists bioavailability is necessary before C-123 exposure can be conceded. Bioavailability means the impact in some way that is measurable of a substance upon the body.

For example, drinking coffee usually elevates one's blood pressure. Only at that point, VA would concede the drinker's exposure to coffee.

This is wrong. In toxicology, bioavailability happens after an exposure. One must first be exposed to coffee by drinking it to then experience its bioavailability. Exposure and bioavailability are separate events, not one as redefined by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans accuse the VA of a verbal slight-of-hand with the word exposure.

Per standard references in medicine and science as well as glossaries published by other federal agencies, C-123 veterans were scientifically and medically exposed to Agent Orange, in every form it was found on the C-123. Flying that aircraft provided both inhalation and dermal contact with the toxins in Agent Orange. Further, VA maintains that only liquid Agent Orange exposure qualifies a veteran for any care, or even the Agent Orange Registry exam.

Oregon joins the US Public Health Service, the EPA, the National Institutes of Health, the CDC/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the National Environmental Institute of Health Sciences, the University of Texas Medical School, the Oregon Health Sciences University and other scientists and physicians, all concluding that C-123 veterans flew a contaminated aircraft, were exposed to Agent Orange, and are due medical care for Agent Orange-type illnesses.

In February 2014, Yale Law School, in a project headed by Dean Michael Wishnie, published a detailed analysis of the legal basis for the C-123 veterans' claim for Agent Orange exposure benefits. VA had no reaction other than to ignore Yale's findings even when brought to the attention of the Departments General Counsel. A spokesperson for the C-123 Veterans Association expressed appreciation for Director Smith's direct and very effective support, noting that Marines like him can always be counted on when the Air Force needs help.


Wes Carter, Major, USAF Retired
Former McMinnville resident
Chair, The C-123 Veterans Association

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Raymond Melninkaitis April 24, 2014 1:00 am (Pacific time)

The DVA can ignore fundamental law because it is allowed to write it's own rules. It is not subject to normal legal remedies.

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