Late last month new reports surfaced regarding Air Force Veterans and Agent Orange exposure. While the news received a lot of attention, and some new Vets will be eligible for presumptive benefits, it’s important to focus on the actual Veterans effected by this change. Too often people get lost on the positive spin put on stories when an organization like the VA is desperate for some positive attention.
So, what happened? Essentially a report found that Air Force and Air Force Reserve Veterans who served stateside are now eligible to file VA Disability claims as a result of exposure to Agent Orange. As many Veterans know, in order to qualify for Agent Orange presumptive benefits, one must traditionally be considered “boots on ground” in Vietnam. Granted, there are a lot of exceptions to this rule, but the majority of Veterans who file these claims are those who served in Vietnam. On occasion, the VA releases other areas in which Agent Orange was used throughout the years. This includes bases in the US and Puerto Rico as well as countries like Korea and Thailand. This recent announcement follows in that same tradition, but pertains more to the aircraft that were used while in Vietnam. In this case the VA is being very specific about the aircraft. The only plane that is a part of this is the C-123.
The report also states that only about 1500-2100 new Air Force Veterans will likely be found eligible as a result of this study. Further, the VA stated in their news release that:“Air Force and Air Force Reserve personnel who served as flight, medical and ground maintenance crew members on ORH C-123 aircraft previously used to spray Agent Orange in Vietnam were exposed to the herbicide.” In other words, not every Veteran who served in the Air Force at the bases listed below is eligible. For Veterans who serve in Vietnam, as long as you were boots on ground, and have a presumptive disability, you are eligible. In the case of these new Air Force requirements, you have to meet the specific criteria.
“Air Force and Air Force Reserve personnel who served as flight, medical and ground maintenance crew members on ORH C-123 aircraft previously used to spray Agent Orange in Vietnam were exposed to the herbicide.”
You’re likely still wandering who this really effects. The VA actually supplied a very detailed list that should alleviate any question as to who was exposed. On a personal note, I found that an uncle of mine could possibly be one of the Airmen eligible. He was actually stationed at one of the bases listed during the time period. For everyone else, here are the dates and areas affected that will determine eligibility.
Dates: Air Force and Air Force Reserve Veterans must have served from 1969-1985
Reservist must have served here:
- 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)
The VA states that if you were in the Active Air Force during this time, you may qualify for benefits if you meet all of the following criteria:
- You served in a regular Air Force unit location where a contaminated C-123 was assigned.
- You had regular and repeated contact with C-123 aircraft through flight, ground, or medical duties.
- You have an Agent Orange-related disability.
To see a full list of Active Air Force Units that may qualify, click here.
One of the most important factors to keep in mind here is that the same rules apply for these new Veterans regarding Agent Orange claims as previous Vets who were eligible. In other words, you must have a disability that is on the presumptive list in order to qualify for compensation. The VA does not compensate based on exposure. You must instead be diagnosed with one of the conditions on the official VA list.