What Does Agent Orange Do to the Body?
Exposure to Agent Orange is associated with many diseases. It can lead to diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and several forms of cancer. If you were exposed to Agent Orange during your military service, you may qualify for VA disability benefits.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) grants disability benefits to veterans who develop medical conditions from specific events during their military service. Usually, veterans must show a connection between their military service and their current, diagnosed condition in order to qualify for benefits. However, VA presumes service connection if you were exposed to Agent Orange and later developed certain conditions.
Agent Orange and the Vietnam War
Agent Orange is one of the several herbicides, often known as “rainbow herbicides,” that was used by the United States during the Vietnam War era. The United States military used Agent Orange and other herbicides to deforest large areas of land in Vietnam. As such, many veterans who served during the Vietnam War era were in direct contact with Agent Orange.
Agent Orange is composed of a mixture of two kinds of herbicide agents, 2, 4-D and 2, 4, 5-T. The highly toxic dioxin contaminant known as 2, 3, 7, 8-TCDD is a byproduct that is produced by Agent Orange. This dioxin often takes years to break down once it has been released into the environment and it can cause a wide array of health issues. As such, this toxic dioxin contaminant has caused many serious health conditions for Vietnam War Veterans.
Medical Conditions Associated with Agent Orange Exposure
VA has recognized certain medical conditions as having a strong association with Agent Orange exposure, including:
- 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.
- 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.
- Hodgkin’s disease: A type of lymphoma cancer involving abnormal cell growth in the lymph nodes.
- Hypothyroidism: A condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough of certain crucial hormones. An act of Congress passed at the end of 2020 instructed VA to expand its presumptive list to include this condition.
- Ischemic Heart Disease: A progressive condition in which the heart receives inadequate blood supply, resulting in chest pain and other complications.
- 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. An act of Congress passed at the end of 2020 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.
- Type 2 Diabetes: A condition resulting from a lack of insulin response, which leads to chronically high blood sugar levels.
Presumptive Service Connection and Benefits
The Agent Orange Act of 1991 established presumptive service connection for the specific conditions named above for veterans who served during certain time periods in specific locations. Presumption of exposure means that veterans who served in these locations, at certain times, do not have to provide the typical elements to establish service connection, specifically proof of an in-service event or injury that led to the condition.
Below are the locations and time periods that VA acknowledges presumptive Agent Orange exposure:
- Boots-on-the-ground in Vietnam, veterans with service aboard a ship that operated in the inland waterways of Vietnam (i.e., Brown Water veterans), or veterans with service aboard a ship in Vietnam’s territorial seas (i.e., Blue Water Navy veterans) between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975
- 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
VA also recognizes that veterans whose service involved duty on or near the perimeters of military bases in Thailand anytime between February 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975 may have been exposed to Agent Orange as well. While Thailand veterans are not entitled to the same presumptive service connection, they may still qualify for VA disability benefits.
What Evidence You Need to Prove Agent Orange Exposure
To receive VA disability benefits for a medical condition caused by exposure to Agent Orange, you must submit certain evidence along with your claim:
- A medical diagnosis of any of the conditions listed above
- Evidence that you served in Vietnam or the Korean DMZ during the above-mentioned timeframes.
If your medical condition does not appear on the list of presumptive conditions, you may still be able to receive VA disability benefits due to Agent Orange exposure. However, you will need additional evidence to support your case:
- A current, diagnosis of your medical condition
- Evidence of a connection between Agent Orange and your medical condition. This usually requires a medical opinion.
However, it may be difficult to produce enough connecting evidence to satisfy VA, even if your doctor believes your current condition results from exposure to Agent Orange. Nonetheless, the team of veterans lawyers at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD may be able to help.
Agent Orange Registry Health Exam
Veterans who served during the Vietnam War era may also be eligible to receive an Agent Orange Registry Health Exam. This exam is free of charge. The purpose is to “alert Veterans to possible long-term health problems that may be related to Agent Orange exposure during their military service.”
Importantly, the exam is not a Compensation & Pension (C&P). The exam is also not required to receive VA benefits. The exam is based on the veteran’s recollection of service, not their military service records.
VA notes that these exams can “help [VA] understand and respond to these health problems more effectively.” Through the program, veterans may receive free lab tests and referrals to medical specialists for their conditions related to Agent Orange exposure.
Agent Orange Exposure Beyond the Veteran
Agent Orange exposure does not end with the veteran, but rather Agent Orange exposure may also contribute to birth defects in veterans’ children. Studies have indicated that Agent Orange exposure has led to increased rates of stillbirths and birth defects in the children of veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange.
Additionally, there has been evidence linking Agent Orange exposure to spina bifida, a birth defect in which the spinal cord does not develop properly. Other neural conditions and nervous disorders in veterans’ children may also be linked to Agent Orange exposure.
Health Care Benefits for Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange
Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange during their service may be eligible for specific health care from VA for conditions caused by Agent Orange exposure.
Children of veterans who were exposed may also be eligible for some healthcare benefits, specifically if they have birth defects such as spina bifida, cleft lip, congenital heart disease, hip dysplasia, Hallerman-Streiff syndrome, neural tube defects, Poland syndrome, and others. In addition to these conditions, the children must also be:
- The biological child of a woman Vietnam Veteran who served between February 28, 1961 and May 7,1945
- Conceived after the date on which the Veteran first entered the Republic of Vietnam
VA Disability Compensation Rates for Agent Orange-Related Conditions
If you are granted service connection for a medical condition due to Agent Orange exposure, your monthly compensation amounts will depend on your VA disability rating. VA disability ratings are assigned based on the severity of your condition.
As of December 1st, 2020 the VA disability rate benefit amounts are as follows:
- 0 percent disability rating: $0.00 per month
- 10 percent disability rating: $144.14 per month
- 20 percent disability rating: $284.93 per month
- 30 percent disability rating: $441.35 per month
- 40 percent disability rating: $635.77 per month
- 50 percent disability rating: $905.04 per month
- 60 percent disability rating: $1,146.39 per month
- 70 percent disability rating: $1,444.71 per month
- 80 percent disability rating: $1,679.35 per month
- 90 percent disability rating: $1,887.18 per month
- 100 percent disability rating: $3,146.42 per month
For a Free VA Disability Case Evaluation, Call 800-544-9144 Today
The team of veterans lawyers at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD may be able to help you with your VA disability claims and appeals. For a free case evaluation with a member of our staff, call us at 800-544-9144.
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