The widespread use of Agent Orange in the 1960s and ‘70s resulted in various severe health conditions in veterans. Veterans exposed to this chemical deserve compensation for their suffering. But the rules about exposure locations and dates and the conditions associated with Agent Orange change. That’s why it’s vital to understand VA disability benefits for Agent Orange exposure.
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In this article about Agent Orange and veterans
The U.S. military used Agent Orange to clear foliage that might give the enemy cover, making them more challenging to see and, therefore, more dangerous. And while that danger was real, the peril to U.S. military personnel also was great.
Agent Orange is linked to a myriad of severe health conditions, which is why veterans need to understand the VA disability benefits for Agent Orange exposure.
What is Agent Orange?
Agent Orange was a defoliant — a chemical used to remove leaves from trees and plants — used by the military in many locations, including on military bases, beginning in the ‘60s. The military widely used Agent Orange in the Vietnam and Korean wars. Agent Orange was also stored on U.S. soil. Soldiers were also exposed to the chemical in Navy ships and on Air Force planes. Government officials say it’s impossible to know how many people were exposed to Agent Orange, but about 2.6 million potentially were exposed, according to the VA.
The herbicide’s ingredients contained a deadly chemical, dioxin, which is a carcinogen. The government knew that dioxin was dangerous but did not think American soldiers would be exposed to it as they dropped it from planes.
Agent Orange causes serious physical, psychological, and neurological health issues. It’s linked to skin diseases, miscarriages, birth defects, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s Disease, neuropathy, and many more serious health problems. The World Health Organization classifies Agent Orange as a dangerous chemical.
Veterans began fighting for compensation and benefits for health issues resulting from Agent Orange in 1979. The Agent Orange Act signed in 1991 mandates that some diseases associated with exposure to the chemical automatically be treated as related to military service. The act was the catalyst for the VA’s coverage of the conditions today.
Agent Orange symptoms and conditions
Agent Orange exposure can result in various physiological symptoms, depending on the specific condition you develop. Some symptoms of an Agent Orange-related illness are:
- Rashes or darkening of the skin
- Muscle or joint pain
- Respiratory issues
- Gastrointestinal concerns
- Heart disease
- Sleep issues
Agent Orange presumptive conditions
Doctors have linked Agent Orange exposure to many illnesses. Here is the VA’s presumptive list for Agent Orange illnesses:
- AL amyloidosis
- Bladder cancer
- Chronic B-cell leukemias
- Chloracne (or similar acneform disease)
- Diabetes Mellitus Type 2
- Hodgkin’s Disease
- Ischemic Heart Disease
- Monoclonal gammopathies
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Parkinson’s Disease and Parkinson’s-like symptoms (Parkinsonism)
- Peripheral Neuropathy, Early-Onset
- Porphyria cutanea tarda
- Prostate Cancer
- Respiratory Cancers
- Soft tissue sarcomas
Presumptive VA disability benefits for Agent Orange exposure
The Agent Orange Act of 1991 mentioned above established a presumptive service connection for veterans who served during certain times, in specific locations, who have any of the conditions listed above. This connection means that veterans who meet these criteria don’t need to show any additional evidence to establish a service connection to their condition.
Veterans who are presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange are those who served in:
- Vietnam: On land and some vessels between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975. This exposure includes those stationed in Blue Water Navy ships.
- C-123 Airplanes: Residue caused exposure to those around these plans after the Vietnam War.
- Korea: In the demilitarized zone between Sept. 1, 1967, and Aug. 31, 1971.
The VA also acknowledges that Agent Orange was stored in other places. It currently handles claims of exposure in these locations on a case-by-case basis:
- Thailand: Any U.S. or Royal Thai military base between Jan. 9, 1962, and June 30, 1976
- Herbicide Tests and Storage: This exposure may have occurred at military bases in the U.S. or other countries
- Laos: between Dec. 1, 1965 and Sept. 30, 1969
- Cambodia: at Mimot or Krek, Kampong Cham Province between April 16, 1969, – April 30, 1969
- Guam or American Samoa (or in the territorial waters): between Jan. 9, 1962, and July 31, 1980
- Johnston Atoll (or on a ship that called at Johnston Atoll): between Jan. 1, 1972, and Sept. 30, 1977
Presumptive conditions related to Agent Orange and the criteria for eligibility change often. The list of places where soldiers used the chemical also grows. These changes are likely to continue as the government better understands the widespread use of Agent Orange and researchers uncover more health-related conditions resulting from it. That said, a veteran may argue that any condition is related to Agent Orange, regardless of whether VA presumes it to be or not.
In addition to veterans, some children and even surviving spouses of veterans exposed to Agent Orange may also be eligible for benefits.
Because the VA’s policies related to Agent Orange change, it may serve you best to hire a veterans disability attorney to ensure you get the compensation you deserve.
How to prove exposure to Agent Orange
To prove exposure to Agent Orange, you must have evidence that you served in one of the locations listed above at the specified times or you must have evidence you were exposed elsewhere. Veterans can find the locations and dates of their service on their discharge papers, or DD214.
If you develop one of the conditions listed above and can prove you were exposed to Agent Orange, the VA should presume the condition is related to your exposure.
If your medical condition isn’t on the list of presumptive conditions, but you were exposed to Agent Orange, you still can file a claim. In this case, you would usually need a medical opinion linking your condition to Agent Orange.
Secondary service connection for Agent Orange conditions
Many secondary service-connected disabilities also are eligible for Agent Orange benefits. For example, a Vietnam veteran exposed to Agent Orange who develops diabetes may later develop neuropathy. Because the diabetes is from your Agent Orange exposure and also causes your neuropathy, the neuropathy should be considered secondary service-connected for VA compensation purposes.
In other words, if you were exposed to Agent Orange, you can likely link your condition to that exposure.
“The VA may or may not recognize how your condition is related to Agent Orange,” said VA-certified disability benefits lawyer Lori Underwood. “While you may not be afflicted with the presumptive condition on the Agent Orange list, you are presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange. So if you’re suffering from a condition which you know was caused by your exposure to Agent Orange, but it’s not on the presumptive list, you may still be eligible for service connection because of your exposure to Agent Orange.”
It’s possible to receive thousands of dollars each month from the VA as a result of the exposure and subsequent conditions. You may even qualify for retroactive payment if the VA put your condition on the presumptive list after you were denied or after you filed. Disability lawyers can help you get the benefits you deserve due to your Agent Orange exposure.
Woods and Woods can help
If you were exposed to Agent Orange, you deserve VA disability compensation. Contact Woods and Woods to file an initial claim or appeal a rating decision. You only pay us if we win.
All of our attorneys are VA-certified. Call us and join the thousands of veterans we have helped to receive the VA disability benefits they deserve.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
A veteran seeking benefits related to Agent Orange exposure needs only to prove that they served during certain times, in specific locations, and have one of the presumptive conditions associated with the chemical. If your medical condition isn’t on the list of presumptive conditions, but you were exposed to Agent Orange, you still can file a claim. In this case, you need a medical opinion linking your condition to Agent Orange.
How much compensation a veteran receives for Agent Orange exposure depends on the rating they receive. It can be more than $3,000 a month.