Citation Nr: 18154112
Decision Date: 11/29/18	Archive Date: 11/29/18

DOCKET NO. 17-59 780
DATE:	November 29, 2018
ORDER
Service connection for prostate cancer is granted.
FINDING OF FACT
The Veteran was exposed to herbicides during service and had prostate cancer after service.
CONCLUSION OF LAW
The criteria for service connection for prostate cancer have been met.  38 U.S.C. §§ 1110, 1131, 5107(b) (2012); 38 C.F.R. §§ 3.102, 3.303(a), (c), 3.307, 3.309 (2018). 
REASONS AND BASES FOR FINDING AND CONCLUSION
The Veteran had active service from January 1954 to March 1974.
This matter comes before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board) from an August 2016 rating decision of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) regional office.
Service Connection
The Veteran asserts that he has prostate cancer that is related to exposure to herbicides while he was stationed in Thailand, which included temporary duty in Vietnam, during the Vietnam era.  Based on a review of the evidence of record, the Board finds that service connection for prostate cancer is warranted on a presumptive basis.
Generally, to establish service connection, a claimant must show: (1) a present disability; (2) an in-service incurrence or aggravation of a disease or injury; and (3) a causal relationship between the present disability and the disease or injury incurred or aggravated during service, the so-called “nexus” requirement.  See 38 U.S.C. §§ 1110, 1131; 38 C.F.R. § 3.303.
If a veteran was exposed to an herbicide agent during active military, naval, or air service, certain diseases, such as prostate cancer, shall be service-connected if the requirements of 38 C.F.R. § 3.307(a)(6) are met, even if there is no record of such disease during service, provided further that the rebuttable presumption provisions of 38 C.F.R. § 3.307(d) are also satisfied.  38 C.F.R. § 3.309(e).
A veteran, who had active service in the Republic of Vietnam during the period beginning on January 9, 1962 and ending on May 7, 1975 will be presumed to have been exposed to an herbicide agent during such service unless there is affirmative evidence to establish that the veteran was not exposed to any such agent during that service.  See 38 U.S.C. § 1116(f); 38 C.F.R. § 3.307(a)(6)(iii).  “Service in the Republic of Vietnam” includes service in other locations if the conditions of service involved duty or visitation in the Republic of Vietnam.  38 C.F.R. § 3.307(a)(6)(iii).  To establish qualifying “service in Vietnam,” a veteran must demonstrate actual duty or visitation in the Republic of Vietnam.
VA has determined that there was significant use of herbicides on the fenced-in perimeters of military bases in Thailand intended to eliminate vegetation and ground cover for base security purposes as evidenced in a declassified Vietnam era Department of Defense document titled “Project CHECO Southeast Asia Report: Base Defense in Thailand.”  Special consideration of herbicide exposure on a facts-found or direct basis should be extended to those veterans whose duties placed them on or near the perimeters of Thailand military bases.  This allows for presumptive service connection of the diseases associated with herbicide exposure. 
The majority of troops in Thailand during the Vietnam era were stationed at the Royal Thai Air Force Bases (RTAFB) of U-Tapao, Ubon, Nakhon Phanom, Udorn, Takhli, Korat, and Don Muang.  If a veteran served near the air base perimeter, as shown by MOS, performance evaluations, or other credible evidence, then herbicide exposure should be acknowledged on a facts found or direct basis.
In this case, the Veteran served in Thailand from April 1967 to April 1968 and from November 1970 to August 1971.  He served with the 506th Tactical Control Maintenance Squadron and 10th Weather Squadron.  His MOS included radio communications technician, radio maintenance, ground communication technician, and equipment technician.  In his November 2016 argument, the Veteran stated that while stationed at Udorn RTAFB, his duties as ground radio communications equipment repairman required that he travel to seven of the eight RTAFBs once a month to inspect the radio equipment.  He stated that his duties brought him near the outer perimeters of all bases except U-Tapao.  He also reported that in January 1968, he was sent on temporary duty (TDY) to a base in Bien Hoa in Vietnam.
The Veteran’s personnel records include his annual performance appraisals.  The appraisal for the period covering February 1967 to February 1968 indicates that the Veteran’s duties included coordinating all radio maintenance activities and coordinating all supply action requests for equipment and parts.  He was also responsible for the operation and control of all electronic equipment operated and repaired.  The report indicates that the Veteran’s depth of electronic knowledge had been demonstrated repeatedly during scheduled maintenance TDY trips.  The appraisal for the period covering February 1968 to February 1969 indicates that the Veteran was responsible for making interference surveys on electronics equipment, performing measurements on telephone cabling and associated systems, and assisting in “tropo and microwave” installation testing.  The appraisal indicates that he was an exceptional technician and that due to his vast electronics background and experience, he was dispatched on all types of electronics projects.
Personnel from the Air Force Historical Research Agency reviewed extracts from the official unit history of the 506th Tactical Control Maintenance Squadron for the January to March 1968 period.  In May 2016 correspondence, the archivist indicated that the research does not show that personnel were sent TDY to Vietnam, although the higher headquarters, the 504th Tactical Air Support Group, was located at Bien Hoa Air Base, as were two of the subordinate units.  The archivist stated that while it is entirely possible that personnel visited the headquarters or other sister-subordinate units of the 504th, there is no mention of it in unit history.
Although there is no record of assignment to duties near the perimeter of any RTAFB or TDY to Vietnam, the Board finds the Veteran’s assertions are credible and are supported by the notations in his performance appraisals.  38 U.S.C. § 1153(a); 38 C.F.R. § 3.303(a); Jandreau v. Nicholson, 492 F.3d 1372 (Fed. Cir. 2007); see Buchanan v. Nicholson, 451 F. 3d 1331, 1336 (Fed. Cir. 2006).  Additionally, the record shows that the Veteran had prostate cancer in 2004 and was currently in remission.  VA examination report, January 2016. 
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Affording the Veteran the full benefit of the doubt, the Board finds that he was exposed to herbicides while serving in Thailand/Vietnam and that his prostate cancer can be presumed to be related to herbicide exposure in service.  38 U.S.C. § 5107(b); 38 C.F.R. § 3.102; Gilbert v. Derwinski, 1 Vet. App. 49, 53-56 (1990).  The claim is granted.
 
L. CHU
Veterans Law Judge
Board of Veterans’ Appeals
ATTORNEY FOR THE BOARD	Amanda G. Alderman 

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