Air America Pilots Seek Federal Benefits

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Imagine if you worked as a pilot for an outfit that was actually a secret project of the Central Intelligence Agency -- shouldn't you be eligible for a federal pension when it comes time to retire? That's what pilots and others who worked for Air America during the Vietnam War are claiming. The U.S. government has acknowledged that Air America was a "wholly owned subsidiary of the CIA," according to the Los Angeles Times, but employees at the time were told only that they were working on behalf of an unnamed "client." Pilots for Air America's 200 or so aircraft carried medical supplies and weapons, and flew other dangerous missions throughout Southeast Asia during the war. In the famous photograph of refugees climbing to a rooftop to be evacuated during the fall of Saigon, those helicopters were flown not by the military but by Air America pilots. The effort to obtain federal benefits for the former workers has been ongoing for years, the Times reports, but has gotten a boost recently with the change to Democratic control of Congress. Sen. Harry Reid, whose state of Nevada is home to some of the most vocal Air America retirees, became Senate majority leader. Reid is supporting new legislation that would that would require the CIA to reconsider the Air America case.