Agent Orange in Cambodia: VA Disability Benefits
Veterans who served in Cambodia during the Vietnam War Era may have been exposed to Agent Orange during their military service. Many veterans exposed to Agent Orange have gone on to develop serious medical conditions. Those who served in Cambodia and were exposed to herbicides like Agent Orange may be eligible for compensation through presumptions created by the Honoring Our PACT Act. Continue reading to learn more.
What is Agent Orange?
Agent Orange is an herbicide mixture that was used extensively to deforest large areas of the environment during the Vietnam War era. Areas where Agent Orange was used include Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand. Agent Orange created the highly toxic dioxin contaminant known as 2, 3, 7, 8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) as a byproduct. This dioxin often takes years to break down once it has been released into the environment and can cause a wide array of health effects.
Where Was Agent Orange Used?
Agent Orange, and other such herbicides, were used widely during the Vietnam War Era. The use of these herbicides was not limited to Vietnam, as many of these herbicides were used in surrounding countries and areas.
Honoring Our PACT Act: Presumptive Service Connection for Herbicide Exposure
In 2022, the Honoring Our PACT Act created a presumption of service connection for service members with active military naval, air or space service who served in the following locations/timeframes:
- Vietnam –Veterans are eligible for presumptive service-connection if they served between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975.
- Korean Demilitarized Zone – Veterans who served on or near the Korean Demilitarized Zone between September 1, 1967 and August 31, 1971, should also be presumed to have been exposed to herbicide agents.
- Thailand – VA has recognized that herbicide agents were used in Thailand and presumes herbicide exposure for veterans with active military naval, air, or space service who served in Thailand, at any US or Thai base, between January 9, 1962 and June 30, 1976.
- Guam/American Samoa – Veterans who served in Guam or American Samoa, or in the territorial waters thereof, between January 9, 1962 and July 30, 1980 are eligible for this presumption.
- Johnson Atoll – The presumption now extends to veterans who served in Johnston Atoll or on a ship that called at Johnston Atoll from January 1, 1972, through September 30, 1977.
- Laos – Herbicide exposure, such as Agent Orange exposure, also occurred in Laos. The PACT Act enables veterans who served between December 1, 1965 and September 30, 1969 are also eligible for the presumption of herbicide exposure.
- Cambodia – The PACT Act extends the presumption of herbicide exposure to those who served in Cambodia, specifically at Mimot or Krek, or Kampong Cham Province between April 16, 1969 and April 30, 1969.
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.
Adverse Health Effects Relating to Agent Orange
VA recognizes that many conditions and their symptoms have a strong association with Agent Orange exposure. The following conditions are considered presumptive by VA:
- AL Amyloidosis: A condition that occurs when a rare and abnormal protein infects your tissues or organs.
- Bladder Cancer: Cancer that affects the cells of the bladder. An act of Congress passed at the end of 2020 instructed VA to expand its presumptive list to include this condition.
- Chronic B-cell Leukemias: A type of blood cancer that affects the white blood cells.
- Chloracne: A skin condition resulting from herbicide exposure and resembling severe acne.
- Diabetes Mellitus Type 2: A condition resulting from a lack of insulin response, which leads to chronically high blood sugar levels.
- Hodgkin’s disease: A type of lymphoma cancer involving abnormal cell growth in the lymph nodes.
- Hypertension: Hypertension means that a person has high blood pressure. For VA compensation purposes, this means a veteran’s blood pressure has a diastolic measurement of 100 or more, or a systolic measurement of 160 or more.
- Hypothyroidism: A condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough of certain crucial hormones. This condition was also added to the presumptive list by the 2020 NDAA.
- Ischemic Heart Disease: A progressive condition in which the heart receives inadequate blood supply, resulting in chest pain and other complications. This includes Coronary Artery Disease, stable and unstable angina, myocardial infarction, and sudden cardiac death.
- Monoclonal Gammopathy: Monoclonal gammopathy is a condition where abnormal proteins are found in the blood.
- Multiple Myeloma: A blood cancer affecting plasma cells.
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma: A cancer of the lymphatic system.
- Parkinson’s Disease: A chronic nervous system disorder that can lead to a progressive lack of mobility and muscle strength.
- Parkinson’s-like Symptoms: A condition with symptoms such as tremors, slow movement, impaired speech, and muscle stiffness that resembles Parkinson’s Disease but is not formally diagnosed as such. Passed by Congress in 2020, the NDAA instructed VA to expand its presumptive list to include this condition.
