Though these veterans didn’t know it at the time, about 30 years ago they were flying planes contaminated with Agent Orange from the Vietnam War, DeForge reported. The group of veterans has put together a list of 48 people with diseases that might be linked to Agent Orange, she wrote.
DeForge spoke with New England Public Radio’s Kari Njiiri for the radio piece that aired Thursday morning and their conversation highlights other elements of DeForge’s story.
“What the VA’s response was there wasn’t enough contamination to affect the people who used [the planes] afterward. What they essentially are saying is the liquid form of Agent Orange, which they sprayed, was toxic. But once it dried, it was not as toxic and difficult to either ingest, absorb through the skin or inhale,” DeForge told Njiiri.
“We have crew members who are sick. We have crew members who have died … We have people who aren’t even sick yet,” said retired Air Force Major Wesley T. Carter, who served as an air medical technician and flight instructor and examiner with Westover’s 74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron for 20 years and flew in the C-123s from 1974 to 1980.
“In my opinion, there is every likelihood that you would have been exposed to both airborne herbicides and their contaminants, as well as come into contact with surfaces contaminated by these toxic substances. In my opinion, the extent and manner of exposure is analogous to that experienced by many Vietnam veterans,” she wrote to Carter.
Any veteran who spent one day in Vietnam between 1962 and 1975 and contracts an illnesses believed to have been caused by Agent Orange is eligible for medical and disability benefits related to the illness. Some presumptive diseases are prostate cancer, neuropathy, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes and leukemia.