Agent Orange Exposure

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has linked Agent Orange exposure to severe health conditions, from cancer to neurological disorders to reproductive issues. The recently enacted Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxins Act, or PACT Act, adds more presumptive conditions associated with Agent Orange and expands benefits for impacted veterans. If you were exposed to Agent Orange during your service, Veterans Guide can help you take advantage of the VA’s benefits and health care services.

Key Takeaways
  • Agent Orange exposure is linked to a range of severe health issues including various cancers, Parkinson’s disease, and reproductive problems, and veterans may qualify for related benefits.
  • The Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxins Act (PACT Act) has expanded the list of conditions presumed to be caused by Agent Orange, easing the process for affected veterans to receive benefits.

Agent Orange exposure is a major health concern for veterans, particularly those who served in Vietnam. Exposure to the toxic herbicide is linked to a wide range of illnesses, including numerous forms of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, reproductive issues, heart disease, and diabetes. If you or someone you love has been affected by Agent Orange, you may qualify for disability, health care services, and other benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. 

The health concerns associated with exposure to Agent Orange are vast and varied. Veterans Guide can help you put forward your strongest claim to ensure you receive the VA disability rating you deserve and the benefits you need.

The VA automatically presumes that certain disabilities were caused by military service. This is because of the unique circumstances of a specific veteran’s military service. If a presumed condition is diagnosed in a veteran within a certain group, they can be awarded disability compensation. Examples include Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange or Vietnam, veterans that served in certain locations, also Gulf War and post 9/11 veterans eligible for presumptive conditions depending on where and when the veteran served. And finally, former prisoners of war may be eligible for presumptive disability.
The VA automatically presumes that certain disabilities were caused by military service. This is because of the unique circumstances of a specific veteran’s military service. If a presumed condition is diagnosed in a veteran within a certain group, they can be awarded disability compensation. Examples include Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange or Vietnam, veterans that served in certain locations, also Gulf War and post 9/11 veterans eligible for presumptive conditions depending on where and when the veteran served. And finally, former prisoners of war may be eligible for presumptive disability.

Agent Orange and Veterans

Agent Orange is an herbicide containing dioxin. When you burn chlorine with hydrogen and carbon, dioxin forms. Its molecules are toxic to plants, which makes it ideal for its herbicidal uses in Vietnam. Unfortunately, scientists later discovered the chemical is also harmful to people. 

The former Monsanto company manufactured Agent Orange for the military between 1965 and 1969. The company acted as a wartime government contractor. During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military carried out Operation Ranch Hand. It liberally sprayed Agent Orange over parts of Vietnam to kill enemy crops and reduce the jungle foliage offering protection to Vietnamese forces. Between 1962 and 1971, the U.S. Air Force sprayed nearly 19 million gallons of herbicide over Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, including at least 11 million gallons of Agent Orange.

Military veterans were exposed to Agent Orange in multiple ways, including: 

  • Having direct contact when the military sprayed the herbicide
  • Being in areas contaminated with Agent Orange
  • Consuming contaminated products
  • Inhaling it or being exposed to it via the skin
  • Riding on U.S. aircraft carrying the herbicide

Side Effects of Agent Orange

Agent Orange is a toxin and can result in serious side effects. Short-term side effects may have seemed minor and inconvenient to soldiers during the Vietnam War. These short-term side effects, such as skin and eye irritation, are not unusual for a chemical herbicide. However, the long-term effects of Agent Orange are much more severe.

Cancer and Agent Orange

The U.S. government lists the following cancers linked to Agent Orange exposure: 

  • Bladder cancer
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  • Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Lung cancer and cancers of the larynx, trachea, or bronchus
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Prostate cancer
  • Some soft tissue sarcomas

If you are a veteran suffering from unlisted cancers, you can still file for disability benefits, but you may need to provide more supporting evidence for your claim.

Reproductive Health and Agent Orange

The VA also links Agent Orange to reproductive health problems. It can affect hormone levels and increase the risk of birth defects, particularly among female veterans. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes certain birth defects in the children of veterans exposed to Agent Orange. These include:

  • Spina bifida
  • Cleft palate
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Undescended testicles

You can still apply for benefits even if the congenital disability in question is unlisted.

