Does Agent Orange Cause Cancer?
Multiple studies have identified a strong association between Agent Orange and several cancers. With certain types of cancer, there is sufficient evidence to conclude that Agent Orange is the cause. Since more than 1.5 million veterans served in the Vietnam War during the 13 years Agent Orange was used, it is possible that thousands of people or more developed cancer as a direct result of their exposure to the herbicide.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides a service connection on a presumptive basis to veterans with qualifying service who were exposed and later developed a condition associated with the herbicide.
If you were denied service connection for a condition due to Agent Orange exposure, a veterans lawyer from Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD may be able to help you appeal. Contact us for a free case evaluation.
What Agent Orange Was and Why Was It So Dangerous
Agent Orange is one of the several “rainbow” herbicides used by the United States during the Vietnam War era. It was a defoliant herbicide sprayed to strip leaves from trees in densely forested areas, mostly in Vietnam during the war. By defoliating the area, the U.S. military deprived enemy fighters of both cover and crops for food. While the chemical may have served its purpose of defoliation, many of servicemembers developed severe, and in some cases even fatal, health problems after the war.
Its danger stems from dioxin – a chemical byproduct associated with a wide range of medical issues. Unfortunately, scientists and the military were not aware of this at the time Agent Orange was being used. Even now, much remains to be learned about Agent Orange, and research is ongoing.
What Cancers Are Associated with Agent Orange Exposure?
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has studied the relationship between Agent Orange and a long list of cancers. Based on its research, it grouped the list into three categories: sufficient evidence of an association; limited/suggestive evidence of an association; and inadequate/insufficient evidence of an association.
Sufficient Evidence of an Association
- Soft tissue sarcoma
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL)
- Hodgkin disease
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) (including hairy cell leukemia and other chronic B-cell leukemias)
- Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS), a precursor of multiple myeloma
Limited/Suggestive Evidence of an Association
- Respiratory cancers (lung, bronchus, trachea, larynx)
- Prostate cancer
- Multiple myelomas
- Bladder cancer
If you are concerned about the reproductive consequences of exposure to Agent Orange, the evidence available to date is insufficient to link Agent Orange exposure to any cancer found in the child of an exposed male veteran.
Service Connection for Cancer Related to Agent Orange
If you were exposed to Agent Orange during military service and later received a diagnosis of cancer that VA considers presumptive, consider applying for VA disability benefits.
To establish service connection on a direct basis, you must meet the following criteria:
- Have a current, diagnosed medical condition considered disabling by VA;
- An event, injury, or illness occurred during your military service;
- A nexus between the event and your condition.
Presumptive Service Connection for Cancer Related to Agent Orange
If you have a qualifying service that places you in a location where VA acknowledges that herbicides were used, VA will presume that you were exposed during service. If you have a diagnosis of a condition that is on VA’s list of recognized conditions, you do not need to provide a nexus between exposure and your condition – VA will presume your condition is service connected.
VA presumes that certain cancers are associated with exposure to Agent Orange, including:
- Chronic B-cell Leukemia
- Hodgkin’s Disease
- Multiple Myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Prostate Cancer
- Respiratory Cancers
- Soft Tissue Sarcomas (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or mesothelioma)
- Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (abnormal protein in the blood)
Recently, the Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act (PACT Act) of 2021 expanded presumptions related to Agent Orange exposure to include additional locations and time periods. Veterans diagnosed with one of the above cancers can be eligible to receive disability benefits on a presumptive basis if they had active military, naval, air, or space service in the following locations and time periods:
- The Republic of Vietnam from January 9, 1962 to May 7, 1975 (including Brown Water veterans and Blue Water veterans);
- Thailand, at any US or Thai base, from January 9, 1962 to June 30 1976, without regard to the Veteran’s MOS or where on base they were located;
- Laos from December 1, 1965 to September 30, 1969;
- Cambodia, specifically at Mimot or Krek, Kampong Cham Province from April 16, 1969 to April 30, 1969;
- Guam or American Samoa or in the territorial waters thereof from January 9, 1962 to July 30, 1980;
- Johnson Atoll or a ship that called at Johnston Atoll from January 1, 1972 to September 30, 1977;
- On or near the Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ) between September 1, 1967 and August 31, 1971;
- Active duty and reservist personnel who had regular contact with C-123 aircraft between 1969 and 1986.
When President Biden officially signed the PACT Act into law, he and VA Secretary McDonough announced that the rollout period for certain presumptive conditions for covered veterans would be waived. Initially, these presumptions were effective upon the date of enactment of the PACT Act only for certain conditions, while presumptions for other conditions would become effective on a rolling basis over the next few years. Now, with this new rollout plan, the presumption for all conditions are effective from the date the PACT Act was signed (August 10, 2022) and VA will begin adjudicating these claims as soon as January 2023. Veterans should know, however, that newly eligibly claimants will not get retroactive benefits back to the date of their original claim unless they are filing a claim for DIC benefits.
VA Disability Ratings for Cancer
If you are service connected for an active cancer, VA should automatically assign a 100 percent disability rating. This rating continues for as long as your cancer is active, and then for another six months following the successful completion of a treatment program, such as chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery.
Six months after your cancer treatment ends, VA will schedule you for a Compensation and Pension (C&P) examination to evaluate the current status of your condition. If the examination shows that your cancer is no longer active and is in remission, VA will evaluate the cancer based on its residuals.
For example, erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence are common residual symptoms of prostate cancer. If prostate cancer is no longer active, VA will likely reduce the disability rating for that condition and assign new ratings based on the severity of the veteran’s erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence if present.
Call Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD Today
If you applied for VA disability benefits for a condition due to Agent Orange exposure but were denied, a VA disability attorney can help you gather the documentation you need to appeal that denial. The veterans advocates at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD may be able to help you receive VA disability benefits for a health condition caused by Agent Orange exposure. We are committed to helping veterans receive the benefits they deserve.
For a free case evaluation, call us today at 800-544-9144.
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