VA Disability Agent Orange Claims | Hazardous Chemical Exposure

Legally reviewed by Brendan Garcia , Owner and Lead Attorney

Understanding VA Benefits for Agent Orange Exposure

Spending time in Vietnam and the surrounding international waters from 1962 through 1975 exposed many United States veterans to extreme hazards. While wounds suffered in battle are a substantial source of disabling injuries, disabilities resulting from exposure to toxic chemicals are just as serious.

Agent Orange is a prominent example of these dangerous substances. Used as a defoliant to reduce cover for North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces, Agent Orange was widespread over many parts of Vietnam as well as surrounding waters. Many Vietnam veterans were exposed to toxic chemicals and suffered debilitating injuries and illnesses as a result.

The VA has established a collection of benefits for veterans with disabilities caused by Agent Orange that includes free health examinations, health care benefits, and payments for children born with birth defects. A skilled VA-accredited attorney could help you understand the effects that Agent Orange may have had on your current health, as well as take advantage of any available VA benefits programs. Call today to learn more about VA disability Agent Orange Claims.

Agent Orange exposure can result in devastating conditions and life-threatening diseases. Many people automatically assume that Vietnam veterans were the only members of the armed forces to face exposure. Contact a toxic chemical exposure claims lawyer, to learn more about your legal options to receive VA benefits due to Agent Orange exposure.

Blue Water Veterans And Agent Orange Exposure

In the past, the Department of Veterans Affairs claimed that Navy personnel who served off the shore of Vietnam had not been exposed to Agent Orange as there were no “boots on the ground.” Recently, however, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that Blue Water Veterans are entitled to the same presumptions of exposure to Agent Orange as veterans with boots on the ground in Vietnam.

Other Navy veterans had already been eligible for this presumption if their ships conducted operations by using Vietnam’s inland waterways. It’s already become clear that VA is working to deny Blue Water Veterans their compensation; contact us today for a free case review if you served off the coast of Vietnam and would like to know more about VA disability Agent Orange claims.

Non-Vietnam Agent Orange Exposure

While Agent Orange’s military application in Vietnam is well-documented, the active herbicide, sometimes referred to as tactical herbicides by VA, was used in numerous other areas during the time of the Vietnam War and even afterward. While VA has not historically recognized non-Vietnam locations when considering Agent Orange exposure, this stance has started to change in recent years.

Even if VA does not recognize your duty location as a presumptive exposure location, we may be able to help prove you were exposed to Agent Orange during your military service, depending on where you were stationed. Although the list is ever-growing, some of the places where Agent Orange and tactical herbicides were used include:

  • Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ)
  • Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) bases, including:
    • U-Tapao
    • Ubon
    • Nakhon Phanom
    • Udorn
    • Takhli
    • Korat
    • Don Muang
  • Guam
  • Panama
  • Cambodia
  • Canada
  • India
  • Laos
  • Puerto Rico
  • Other bases in the United States
    • Fort Chaffee
    • Bushnell Army Air Field
    • Avon Air Force Base
    • Eglin Air Force Base
    • Fort Gordon
    • Kauai Branch Station
    • Jefferson Proving Ground
    • Fort Knox
    • Camp Detrick and Fort Detrick
    • Fort Ritchie
    • Fort Meade
    • Aberdeen Proving Ground

If you were stationed in any of the above areas or at any other location where you believe you may have been exposed to Agent Orange or tactical herbicides, it is crucial to consult with a skilled attorney. Our team understands the complex process of proving exposure to these toxins when applying for or appealing VA benefits. Contact us today.

Health Effects of Agent Orange Exposure VA Benefits and Support

Agent Orange was an herbicide used by the U.S. Military in Southeast Asia to kill vegetation throughout Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and other locations. It is not a commercial herbicide, but rather a tactical chemical used for warfare.

Agent Orange is comprised of a combination of chemicals that resulted in an unwanted byproduct known as TCDD, which is a human carcinogen. As a result, many veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam and elsewhere now suffer from severe health problems. According to the VA, Vietnam veterans and veterans who served on ships offshore and in other locations with Agent Orange use may now suffer from:

  • AL Amyloidosis
  • B-cell leukemias (prolymphocytic leukemia (PLL) and hairy cell leukemia (HCL)
  • Chloracne
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus
  • Hodgkin’s disease
  • Ischemic heart disease (also known as coronary artery disease)
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  • Parkinson’s disease (or Parkinson’s-like symptoms and tremors)
  • Parkinsonism
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Prostate cancer
  • Respiratory cancers
  • Soft tissue sarcomas
  • Bladder cancer
  • Hypothyroidism

In addition to the above list of “presumptive” conditions, many other conditions may also be linked to Agent Orange, even though VA does not recognize the connection. This includes – but is certainly not limited to – the following:

  • Hypertension, or high blood pressure
  • Other cancers not on the presumptive list, including bladder cancer and many others

VetLaw’s team of attorneys could help evaluate your condition and determine whether a claim for benefits due to Agent Orange exposure is appropriate. Even if your diagnosis is not on one of the lists above, contact us for a review of your case and to discuss whether your disability may be related to Agent Orange.

