Can I Receive VA Disability Benefits for Agent Orange Exposure?
Throughout the Vietnam Era, the military sprayed millions of gallons of herbicides on trees and vegetation that provided cover for enemy forces. This herbicide is known as Agent Orange. It got its name from the orange stripe found on the storage containers. At different times, other chemicals used – Agent Pink, Agent Green, etc. – but they all came to be known by the catch-all “Agent Orange” and had one chemical and common: Dioxin. Unfortunately, this chemical is toxic and is now connected with certain medical conditions and disabilities. Veterans may be eligible for Agent Orange disability compensation.
What Is Agent Orange Exposure?
Servicemembers who served in the Vietnam War or near the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) at certain times may have come into contact with Agent Orange.
Now, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recognizes that certain conditions (listed below) which you may develop are service-connected disabilities caused by Agent Orange exposure. By proving you were exposed to Agent Orange, you can benefit from a legal presumption that VA offers if you have one of the conditions which VA agrees are related to Agent Orange. You do not have to independently prove that your military service caused any of these conditions, because the law presumes that it did.
Who Is Eligible to File An Agent Orange Claim?
If you served in Vietnam between 1962 and 1975, the Department of Veterans Affairs presumes that certain conditions which you may develop are service-connected disabilities. They also assume that you have had exposure to Agent Orange. As such, if you develop certain conditions or disabilities, you may qualify to collect VA disability benefits.
To qualify for VA disability benefits for Agent Orange exposure, you must meet the following criteria:
- You must have an illness that the VA believes has a connection to Agent Orange
In addition, one of these must be true:
- You served in or near the DMZ between September 1, 1967 and August 31, 1971, or
- Served in the Republic of Vietnam between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975.
- Service on land
- Service aboard a vessel 12 miles seaward or closer from the demarcation line of the waters of Vietnam and Cambodia
- Service on a vessel on any inland waterways
- You came into contact with Agent Orange in the military, for example, by serving in units that crewed or service C-123 aircraft,
- You were near the perimeter of certain bases in Thailand, or
(NEW as of January 1, 2020), you served on a naval vessel that sailed within 12 miles of the coastal waters off Vietnam or Cambodia.
Generally, you need to have had “boots on the ground” in Vietnam to qualify for service-connected compensation related to Agent Orange. However, veterans who served on open sea ships but did not set foot in Vietnam and have an Agent Orange-related disease may still apply for VA disability compensation. These veterans could have been exposed either through transports to the docks in the ports of Vietnam or direct exposure onboard ships.
In fact, on January, 1 2020, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 takes effect. The VA should begin deciding Blue Water Navy related claims on this date.
In addition, the VA has linked certain birth defects, including spina bifida to Agent Orange. This means that qualified dependents may also be eligible to recover Agent Orange disability compensation.
Diseases Caused by Agent Orange Exposure
The VA recognizes many diseases caused by Agent Orange exposure. These are called Agent Orange presumptive diseases. Some of those diseases include, but are not limited to the following:
- AL Amyloidosis. A rare disease caused when an abnormal protein, amyloid, enters tissues or organs.
- Diabetes Mellitus (Type 2). A common disease diagnosed by blood tests which show high blood sugar levels. Individuals with Type 2 Diabetes are unable to properly produce or respond to insulin.
- Ischemic Heart Disease. A disease characterized by a reduced supply of blood to the heart. This often causes chest pain. VA recognized ischemic heart disease as related to exposure to herbicides as of October 30, 2010.
- Parkinson’s Disease. A progressive disorder of the nervous system. Parkinson’s disease is not curable and significantly affects muscle movement. VA recognized Parkinson’s disease as related to exposure to herbicides as of October 30, 2010.
- Porphyria Cutanea Tarda. This disease causes liver dysfunction, as well as a painful blistering of the skin in sun-exposed areas. VA requires that it must be at least 10% disabling within 1 year of exposure to herbicides.
Cancers Caused by Agent Orange Exposure
- Chronic B-cell Leukemias. A type of white-blood cell cancer. VA recognized all chronic B-cell leukemias as related to exposure to herbicides as of October 30, 2010.
- Hodgkin’s Disease. A malignant lymphoma (cancer). Symptoms include progressive enlargement of the lymph nodes, liver, and spleen.
- Multiple Myeloma. A cancer of plasma cells, a type of white blood cells in bone marrow.
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. A group of cancers that affect the lymph glands and other lymphatic tissue.
- Prostate Cancer. This is a cancer of the prostate. It is one of the most common cancers in adult elderly males.
- Respiratory Cancers. This includes any type of cancer of the lung, larynx, trachea, and bronchus.
- Soft Tissue Sarcoma (other than Osteosarcoma, Chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or Mesothelioma). A group of different types of cancers involving different parts of the body, like muscle, fat, blood and lymph vessels, and connective tissues.
Other Agent Orange Presumptive Conditions
- Acute and Subacute Peripheral Neuropathy. A nervous system condition that causes numbness, tingling, and motor weakness. Under VA’s rating regulations, you had to develop the condition within 1 year of exposure to herbicides.
- Chloracne (or Similar Acneiform Disease). A skin condition that resembles acne seen in teens. It occurs soon after exposure to chemicals. Under VA’s rating regulations, servicemembers must experience 10% disability within 1 year of exposure to herbicides.
How to File a Claim for Agent Orange Disability Compensation
In order to recover compensation, veterans must file an Agent Orange claim. During the claim process, the VA will check military records to confirm that you had qualifying military service during the time the military used Agent Orange.
When filing a VA claim for Agent Orange disability compensation, it is important to know that you do not need to prove that you were exposed to this toxic chemical in order to receive compensation. The VA presumes contact as long as you served anywhere in Vietnam between 1962 and 1975 either on land or near the waterways.
What If My Disability Is Not an Agent Orange Presumptive Disease?
If you have a condition or illness that is not on the list of Agent Orange-related diseases, you must provide additional medical evidence, usually a doctor’s opinion explaining why the condition is related to your military service. This evidence must show that your disability is related to Agent Orange exposure or something else that occurred in service AND that it began during or became worse due to your military service.
Contact Our VA Disability Lawyers Today
At Tucker Law Group, our VA disability lawyers can help you obtain the benefits you need if your Agent Orange claim was denied. We know you need help after a VA disability claim denial. That is why we work aggressively from the start.