Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange on contaminated C-123 aircraft after the Vietnam War deserve compensation and benefits, and the Veterans Administration should stop denying them, a bipartisan group of senators led by North Carolina’s Sen. Richard Burr and Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon wrote in a letter on Wednesday to the VA.
The Institute of Medicine found evidence that the planes used to spray Agent Orange in Vietnam were never properly decontaminated after the war, and that post-Vietnam veterans who served on the affected planes were exposed to potentially dangerous levels of dioxin. The deadly compound was a contaminant in Agent Orange and other herbicides.
The dioxin continues to poison Vietnam’s people and land four decades later.
The IOM study found an estimated 1,500 to 2,100 Air Force Reservists served on the planes that were still contaminated after the war. They were exposed to Agent Orange and had an increase risk, the study found.
The planes remained in the fleet until 1982. But the study noted that the VA considers the Reservists who flew on them ineligible for health care and disability coverage under the Agent Orange Act of 1991.
Burr, a Republican, and Merkley, a Democrat, said in a press release on Wednesday that the study found that “numerous veterans among that group have developed symptoms, including cancer, consistent with Agent Orange exposure.”
The senators wrote to the VA ( here’s the letter) asking it to reverse its decisions to deny benefits and compensation to these veterans. Also signing the letter were Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Michael Bennet of Colorado.