Veteran Rights to Filing VA Disability Agent Orange Claims

The VA has long since recognized the consequences of Agent Orange exposure, so veterans who can demonstrate such exposure may qualify for a variety of benefits, one of which is a free Agent Orange registry health exam. This exam is intended to diagnose any current health problems that may be attributable to Agent Orange exposure.

While it is not required to obtain benefits, this exam may serve as medical evidence of diagnoses related to Agent Orange exposure. The VA presumes that veterans who served on the ground in Vietnam, the Korean demilitarized zone, and in certain parts of Thailand have been exposed to Agent Orange. These veterans must only prove that they now have a diagnosis of one of VA’s presumptive conditions to obtain disability compensation.

Additionally, veterans who served on offshore ships—known as Blue Water veterans—now have the same presumption to Agent Orange exposure. Many other veterans in locations such as Guam, Panama, Cambodia, Canada, India, Laos, Puerto Rico, and even bases inside of the United States were also exposed to Agent Orange during their active duty service. These veterans must prove their exposure, and VA will concede such exposure on a case by case basis.

An attorney could help you evaluate your eligibility for these benefits as a veteran who was exposed to Agent Orange, either in Vietnam, in Vietnam’s territorial waters as a Blue Water veteran, or in the other numerous locales where Agent Orange was used. Additionally, their expertise can prove valuable in ensuring you secure the average compensation for Agent Orange disability claims.

What Is the PACT Act?

Signed into law in 2022, the PACT Act expanded care and benefits to veterans – and their loved ones – who were exposed to toxic substances such as Agent Orange. This landmark legislation represents sets forth important benefits increase for veterans of the Vietnam, Gulf War, and post-911 conflicts.

How Does the PACT Act Affect Agent Orange-Related Claims?

The PACT Act adds to the list of conditions that the VA assumes are caused by exposure to substances like Agent Orange and other toxic substances. These assumed conditions are referred to by the VA as “presumptive conditions.” If you have a presumptive condition, you are not required to show that you have been diagnosed during your service nor do you need to prove that your military service caused your condition. This is unlike most VA disability claims, which require a diagnosis, proof of in-service stressor, and a nexus between the two.

The PACT Act expanded the list of presumptive conditions for veterans of the Vietnam, Gulf War, and post 9-11 eras. As it relates specifically to Agent Orange VA disability claims, if you suffer from one of the following conditions, the VA now recognizes it as connected to Agent Orange exposure:

  • High blood pressure
  • Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance

It is important to note that if you are diagnosed with either of these presumptive conditions in connection with Agent Orange exposure, you are entitled to VA disability benefits. Veterans’ survivors are also granted benefits under the PACT Act, which may include VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, a one-time accrued benefits payment, or survivors’ pension.

What Are the Known Agent Orange Exposure Locations Recognized by the VA?

The VA determines eligibility for disability benefits based on whether you served in a location that exposed you to Agent Orange. Prior to the PACT Act, if you served between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975 in any of the following locations, the VA recognized three exposure locations:

  • The Republic of Vietnam
  • On a military ship that operated in the inland waterways of Vietnam
  • Aboard a military ship that operated no more than twelve nautical miles seaward of the boundary between Vietnam and Cambodia

While Agent Orange’s military application in Vietnam is well-documented, the active herbicide was used in numerous other areas during the time of the Vietnam War and even afterward. To account for this, the PACT Act expanded the list of exposure locations recognized by the VA to include:

  • Thailand: Veterans who served in the United States or Royal Thai military base between January 9, 1962 and June 30, 1976
  • Cambodia: Between April 16, 1969 and April 30, 1969, specifically in the Kampong Cham Province
  • Laos: Between December 1, 1965 and September 30, 1969
  • Guam and American Samoa: Between January 9, 1962 and July 30, 1980
  • Johnston Atoll: Between January 1, 1972 and September 30, 1977
  • Korean DMZ: If you served near the Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ) between September 1, 1967 and August 31, 1971, you may be eligible for benefits due to Agent Orange exposure

Likewise, if you took part in the transportation, testing, or storage of Agent Orange during your service, or if you had military duties at any of the exposure locations, you may qualify for disability benefits. Our team of experienced Agent Orange VA disability claims understand the complexities of these cases and how to successfully obtain presumptive disability benefits for you and your loved ones.

What Is the List of Agent Orange Presumptive Conditions?

