Agent Orange Exposure: Vietnam Air Force Reservists

After the Vietnam War, U.S. Air Force (AF) Reservists who worked as crew members to maintain C-123 Provider aircraft might have been exposed to small amounts of Agent Orange and other chemical herbicides.

The C-123 planes sprayed Agent Orange as a tactical defoliant to destroy the dense growth, plants, and tree leaves that provided cover to the Vietnamese troops. After this spraying initiative, these planes were then sent back to the U.S. for reconditioning—many of them sent to various Reservist units—where residue remained on the planes’ surfaces.

Air Force Reservists and Agent OrangeReservists who came in contact with the aircraft raised concerns over health issues they suffered following the war.

The United States Department of Veterans Administration (VA) asked the Health and Medicine Division (HMD) of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to research possible exposure by Reservists working on or maintaining
C-123s.  

HMD Report Findings

The report found that the approximately 2,000 AF Reservists who trained and worked on these planes used to spray Agent Orange on Vietnam would likely have been exposed to “chemicals from herbicide residue” on aircraft surfaces.

Thus, pilots, flight engineers, loadmasters, ground maintenance crews, navigators, and aero-medical personnel who had contact with the planes regularly possibly suffered from health problems now.

The exposure occurred when the toxic chemical in Agent Orange, TCDD, left on the planes’ surfaces, was inhaled or ingested after the spraying operation ended, and the C-123 planes were reassigned to U.S. reservist units used for medical evacuation missions and delivering cargo. These assignments went on for 10 years, and those who maintained or worked on these contaminated planes were at risk.

VA Benefits for Air Force Reservists

After the HMD reported its results, the VA acknowledged that Air Force Reservists who worked on these planes did come in contact with the toxic Agent Orange chemical. This included any Reservist who operated, maintained, or served on a C-123 that was used to spray herbicides.

You may qualify for disability benefits if you were exposed to Agent Orange as:

  • A soldier on active duty who served in a “regular USAF unit location where a contaminated C-123 was assigned” who had ongoing contact with the plane between 1969 and 1986 and developed a disability related to Agent Orange. Duties might have included maintenance, medical assignments, and regular flight or ground responsibilities.
  • A Reservist assigned to duties at the following locations between 1969 and 1986:
    • Ohio’s Lockbourne/Rickenbacker Air Force Base—906th and 907th Tactical Air Groups or 355th and 356th Tactical Airlift Squadron
    • Massachusetts’ Westover Air Force Base—731stTactical Air Squadron and 74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron
    • Pittsburgh’s International Airport—758th Airlift Squadron

If you worked in some capacity on a C-123 aircraft and developed health problems you believe are related to Agent Orange residue exposure, you must provide evidence that you “regularly and repeatedly operated, maintained, or served onboard C-123 aircraft.” You must meet these conditions to qualify for presumptive service connection with Agent Orange exposure.

Diseases Associated With Agent Orange

Medical conditions linked to Agent Orange that have a presumptive service connection include:

  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Peripheral neuropathy and early-onset peripheral neuropathy
  • Chloracne
  • Chronic B-cell leukemia
  • Porphyria cutanea tarda
  • Soft tissue sarcomas
  • Ischemic heart disease
  • Multiple myeloma, Hodgkin’s disease, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Lung, trachea, and prostate cancer
  • AL amyloidosis

Call Cuddigan Law

If you worked on or maintained a C-123 plane as a U.S. Reservist and believe your current medical condition is linked to Agent Orange exposure, contact Cuddigan Law. You may be eligible for VA benefits, and we can help determine if the work you did on this plane qualifies for disability benefits.

Call Cuddigan Law today to speak with an intake specialist for free. We might be able to help with your VA disability appeal, so let our experienced lawyers go to work for you.

 

Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska