The Agent Orange Act of 1991
WHAT IS THE AGENT ORANGE ACT OF 1991?
The Agent Orange Act of 1991 was designed to respond to the many health-related concerns expressed by Vietnam veterans in relation to herbicide exposure. The Act requires VA to presume that veterans who served “boots-on-the-ground” in the Republic of Vietnam during the war were exposed to Agent Orange. Additionally, the Agent Orange Act established a presumption of service connection in which certain diseases are presumed to be service-connected and resulting from exposure to herbicides. Presumptive service connection alleviates the burden of providing a nexus between a claimed condition and military service. Instead, veterans must only demonstrate that they served in Vietnam between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975, and have a disease or condition associated with herbicide exposure. If these two requirements are met, service connection is awarded.
WHAT IS VA REQUIRED TO DO?
The Act also set forth many requirements that VA must adhere to. Specifically, the Act required VA’s Secretary to contract with the Institute of Medicine (IOM). The IOM must submit a report every two years, at a minimum, that reviews and summarizes the link between exposure to herbicides during service in Vietnam and certain diseases. In developing the report, the IOM must consider useful clinical data gathered from VA medical exams and treatment provided after 1981 to Vietnam veterans who sought VA healthcare based on Agent Orange exposure. Ultimately, the IOM must determine if there is a statistical association between exposure to herbicides and a specific disease, and if there is evidence of a causal relationship. Whenever the Secretary determines, on the basis of this information, that a positive association exists between herbicide exposure and certain diseases, presumptive service connection is warranted.
HOW HAS THE ACT CHANGED OVER TIME?
In August of 2010, based on the requirements of the Act and the IOM report, former VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki expanded the list of presumptive conditions to include Parkinson’s disease, ischemic heart disease, and all chronic B cell leukemias. The full list now includes 14 conditions as listed below:
- AL Amyloidosis
- Chronic B-cell Leukemias
- Diabetes Mellitus Type 2
- Hodgkin’s Disease
- Ischemic Heart Disease
- Multiple Myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Peripheral Neuropathy, Early-Onset
- Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
- Prostate Cancer
- Respiratory Cancers
- Soft Tissue Sarcomas
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