- Peripheral Neuropathy: A nervous system disorder that causes a number of physical complications, such as weakness, numbness, and constant tingling sensations.
- Porphyria Cutanea Tarda: A liver condition that can cause sun-exposed skin to blister and become more fragile.
- Prostate Cancer: A cancer of the prostate in men.
- Respiratory Cancer: Such as lung cancer and other cancers of the respiratory system.
- Soft Tissue Sarcomas: Cancers that affect the body’s soft tissues, such as muscle, fat, and connective tissue.
Agent Orange in Cambodia
According to the Agent Orange Record Project, Agent Orange was not systematically sprayed through Cambodia, like it was in Laos and Vietnam, but rather spray runs were conducted in Cambodian territory. In late April 1969, roughly 270 square miles of French and Cambodian plantations in the Kampong Cham Province of Cambodia were sprayed with Agent Orange.
Spray drift also carried into the Ho Chi Minh Trail which was established on the Cambodian border of South Vietnam.
How to File for Service Connection if You Were Exposed to Agent Orange in Cambodia
If you are a veteran who developed a medical condition or disability as the result of Agent Orange exposure in Cambodia, you can use VA Form 21-526EZ.
When filing this form, veterans will need to submit a current diagnosis of the medical condition or disability. They also need to provide evidence that they served in Cambodia between April 16, 1969, and April 30, 1969.
If your condition is not considered “presumptive,” meaning it does not appear on the list of presumptive conditions, you may still be able to receive VA disability benefits relating to Agent Orange exposure. However, you will need to establish the connection between your medical condition or disability and Agent Orange. The connection between your condition and Agent Orange exposure is referred to as a “nexus.”
How the Honoring Our PACT Act Can Help Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange in Cambodia
As mentioned above, the PACT Act has extended the presumption of service connection to service members with active military naval, air, or space service, who served:
- In Cambodia, specifically at Mimot or Krek, Kampong Cham Province, between April 16, 1969 and April 30, 1969
Essentially, this means that veterans who served in Cambodia, and may not have previously been eligible for presumptive service connection, may now be eligible. This could mean a significant amount of compensation is available to veterans who developed a condition related to Agent Orange after serving in Cambodia during the above dates.
Benefits for Widows and Dependents
The PACT Act also makes it possible for surviving spouses and dependents of veterans who passed away from a condition linked to Agent Orange exposure in Cambodia to become eligible for DIC benefits. Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, or DIC benefits, are a monthly benefit paid to the surviving spouse, children, and sometimes a parent of a veteran whose death was related to military service or a service-connected condition.
For example, widows and dependents may now be eligible for DIC benefits if the veteran passed away from a condition linked to Agent Orange exposure in Cambodia but was previously unable to establish service connection for cause of death. If the veteran’s meets the updated criteria, then their dependents could be eligible for retroactive DIC benefits based on the new presumptions created with the PACT Act.
Agent Orange Registry Health Exam
Veterans who served during the Vietnam War era, such as those who served in Cambodia, may also be eligible for an Agent Orange Registry Health Exam.
The Agent Orange Registry Health Exam is based on the veteran’s recollection of service, not their military service records. VA notes that these exams can help them better understand and respond to the effects of Agent Orange.
Through the program, veterans may receive free lab tests and referrals to medical specialists for their Agent Orange-related symptoms.
How Much Compensation Can Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange in Cambodia Receive?
If you are granted service connection for a condition linked to Agent Orange exposure in Cambodia, the amount of compensation you receive will be dependent on the VA disability rating you are assigned. Ratings are assigned based on the severity of your condition.
As of December 1st, 2022 the VA disability rate benefit amounts are as follows:
- 0 percent disability rating: $0.00 per month
- 10 percent disability rating: $165.92 per month
- 20 percent disability rating: $327.99 per month
- 30 percent disability rating: $508.05 per month
- 40 percent disability rating: $731.86 per month
- 50 percent disability rating: $1,041.82 per month
- 60 percent disability rating: $1,319.65 per month
- 70 percent disability rating: $1,663.06 per month
- 80 percent disability rating: $1,933.15 per month
- 90 percent disability rating: $2,172.39 per month
- 100 percent disability rating: $3,621.95 per month
Getting Legal Representation to Help with VA Disability Benefits Relating to Agent Orange Exposure in Cambodia
If you are a veteran who faced Agent Orange exposure in Cambodia during your military service, or the surviving spouse or dependent of a veteran who passed away from a condition linked to Agent Orange exposure in Cambodia, our team may be able to help. Call our office today for a free case evaluation.
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