Agent Orange and C-123s
Many Vietnam veterans know that the VA presumes that they were exposed to Agent Orange and that certain health conditions are presumed to be related to their exposure. However, veterans who actually served “boots on the ground” in Vietnam were not the only service members who were exposed to the herbicide. Unfortunately, most other service members who were exposed do not enjoy the benefit of the presumption of exposure. As a result, they must prove that they were actually exposed to Agent Orange.
C-123 planes were used to spray Agent Orange during the Vietnam war. After Vietnam, these planes continued to be flown for many years. Many of the servicemen and women who flew on the C-123s after Vietnam are developing medical conditions that the VA has recognized as related to Agent Orange exposure. An article in National Journal discusses the VA’s position on this issue. It states that the VA has asserted that the Agent Orange that post Vietnam C-123 service members were exposed to would not have caused adverse effects.
It took the VA many years to recognize that Agent Orange had adverse effects on service members that served in Vietnam. When the VA initially made the decision to presume that all veterans who served in Vietnam were exposed to Agent Orange, it had a limited list of medical conditions that were presumed to have been caused by Agent Orange. Since that time, the list of medical conditions presumed to have caused by Agent Orange has expanded. It is certainly possible that the VA will create similar presumptions in favor of service members who flew on C-123s that had been used to spray Agent Orange in Vietnam. Until that time, those service members can still argue that they were exposed to Agent Orange and that their exposure caused their health conditions. It will just be more difficult for them to prove that without the benefit of a presumption.
Update – VA Adopts C-123 Regulation
The Institute of Medicine released a report indicating that the servicemen and women who served on C-123s after Vietnam may have been exposed to dangerous levels of Agent Orange. In June 2015, VA adopted a regulation that extends the Agent Orange presumptions to crew members on C-123s.