Last Updated on January 28, 2024 by Asfa Rasheed
The herbicide Agent Orange sprayed over Vietnam, Korea, and other jungle areas has led to a variety of ailments in veterans and their families. These include rashes, psychological symptoms, type 2 diabetes, and congenital disabilities in children.
Due to a new law and court ruling, Blue Water Navy veterans may qualify for expanded disability benefits. This comprehensive guide delves into the requirements and process of obtaining compensation for Agent Orange exposure.
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What is Agent Orange?
A government-sponsored program used to clear foliage during the Vietnam War, Agent Orange contained toxic TCDD that has been linked to cancers and other illnesses. Veterans who suffer from conditions that the VA links to exposure to Agent Orange are eligible for disability compensation.
The VA continues to update its list of presumptive conditions and scenarios, which means that it is essential for Veterans to stay informed. For example, scientists release new evidence daily about diseases like brain cancer that are associated with Agent Orange. Veterans affected by Agent Orange exposure may be eligible for Agent Orange compensation back pay, providing retroactive benefits for service-related health conditions linked to this exposure.
These are called “presumptive” conditions, which means that the VA naturally assumes that they were caused by Agent Orange exposure in service. Affected Veterans need only show that their medical condition was caused by or aggravated by exposure to the herbicide to receive service connection for it. This is why the 2020 Honoring Our PACT Act is such an important law. It makes it easier for Blue Water Veterans to win claims for their Agent Orange-linked disabilities.
How do I know if I’m eligible?
Most Vietnam veterans are familiar with the toxic herbicide Agent Orange. Between 1962 and 1971, the U.S. military sprayed 12,000 square miles of Vietnamese forests with the defoliant. It caused several severe and life-altering health problems for millions of vets.
Until recently, the VA only recognized one condition – chloracne – as being linked to Agent Orange exposure. As a result, many veterans have had to fight for the disability benefits they need and deserve.
The Honoring Our PACT Act makes more veterans eligible for the necessary benefits. The law adds to the list of presumptive diseases resulting from exposure and makes it easier for veterans to prove they have one of these conditions.
The bill also extends eligibility to veterans who served on open sea ships that did not dock in Vietnam but were exposed to the herbicide while delivering supplies or carrying out refueling operations. This includes Navy and Marine vets who worked on contaminated C-123 planes in the United States, as well as veterans stationed at the naval bioweapons site in Vieques, Puerto Rico.
How do I file a claim?
To receive disability compensation, a veteran must meet service and disease requirements. Veterans with diseases that the VA considers presumptive for Agent Orange exposure, such as soft tissue sarcomas, diabetes, ischemic heart disease, hairy cell and chronic B-cell leukemias, and Parkinson’s disease, are eligible for benefits. In addition, those who served on Navy ships near Vietnam or in the U.S. and were exposed to the spraying of Agent Orange are eligible, as well as those who worked in or around C-123 planes used to spray the herbicide during Operation Ranch Hand in 1971.
The PACT Act of 2022 expands presumptive service connection for those who were exposed to Agent Orange in Laos between December 1965 and September 30th, 1969, along with additional locations where the dioxin was sprayed during the war, including Cambodia, Thailand, and American Samoa and Johnston, Atoll. However, the best way to file a claim is with the help of an attorney who can assist with gathering adequate evidence for your case and filing paperwork properly.
How do I appeal a denial?
In some cases, veterans can win benefits based on “buddy statements” from fellow soldiers who can provide first-hand knowledge of exposure to Agent Orange. In other instances, solid medical evidence can prove a connection between a disease and a service. For example, we’ve helped widows of Vietnam veterans who had brain cancer win tens of thousands in VA disability compensation—even though the disease wasn’t on the list of presumptive conditions linked to Agent Orange.
The PACT Act of 2022 expanded eligibility for veterans seeking compensation. Generally, the law stipulates that any veteran who served on a ship in the open sea near Vietnam or its inland waterways, near the Korean demilitarized zone, or within 12 nautical miles of Thailand was exposed to Agent Orange and can file for a service-connected disability. The law also presumes exposure to Agent Orange for veterans who were stationed in Thailand and were regularly exposed to C-123 planes that dropped Agent Orange in Vietnam.