Expansion of Benefits for Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange

Hundreds of thousands of U.S. Armed Forces members serving during the Vietnam era were exposed to Agent Orange and other highly toxic herbicides sprayed in the areas where they were serving.  Since 1990, the VA has awarded service-connected and death benefits to those who served during the Vietnam era or their survivors.  Award of benefits has been based on two presumptions; namely, that a veteran was exposed to such herbicides based on when and where he or she served and that a particular disease or cause of death is associated with such exposure.

Vietnam veterans are likely to meet the presumption of exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides.  In addition, some veterans who served along the Korean DMZ and Air Force veterans (primarily Reservists) who worked on C-123 aircraft that had previously sprayed Agent Orange do not need to prove actual exposure to meet the presumption.  Other veterans may also presumptively be assumed to have been exposed, including those serving on military bases in Thailand, for example.

Over the past few decades, the VA has worked with the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies to determine the health effects of exposure to Agent Orange and other toxic herbicides.  The following 14 conditions were determined to be associated with herbicide exposure:

  • Chronic B-Cell Leukemia
  • Ischemic Heart Disease
  • Hodgkin’s Disease
  • Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
  • Multiple Myeloma
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  • Chloracne
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Peripheral Neuropathy
  • Respiratory Cancers
  • Soft Tissue Sarcomas
  • Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
  • AL Amyloidosis

Studies of other conditions have been ongoing and recently resulted in the following three conditions being added to the list of presumptive Agent Orange-related diseases:

  • Parkinsonism (symptoms characteristic of Parkinson’s Disease, which was already on the list of presumptive conditions)
  • Bladder Cancer
  • Hypothyroidism

Veterans should note that when new presumptive conditions are added to the list, such as these three conditions noted above, any previous claim filed and denied by the VA should be paid back to the date the condition was originally claimed.

The VA continues to consider other medical conditions for classification as presumptive.   For instance, recent studies found a significant and close relationship between Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War and high blood pressure, but efforts to add hypertension to the list of presumptive conditions have not yet been successful.

Surviving spouses of veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides and passed away due to any of the presumptive conditions listed above are eligible for benefits.

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