Ex-CIA Air America Workers Seek Pension, Benefit Credits

October 26, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - In an unusual twist on typical pension calculation disputes, two Nevada lawmakers are supporting bills to give former employees of the top-secret Air America pension credits for their time at the secret airline during the Vietnam War.

The legislation being supported by Minority Leader Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and Representative Shelley Berkley (D-Nevada) would also give Air America workers other civil service benefits, according to a govexec.com report.

Even though the CIA has acknowledged that it owned the airline and used it to support secret Southeast Asia missions, the Air Force has rejected a petition by former Air America employees to have their time declared “active duty,” which would earn them veteran’s benefits.

According to the report, Allen Cates, who worked for Air America from 1966 through 1974, filed the petition two years ago on behalf of some 500 or 600 alumni. An Air Force review board denied the request in September, concluding that there was not enough evidence that the clandestine airline was supporting military operations to justify declaring the employees “active duty.”

However, additional documentation has since come to light, and the board has invited Cates to resubmit the petition.

According to Cates, given the rogue image of Air America – which Hollywood helped to create with its 1990 movie of the same name – a Pentagon declaration that it was a military operation “would establish once and for all that there was more to it than just a bunch of drug runners and malcontents and psychopaths.”