The VA maintains a comprehensive list of Agent Orange presumptive conditions that have been established by law. These presumptive conditions include:

  • Certain cancers: bladder cancer, Hodgkin’s disease, multiple myeloma, prostate cancer, chronic B-cell leukemia, respiratory cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and certain soft tissue sarcomas.
  • Other illnesses caused by Agent Orange exposure: chloracne, AL amyloidosis, diabetes mellitus type 2, Parkinson’s disease, high blood pressure, hypothyroidism, ischemic heart disease, MGUS, early onset peripheral neuropathy, and porphyria cutanea tarda.

Does the VA Include Hypertension as an Agent Orange Related Condition?

Yes, the VA does include hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, as an Agent Orange related condition. This presumptive condition was included in the PACT Act expansion. If you suffer from hypertension due to your military service, you may qualify to file an Agent Orange VA disability claim and collect compensation under the PACT Act.

What Are Common Conditions Related to Agent Orange that Are Currently Non-Presumptive?

There have been several studies that have examined and assessed the risk of exposure to Agent Orange in veterans. Originally, there were roughly a dozen diseases directly associated with Agent Orange exposure but, over time, scientists have identified a range of other conditions that affect individuals who were exposed to the herbicide. Some of the common conditions related to Agent Orange that are currently non-presumptive include:

  • Stroke
  • Spina bifida
  • Cleft lip
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Poland syndrome
  • Congenital heart disease

If you have a non-presumptive condition that you believe is related to Agent Orange exposure, you may still apply for and receive VA disability benefits. You will be required to provide additional evidence to support your claim, however, including:

  • Current diagnosis of a medical condition
  • Nexus, or link, between your disability and Agent Orange exposure

Unfortunately, even if you secure an opinion from a medical professional confirming that your condition is related to Agent Orange exposure, the VA may still deny your claim. If this happens, our team of Agent Orange VA disability denial attorneys can help you take action and continue your case using VA decision reviews and appeals.

Can You Receive Back Pay for an Agent Orange Related Condition?

In a discussion of Agent Orange VA disability claims, one of the most complicated issues is the effective date rules. Found in 38 C.F.R. 3.816, which outlines the rules established under the class-action case Nehmer v. United States Department of Veterans Affairs, the effective date of disability compensation is the date the VA received your initial claim for an Agent Orange related condition or the date the Agent Orange related condition was first diagnosed.

Even if you filed your claim before the VA added your Agent Orange related condition to the list of presumptive conditions, the effective date of your claim is still the date of your first claim.

VA back pay is calculated based on the effective date of your Agent Orange VA disability claim. The Nehmer class action lawsuit established special date rules for certain veterans affected by exposure to Agent Orange, ensuring that veterans are able to collect back pay from the date of their initial claim or disease diagnosis. This is an important protection for veterans because the VA regularly adds new conditions to the presumptive list.

For example, let us consider a situation where a veteran filed a claim for lower back pain in 2015, which was eventually finalized in 2018. In 2021, high blood pressure (hypertension) was added to the presumptive list and the veteran filed a new claim for this disability. Here, the effective date for this claim will date back to 2015 even though the initial claim was not for high blood pressure. In this case, the date of the veteran’s initial claim is the most important factor.

Veteran Agent Orange Claims Can Provide Valuable Benefits

Military service in Vietnam and elsewhere exposed millions of American servicemembers to toxic chemicals, one of the most damaging of which was Agent Orange. This herbicide compound emitted a carcinogen that has left many veterans with serious health problems. Additionally, their children may have been born with birth defects.

Any veteran with an honorable discharge who set foot in Vietnam between 1962 and 1975 may be eligible for VA disability benefits. As noted above, Agent Orange was used in many other locations as well, and any servicemembers who think they may have been exposed should consider that possibility.

How Agent Orange Lawyers Can Help You?

An Agent Orange lawyer can provide invaluable assistance to veterans seeking VA disability benefits for conditions related to Agent Orange exposure. These legal professionals are well-versed in the complexities of VA regulations and the presumptive conditions associated with Agent Orange. They can help gather necessary evidence, such as medical records and service documents, to establish a clear link between the veteran’s exposure and their current health issues. Additionally, an experienced attorney can navigate the intricacies of filing a claim, ensuring that all paperwork is accurately completed and submitted on time. If a claim is denied, a lawyer can represent the veteran in appeals, leveraging their expertise to argue the case effectively before the VA. By working with an Agent Orange lawyer, veterans increase their chances of receiving the full benefits they are entitled to for their service-related health problems.

One of our attorneys could help you with investigating your Agent Orange claim or denial of benefits by reviewing your service time and current medical conditions. Contact VetLaw today to learn more about Agent Orange and how we can assist you with proving your exposure to this toxic chemical and linking that exposure to your current disabilities.