Agent Orange Symptoms and Effects Explained
Many medical conditions are associated with Agent Orange exposure. Diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and several forms of cancer are among the diseases caused by Agent Orange. If you were exposed to Agent Orange during military service, you may qualify for VA disability benefits.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) grants disability benefits to veterans who develop disabilities as a result of their military service. Typically, a veteran must prove service connection 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 “rainbow” herbicides 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 in order to disrupt enemy supply lines and prevent ambushes. 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 can cause a wide array of health effects. As such, this Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam has caused many serious health conditions for veterans.
Agent Orange Symptoms, Medical Conditions, and Side Effects
What Are the Side Effects of Agent Orange?
VA recognizes certain conditions and their symptoms as having a strong association with Agent Orange exposure. The following Agent Orange side effects 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.
- 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.
- 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 Effects and Presumptive Service Connection
The Agent Orange Act of 1991 established presumptive service connection for veterans who served during certain time periods in specific locations and have been diagnosed with one of the above conditions.
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. Unlike other claimants, they do not need to show evidence of an in-service event or injury leading to their condition.
How Do You Know if You Qualify for the Agent Orange Exposure Presumption?
VA acknowledges presumptive Agent Orange exposure for the following time periods and locations:
- January 9, 1962 to May 7, 1975 in Vietnam: 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)
- September 1, 1967 to August 31, 1971 in the DMZ: On or near the Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ)
- 1969 to 1986, C-123 aircraft: Active duty and reservist personnel who had regular contact with C-123 aircraft
VA also recognizes that veterans who served 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.
How to Prove Agent Orange Exposure
To receive VA disability benefits for Agent Orange symptoms and conditions, you must include the following evidence as part of your claim:
- A medical diagnosis of any of the presumptive conditions; and
- Evidence that you served in Vietnam, the Korean DMZ, or had regular contact with C-123 aircraft during the timeframes listed above.
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; and
- A link, or “nexus”, between Agent Orange and your disability. This usually requires an opinion from a medical professional.
Even if your doctor states that your current condition is due to Agent Orange exposure, VA may still deny your claim. If this happens, the team of veterans (VA) 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 for 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, this exam is not a Compensation & Pension (C&P) exam and is not required to receive VA benefits. 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.
Agent Orange Effects Beyond the Veteran
Agent Orange exposure does not end with the veteran; it may also contribute to birth defects and disorders 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 exposed to Agent Orange.
Additionally, evidence has linked 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 Agent Orange-related.
Health Care Benefits for Agent Orange Exposure
Veterans with service-connected conditions related to Agent Orange may be eligible for specific health care benefits from VA.
Children of veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange may also be eligible for some healthcare benefits, specifically if they have one of the following birth defects:
- Spina bifida
- Cleft lip
- Congenital heart disease
- Hip dysplasia
- Hallerman-Streiff syndrome
- Neural tube defects
- Poland syndrome
- And more.
In addition to having one or more of these conditions, the child must also be:
- The biological offspring of a woman Vietnam Veteran who served between February 28, 1961 and May 7,1975; and
- 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.