VA Gives Ground on Agent Orange

~ By Freddy Groves ~

The Department of Veterans Affairs pays benefits for a number of illnesses caused by Agent Orange, including chronic B-cell leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. For the most part, however, unless you were boots on the ground and wallowing in the stuff in Vietnam, proving exposure has been tough.

At CFB Gagetown, the VA only acknowledges a four-day window of possible exposure. Blue Water sailors have had to prove that they actually stepped foot on land or were on ships that operated in the waterways of Vietnam. Those who came in contact with the C-123K spray planes post-Vietnam were told they were unlikely to be at risk because the Agent Orange would have dried.

Officials didn’t think it through. In the years before the planes were decommissioned (around 2010), they were used as medical and cargo carriers. They were still contaminated. Those affected could include National Guard, flight nurses, ground crews and flight crews. Methods of transmission would have been skin, breathing or eating. Consider: A wet wipe-down of the plane can activate the toxin.

Now, for the first time, the VA has acknowledged (in the form of disability compensation to one veteran) that those who flew in the planes that dropped the Agent Orange also could be affected.

If you flew on or worked on a C-123K between 1972 and 1982, and if you’re sick from Agent Orange exposure and fighting for compensation, write this down: Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Paul Bailey had his denied claim overturned and he will receive compensation “as the result of occupational hazards onboard C-123K aircrafts.” He flew on the C-123K after the Vietnam War. Bailey is ill with multiple cancers.

When his plane, sent to a museum, was tested in 1994, it was discovered to still be “heavily contaminated” with Agent Orange.

Freddy Groves regrets that he cannot personally answer reader questions, but will incorporate them into his column whenever possible. Send email to

© 2013 King Features Synd., Inc.

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