Bennet urged VA to provide exposure benefits
Washington, DC - Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet applauded the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announcement that flight, medical, and ground grew personnel of C-123 aircraft used during the Vietnam War will receive benefits for exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange. C-123 aircraft carried and sprayed Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, however, the VA continuously denied these veterans herbicide exposure benefits. Last year, Bennet wrote to the VA urging it to expand Agent Orange benefits eligibility to C-123 veterans.
"These veterans bravely served their country, and have waited too long for the VA to act on this," Bennet said. "We have been working closely with the veterans community on this issue and couldn't be happier to finally have some progress. We hope that with today's announcement the VA will act with all possible speed to provide veterans with these benefits and see that they receive the care they've earned."
The VA commissioned a report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to conduct a study on whether or not C-123 pilots and crew members were exposed to enough Tetrachlorodibenzodioxon (TCDD) - a carcinogen found in Agent Orange - to cause adverse health problems. In 2015, the IOM reported that the veterans had been exposed to enough TCDD, confirming that they should receive herbicide exposure benefits. An estimated 1500-2100 personnel who served on C-123 aircraft were the subject of IOM's report. Following the release of these findings, Bennet sent a letter written by Senator Jeff Merkley urging the VA to expand eligibility and review all claims of C-123 veterans previously denied benefits.
During the Vietnam War the Air Force used approximately 30 C-123 aircraft to spray Agent Orange. Though never properly decontaminated the planes remained in the fleet until 1982. There are 14 diseases presumed to be caused by Agent Orange, including prostate cancer, lung cancer, Parkinson's disease, and Hodgkin's disease.
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