Benefits Expanded to C-123 Aircraft Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange
A group of approximately 2,100 Air Force Veterans finally have reason to celebrate.
The group has battled for years with the Veterans Affairs Department (VA) for compensation for illnesses that developed as a result of exposure to Agent Orange in aircraft used after the Vietnam War.
Friday, June 19, the agency agreed to grant their request for service-related benefits.
The VA announced it will extend benefits to Air Force members who flew or worked on C-123 aircraft from 1969 to 1986 that were used in Operation Ranch Hand to spray toxic herbicide in Vietnam.
The new rule, approved by the White House Office of Management and Budget, could extend benefits to up to 2,100 former servicemen. The decree goes into effect immediately.
Earlier this year, the Institute of Medicine released a VA-requested study that concluded that veterans were exposed to Agent Orange residue in C-123 planes used after the war and that they suffered greater health risks as a result.
Under the new rule, flight, medical and ground maintenance crew members in the Air Force and Air Force Reserve who served on the contaminated C-123s are presumed to have been exposed to the herbicide.
This assumption makes it easier for this group of veterans to establish eligibility for benefits if they develop one of 14 medical conditions that have been determined to be related to Agent Orange.
Additionally, for Air Force Reserve crew members, the VA also presumes that their Agent Orange-related condition developed during Reserve training. This ensures their eligibility for VA disability compensation and medical care for that condition.
The surviving dependents of these Air Force Reserve members are also eligible for dependency and indemnity compensation as well as burial benefits.
The move was long-awaited by this group of veterans who can now receive the help that they and their families need.
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