What Is Agent Orange?
Agent Orange was a tactical herbicide used by the U.S. military from the 1960s into the 1970s. It was most commonly used during the Vietnam War to remove leaves and vegetation for military operations. Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange may have developed a number of different kinds of conditions, including several types of cancers.
There are two main qualifying criteria for veterans seeking VA disability benefits for an Agent Orange related condition:
- The condition is a presumptive disease. Presumptive diseases are cancers or illnesses the VA recognizes can be caused by Agent Orange. If a veteran has one of these diseases, he or she does not have to prove to the VA that the condition was caused by or made worse by his or her military service – the VA will presume the condition was caused by the veteran’s exposure to Agent Orange.
- There is evidence of presumptive exposure. The VA presumes Agent Orange exposure at a number of service locations that were active during the 1960’s through the 1980’s. If a veteran has a condition that could have been caused by Agent Orange and worked at one of those locations, he or she does not have to do any additional work to prove service connection.
These eligibility requirements are somewhat flexible because if a veteran was to have one of the VA’s presumptive diseases, but he or she did not serve in an area of presumptive exposure, he or she may still be eligible for service connection, but it would likely not be via presumptive service connection. Vice versa, if the veteran was known to have served in an area exposed to Agent Orange, but the condition he or she was seeking service connection for is not one of the VA’s recognized presumptive diseases, he or she will have to find additional medical evidence proving the condition was due to Agent Orange exposure.
Agent Orange Presumptive Diseases
The following are a list of cancers caused by Agent Orange exposure:
- Chronic B-cell leukemia
- Hodgkin’s disease
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Prostate cancer
- Respiratory cancers (including lung cancer)
- Some soft tissue sarcomas (not including osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or mesothelioma)
In addition to cancers, multiple other conditions can be attributed to Agent Orange exposure:
- AL amyloidosis
- Chloracne (or other types of acneiform disease like it)
- Diabetes mellitus type 2
- Ischemic heart disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Peripheral neuropathy, early onset
- Porphyria cutanea tarda
As was said before, this list is not all-encompassing. If a veteran has a condition believed to be due to his or her exposure to Agent Orange, but it is not included in the above list, he or she should still submit a claim for service connection and make sure to include ample amounts of medical evidence to support that claim.
Requirements For Presumption of Exposure
Eligibility for VA disability benefits on the basis of Agent Orange exposure has several service requirements.
Between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, you must have served for any length of time in at least one of these locations:
- In the Republic of Vietnam, or
- Aboard a U.S. military vessel that operated in the inland waterways of Vietnam, or
- On a vessel operating not more than 12 nautical miles seaward from the demarcation line of the waters of Vietnam and Cambodia, or
- On regular perimeter duty on the fenced-in perimeters of a U.S. Army installation in Thailand or a Royal Thai Air Force base. These bases include U-Tapao, Ubon, Nakhon Phanom, Udorn, Takhli, Korat, or Don Muang.
Or at least one of these must be true. You:
- Served in or near the Korean DMZ for any length of time between September 1, 1967, and August 31, 1971, or
- Served on active duty in a regular Air Force unit location where a C-123 aircraft with traces of Agent Orange was assigned, and had repeated contact with this aircraft due to your flight, ground, or medical duties, or
- Were involved in transporting, testing, storing, or other uses of Agent Orange during your military service, or
- Were assigned as a Reservist to certain flight, ground, or medical crew duties at one of the below locations.
Eligible Reserve locations, time periods, and units include:
- Lockbourne/Rickenbacker Air Force Base in Ohio, 1969 to 1986 (906th and 907th Tactical Air Groups or 355th and 356th Tactical Airlift Squadrons)
- Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts, 1972 to 1982 (731st Tactical Air Squadron and 74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, or 901st Organizational Maintenance Squadron)
- Pittsburgh International Airport in Pennsylvania, 1972 to 1982 (758th Airlift Squadron)
The presumptive exposure requirement to obtain service connection for a disorder related to Agent Orange is generally less malleable than the presumptive diseases requirement. This is because it can be easier to prove that a condition not on the presumptive diseases list could have been caused by Agent Orange than it is to say that one was exposed to Agent Orange at a location not on the presumptive exposures list. The VA and U.S. Military have spent years chronicling every possible location soldiers could have been exposed to Agent Orange, and so the list above has quite expansive coverage (although, admittedly, the list does not contemplate many areas in which Agent Orange was in fact used). More often, the difficulty with proving exposure comes from a lack of service personnel records proving that the veteran served at one of the above locations, rather than the veteran claiming exposure at a different location altogether.
Getting Service Connection For Agent Orange Related Conditions
For Agent Orange related claims, medical and service personnel records are both equally important. Veterans will want to provide records that show (1) they have an Agent Orange related illness and (2) they were exposed to Agent Orange in service. As stated earlier, if the veteran’s illness is not on the presumptive diseases list, he or she will also need to provide at least one of the following types of evidence:
- Evidence showing that the condition started in service and was made worse by his or her military service, or
- Scientific and medical evidence proving that the claimed condition can be caused by Agent Orange exposure. Accepted forms of proof may include a medical research study or publication from a reputable scientific journal. Plus, the veteran must show that his or her condition in particular was caused by his or her exposure to Agent Orange.
To prove exposure, veterans will need to submit their discharge or separation papers to show their time and location of service, in addition to any other papers showing they were stationed at one of the locations on the presumptive exposure list.
Help With Your Agent Orange Related Claim
If you are looking to apply for service connection for your Agent Orange related illness, or want to appeal a recent denial of your Agent Orange related claim, please contact us at the phone number above or via our free claim evaluation form. Our experienced veterans disability attorneys are ready to help you get the compensation you deserve.