Agent Orange Airmen

June 19, 2015

Earlier this year, a report by the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine concluded that crews operating on C-123 aircraft during the Vietnam War were exposed to Agent Orange. In congressional testimony provided in May, MOAA recommended that Congress and the VA act on the IOM report.

The report found evidence that those who served aboard or worked on the C-123 aircraft associated with Operation Ranch Hand (ORH) were exposed to the herbicide, both during and after Vietnam, when many of the aircraft remained in service for aeromedical transportation and other missions. 

The VA published an interim final rule on June 18 to allow veterans to apply for disability compensation and VA care for any of 14 presumptive medical conditions due to exposure to Agent Orange. The ruling applies to active Air Force and Air Force Reserve veterans assigned to specific C-123 units from 1969-1986 who have developed one of the Agent Orange conditions.

In a press release, the VA said that "Air Force and Air Force Reserve flight, medical and ground maintenance crewmembers who served on the contaminated ORH C-123s are presumed to have been exposed to herbicides during their service, thus making it easier for them to establish entitlement for some VA benefits if they develop an Agent Orange-related presumptive condition. In addition, for affected Air Force Reserve crew members, VA will presume that their Agent Orange-related condition had its onset during their Reserve training. This change ensures that these reservists are eligible for VA disability compensation and medical care for any Agent Orange-related presumptive condition, and that their surviving dependents are eligible for dependency and indemnity compensation and burial benefits."

MOAA recommends any Air Force veteran who served in a C-123 squadron during or after the Vietnam War contact a Veteran Service Organization that represents and assists veterans in the VA claims process.