My VA experience

I was diagnosed with CML in July of last year. Some research has shown a link between benzene / AO exposure and CML. However, the VA does not include this cancer on its list of presumptive diseases associated with Agent Orange/benzene. This in itself is not unusual as CML is a rare form of leukemia as compared with acute myeloid leukemia. However, I would point out that a veteran in Minnesota in 2015 received compensation for CML from the VA. All this info was provided to the VA along with my original claim. My claim has been denied twice since July 2018 and is currently under review by "a higher authority" in the VA system.

CML is not hereditary and my family has no incidence of cancer that I know of. As a crew chief on F4C, F4D and F4E aircraft during my eight-year term in the USAF, I (and all other crew chiefs) were exposed to the chemicals in JP4 fuel. One of these chemicals is related to benzene and is thought to be carcinogenic in humans. As maintenance personnel on F4 type aircraft, we were exposed to JP4 in our daily routine. JP4 was also burned in an open pit after it had been drained from our aircraft. All fuel had to be drained when an aircraft was to be transferred to a hangar for maintenance. I spent four plus years at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona and three years at various other bases including Danang, RVN. As maintenance men on F4 aircraft, we were required to have one airman on top of the fuel trucks with the hatch open to monitor the refueling process. Also, it was necessary to have another airman manning a fire extinguisher on the ground. The person on top of the fuel truck was exposed to the JP4 fumes during the process. As the fuel was disposed of by burning in an open pit, it was producing thick black smoke at the time.

If this letter can help any other veteran with the same decision from the VA, it was worth it!

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