On May 8, 2020, the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) and Yale Law School’s Veterans Legal Services Clinic (VLSC) released a white paper that examined government records, scientific data, and veteran testimony related to potential Agent Orange exposure by Guam veterans. The organizations concluded that it was likely that veterans who served in Guam were exposed to Agent Orange and other toxic herbicides. The new findings may affect Guam veterans claiming Agent Orange related disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
In the white paper, the VLSC and NVLSP stated that servicemembers who were in Guam between 1962 and 1975 were likely exposed to Agent Orange. In addition to Agent Orange, Guam veterans may have also been exposed to herbicides containing dioxin, a chemical labeled as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Specifically, servicemembers may have been exposed to Agent Orange and dioxin through the use, mishandling, and disposal of herbicides in Guam.
Testing conducted in the 1980s and 1990s by the EPA and Department of Defense (DoD) document dioxin exposure in areas across Guam. Particularly, evidence suggests that high concentrations of dioxin may have been present at the Andersen Air Force Base (AAFB) and the Marianas-Bonins Command (MARBO) Annex.
Additionally, toxic chemicals may also have been present at United States Air Force (USAF) and U.S. Navy power stations and fuel storage facilities across Guam. Despite this, a 2018 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GOA) concluded that many reports documenting Agent Orange and herbicide use could not be confirmed or denied due to a lack of complete records.
While VA has yet to grant Agent Orange related disability benefits to many Guam veterans, some have had success proving their cases. The researchers at the VLSC and NVLSP concluded that the evidence may meet VA’s standard of proof to demonstrate that former servicemembers who were in Guam between 1962 and 1975 may have been exposed to hazardous herbicide agents. As a result, the organizations argue that all veterans who served active duty in Guam may qualify for VA disability benefits for any service-connected injuries or illnesses resulting from toxic chemical exposure.
It may be difficult to understand how recent developments may impact your VA disability claim. The knowledgeable legal team at VetLaw will continue to track this issue and update our website with significant developments. To find out what disability benefits you may be eligible for, contact our team today to talk to a VA-accredited lawyer.