Veterans who served boots-on-the-ground in Vietnam during the Vietnam War are presumed to have been exposed to the toxic herbicide Agent Orange. During the war, C-123 aircraft sprayed Agent Orange over vast areas of forest in Vietnam during Operation Ranch Hand.
These planes were later sent back to the United States and were used by the Air Force and Air Force reserves. Service members who worked on C-123s may have been exposed to Agent Orange without having step foot in Vietnam.
After hearing complaints of health concerns from Air Force reservists who crewed C-123 aircraft, the VA asked the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to study possible exposures and adverse health effects in those who worked and crewed C-123 aircraft.
The report, Post-Vietnam Dioxin Exposure in Agent Orange-Contaminated C-123 Aircraft was released in January 2015. According to the VA’s website, the report found that “approximately 1,500 to 2,100 Air Force Reserve personnel trained and worked on C-123 aircraft that had previously been used to spray herbicides, including Agent Orange, in Vietnam.”
The report found that those Reservists who had regular contact with the aircraft could have been exposed to chemicals from herbicide residue, and that their exposure could result in adverse health effects. Reservists may have been exposed to TCDD, a toxic substance in Agent Orange, through hand-to-mouth transfer, inhalation, or ingestion by contaminated food or water.
The Presumptive Rule
Based on the findings of this report, the VA added those exposed to Agent Orange through contact with C-123 aircraft to their herbicide presumptive regulation. The regulation now includes “individuals who performed service in the Air Force or Air Force Reserves who regularly operated, maintained, or served onboard C-123 aircraft known to have been used to spray herbicides during the Vietnam era.”
The VA website notes that the following individuals may qualify for Agent Orange exposure-related benefits:
- Active duty personnel who served in a regular United States Air Force unit location where a contaminated C-123 was assigned who had regular contact with the aircraft through flight, ground, or medical duties between 1969 and 1986, and who developed Agent Orange related disabilities.
- Reservists who were assigned to flight, ground, or medical crew duties at the below locations between 1969 and 1986, and who developed Agent Orange related disabilities:
- Lockbourne/Rickenbacker Air Force Base in Ohio (906th and 907th Tactical Air Groups or 355th and 356th Tactical Airlift Squadron)
- Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts (731st Tactical Air Squadron and 74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron)
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, International Airport (758th Airlift Squadron)
Agent Orange Related Diseases
Reservist and Air Force service members are eligible for benefits for Agent Orange related disabilities. Agent Orange related diseases include:
- AL Amyloidosis
- Chronic B-Cell Leukemias
- Chloracne, or similar acneform disease
- Diabetes Mellitus Type II
- Hodgkin’s Disease
- Ischemic Heart Disease
- Multiple Myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Early-onset peripheral neuropathy
- Porphyria cutanea tarda
- Prostate Cancer
- Respiratory Cancers, including cancer of the lungs, trachea, bronchus, and larynx,
- Soft Tissue Sarcomas