Full disability benefits are now granted to veterans of the United States Air Force who were assigned to Fairchild C-123 planes that dropped the poisonous herbicide Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.
The credit for this decision goes to Retired Air Force Major Wes Carter and his fellow servicemen who were exposed and who were tenacious in their fight to overturn a Veterans Administration decision on June 18th, 2001 that denied their claims because their service on these planes occured after the war ended. The pilots contested the decision with the assertion that the planes were contamined from their previous spraying of the agent Dioxin.
With the help of the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences the VA position was reversed and now approximately 2000 veterans are eligible for claims
It is said, “With patience and diligence the mouse bit through the cable.” This aphorism fits well with the work of Major Wes Carter.
For years I have maintained that 100% Disabled Veterans are a powerful force to reckon with, as many have nothing but time and skills to seek rightful care and justice for their fellow veterans.
Major Carter was rated 100% disabled in 1990, as a result of spinal injuries incurred during the Gulf War. In 2011 he was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer, a illness that is on the Veterans Administration list of service connected debilitating and life threatning ailments. Upon discovering that many of his colleagues in the Air Force had the same diagnosis, with some fatal, he elected to take the VA to task. The symtomatic coincidences were closer to science than accident.
Many of these planes were used for reserve squadrons from 1972-1982 at three Air Force Bases in the United States. They were not clean or clear of dioxin which the research from the IOM concluded. These craft have subsequently been destroyed by smelting them down.
This saga was close to home for this writer as I posted many of Major Carters early findings and seminal research at the “TucsonCitizen.com” Veteran Veritas.
One of the Air Force Bases in the study was Davis Monthan in Tucson, Arizona where I resided until moving to Apple Valley in 2010. I continued the Blog for the Tucson Citizen and continued to track and post Major Carter’s relentless quest for justice for himself and fellow pilots.
You might imagine how surprised I was to receive a call one day from the U.S. Department of the Air Force wanting to know exactly who I was and why I was interested in this mans story.
I told them the raw truth. I am a Marine and also a victim of Agent Orange and that we as veterans of the Vietnam War will never, ever quit in assuring that all those exposed to this defoliating chemical are identified and cared for at VA facilities. Creepy as that call was, they were quite polite and said thank you.This is what is meant by, “We leave no soldier behind.”