When it comes to VA benefits for Agent Orange exposure, veterans can come in contact with some common misinformation. Contrary to what we sometimes hear, VA does not give benefits “for Agent Orange,” you can only receive VA benefits for a condition that resulted from your exposure to Agent Orange. Agent Orange is not a medical condition and veterans cannot receive compensation simply because they were exposed. Rather, they must develop a condition that is associated with their exposure to receive VA disability compensation. In some cases, children of veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange can be compensated for certain health conditions as well.
Agent Orange was most famously used in Vietnam during the Vietnam War, however, the herbicide was used in many other areas of the world during this period as well, including Thailand and possibly other areas of Asia.
What Is Agent Orange?
Agent Orange is one of what are called “rainbow herbicides” used during the Vietnam War era. Agent Orange was made up of equal parts 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T, and was used in Vietnam starting in 1965. Agent Orange contained the highly toxic dioxin, a dangerous chemical that can have significant health impacts on those exposed to it.
Agent Orange is an herbicide, not a disease or condition. However, people exposed to Agent Orange, including veterans, can develop severe health conditions as a result of their exposure, such as cancers.
What Conditions Are Associated with Exposure?
VA lists several conditions that are associated with exposure to Agent Orange, all of which can be found listed on its website:
- AL Amyloidosis
- Chronic B-Cell Leukemias
- Chloracne (or similar acneform disease)
- Diabetes Mellitus Type 2
- Hodgkin’s Disease
- Ischemic Heart Disease, including Coronary Artery Disease, stable and unstable angina, myocardial infarction, and sudden cardiac death)
- Multiple Myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Peripheral Neuropathy, Early-Onset
- Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
- Prostate Cancer
- Respiratory Cancers, including Lung Cancer
- Soft Tissue Sarcomas (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, and mesothelioma)
Presumptive Service Connection and Agent Orange Exposure
VA has a presumption for veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange in the following areas and developed one of the associated conditions listed above:
- Vietnam between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975
- This only includes veterans who were boots-on-the-ground in Vietnam, or veterans with service aboard a ship that operated in the inland waterways of Vietnam or made visits ashore.
- In or near the Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ) between April 1, 1968 and August 31, 1971
For direct service connection, VA requires veterans to show three things:
- A current medical diagnosis
- An in-service event, injury, or symptom
- A medical nexus linking their current diagnosis to the in-service occurrence
However, for presumptive service connection, veterans do not need to provide a medical nexus to prove their claim to VA. Veterans looking for presumptive service connection for a condition due to Agent Orange exposure need to show two things:
- A diagnosis for a condition associated with Agent Orange exposure (see above list); and
- That they served in a qualifying time period and place to receive presumptive service connection due to exposure
Benefits for Children of Exposed Veterans
Agent Orange has been known to impact not only the exposed veterans, but also children of exposed veterans. VA recognizes a number of birth defects to be associated with Agent Orange.
Spina Bifida is a birth defect that occurs when 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), their condition is due to the veteran’s exposure to Agent Orange.
Other Birth Defects
On their website, VA lists the following birth defects that are presumed to be caused by a woman veteran’s service in Vietnam:
- 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
Benefits for Children with Birth Defects
VA offers several benefits for children with birth defects due to their biological parent’s exposure to Agent Orange, including healthcare and vocational training.