The effects of Agent Orange have been shown to cause a variety of serious health conditions, and have also been associated with certain birth defects in the children of veterans who were exposed. Children of veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War and have an associated birth defect may be eligible for VA compensation and other VA benefits.
Children with Spina Bifida
Spina bifida is a condition in which the spine fails to close properly during pregnancy. VA presumes that when a Vietnam veteran has a biological child with spina bifida (except spina bifida occulta), the condition is due to the veteran’s exposure to herbicides during service. In this case, VA does not require evidence linking the condition to service.
Children with birth defects acknowledged by VA as associated with herbicide exposure may be eligible for:
- Health care benefits
- Vocational training – children are eligible for 24 months of job training, rehabilitation, and job assistance, with a possible 24 month extension. Children are only eligible for this benefit after they turn 18 years old, or when they complete secondary school, whichever comes first.
However, there are several qualifications that must be met in order for the child to receive VA compensation, healthcare, and vocational training. The child must be the biological child of a veteran who:
- served in Vietnam between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975, or
- a veteran who served in the Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ) between September 1, 1967 and August 31, 1971 and was exposed to herbicides. Veterans who served in the DMZ between April 1, 1968 and August 31, 1971 are presumed to have been exposed to herbicides.
The child must have been conceived after the date on which the veteran entered Vietnam or the Korean demilitarized zone.
Children with Other Birth Defects
VA presumes certain other birth defects are connected to a veteran’s military service, but only if the Veteran is the biological mother of the child with a birth defect. VA does not explicitly say that these birth defects are due to Agent Orange exposure, only that they are connected to military service during the Vietnam War. Additionally, “the birth defect must have resulted in permanent physical or mental disability” in order to qualify for benefits.
The mother must have served in Vietnam between February 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975 in order for the child to be eligible for VA benefits such as compensation, healthcare, and vocational training.
According to VA’s website, the following list of birth defects are presumed to be connected to service:
- Cleft lip and cleft palate
- Congenital heart disease
- Congenital talipes equinovarus (clubfoot)
- Esophageal and intestinal atresia
- Hallerman-Streiff syndrome
- Hip dysplasia
- Hirschprung’s disease (congenital megacolon)
- Hydrocephalus due to aqueductal stenosis
- Imperforate anus
- Neural tube defects
- Poland syndrome
- Pyloric stenosis
- Syndactyly (fused digits)
- Tracheoesophageal fistula
- Undescended testicle
- Williams syndrome”
Children with other birth defects may also be eligible if the other requirements are met.
If the birth defect was caused by a family disorder, birth-related injury, or a fetal or neonatal infirmary, it will not be covered and the child will not be eligible for VA benefits.
In some cases, dependents may be eligible for a Survivors Pension or Disability and Indemnity Compensation if the Veteran died during the Vietnam War or due to a service-connected disability.