Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Veteran takes on feds in fight for Agent Orange Compensation
A New Brunswick veteran who says his life has been forever changed due to Agent Orange exposure is fighting the federal government for compensation.
For months, 82-year-old Basil McAllister has been preparing to represent himself in the case, and today he didn’t back down in a Fredericton courtroom.
“I have prostate cancer, I have bone cancer, I have skin cancer, and I’m a four-needle-a-day Type 2 Diabetic,” says the Burton, N.B. resident.
The deadly dioxin Agent Orange was sprayed at CFB Gagetown during the 1960s while McAllister worked on the base.
He claims he worked closely with 10 other people who have since received monthly payments for their own Agent Orange damages.
“For some reason, the panel members who reviewed my case five times declined to give me a pension,” he says.
Officials with the federal government say that in order to receive a pension for Agent Orange compensation, a claimant must prove there was direct exposure to the chemical.
In court today, Veterans Affairs argued that McAllister’s direct exposure evidence was insufficient and not credible, adding that decisions made about other pensions are irrelevant to his case.
Many of the veteran’s family members and friends appeared in court today to show their support, including some people who worked with McAllister at CFB Gagetown.
“Who in Veterans Affairs can prove that we weren’t sprayed on?” asks Christopher Tucker.
“If he and 10 other people or whatever are in the same region, and I don’t think the mosquitoes took the spray away,” says Harry Harkes.
McAllister’s case is also attracting attention from other complainants in the midst of their own fight for Agent Orange compensation.
“Two people can have the same illness. One gets approved, one doesn’t,” says Marie Hogan, a member of the Widows on the Warpath group. “There’s no need for that. It should be consistent across the board.”
The judge in the case has reserved her decision to be made public at a later time.
McAllister says he has made it this far, and he is prepared to wait it out.