Neurological and Psychological Health and Agent Orange

Medical professionals also link Agent Orange to neurological and psychological conditions, including:  

  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Central nervous system degenerative diseases
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Vascular dementia

Other Long-Term Effects of Agent Orange

Other long-term side effects linked to the herbicide include:

  • AL Amyloidosis
  • Chloracne
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Ischemic heart disease
  • Porphyria cutanea tarda

Agent Orange and the PACT Act

A couple of federal laws VA benefits for U.S. veterans exposed to Agent Orange and other toxins 

The Agent Orange Act of 1991 established a presumptive service connection for veterans who served in Vietnam and other locations and developed certain Agent Orange-related conditions. The Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxins Act of 2021, or the PACT Act, expanded the presumptions for veterans exposed to Agent Orange and other toxins to include additional conditions and veterans who served other locations. The Act includes health conditions linked to Agent Orange, allowing veterans and their survivors to claim benefits more easily.

For those who served in the locations listed in these laws, the VA automatically presumes the designated conditions are linked to your service. Under the PACT Act, the government added more than 20 toxic exposure presumptive conditions, including:

  • Head cancer of any type
  • Neck cancer of any type
  • Reproductive cancer of any type
  • Asthma diagnosed after service
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Melanoma

To qualify for the presumption, you must prove that you meet at least one of the following service requirements:

  • Served in one of the following locations between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975:
    • The Republic of Vietnam
    • On a U.S. military vessel that operated in inland water of Vietnam
    • On a U.S. military vessel less than 12 nautical miles from the nautical demarcation line between Cambodia and Vietnam
  • Served in at least one of the locations added in the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act:
    • Any U.S. or Royal Thai military base located in Thailand (January 9, 1962, to June 30, 1976)
    • Laos (December 1, 1965, to September 30, 1969)
    • Cambodia at Mimot or Krek in Kampong Cham Province (April 16, 1969, to April 30, 1969)
    • Guam or American Samoa or their territorial waters (January 9, 1962, to July 31, 1980)
    • Johnston Atoll or any ship that called there (January 1, 1972, to September 30, 1977)
  • One of the following must be true:
    • Participated in any duty that involved Agent Orange (i.e., transporting, testing, or storing)
    • Were on active duty in an Air Force unit location with a C-123 aircraft assigned which contained trace amounts of Agent Orange, and your duties involved repeated exposure to the aircraft (i.e., flight crew, ground crew, medical staff)
    • Served in or near the Korean DMZ from September 1, 1967, to August 31, 1971
  • Were a reservist assigned to flight, ground, or medical crew duties at any of the following:
    • Lockbourne/Rickenbacker Air Force Base (Ohio) 
      • Time of service: 1969-1986
      • Affected units:
        • 906th and 907th Tactical Air Groups
        • 355th and 356th Tactical Airlift Squadrons
    • Westover Air Force Base (Massachusetts)
      • Time of service: 1972-1982
      • Affected units:
        • 731st Tactical Air Squadron
        • 74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron
        • 901st Organizational Maintenance Squadron
    • Pittsburgh International Airport (Pennsylvania)
      • Time of service: 1972-1982
      • Affected unit:
        • 758th Airlift Squadron

Support and Benefits

Many support programs and benefits are available if you suffer from conditions linked to Agent Orange or other toxic exposure. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers health care services that you can access. The VA’s health care includes an Agent Orange registry health exam. This exam alerts you to possible long-term health concerns linked to Agent Orange exposure. You may be eligible for this health exam if you meet specific qualifications.

This exam is free to eligible veterans and is based on your recollection of service, not your military records. It’s not a disability compensation exam and will not confirm exposure to Agent Orange.

Veterans with diseases the VA recognizes as linked to Agent Orange exposure may also be eligible for benefits, including the following:

While these benefits will never replace your health, they can help you to take control of your life. Health care, financial compensation, and vocational training provided by the VA can help you lead a longer, more fulfilling life. The professionals at Veterans Guide are experienced in handling these types of cases and are committed to helping you.

What to Do if Exposed to Agent Orange

If your service exposed you to herbicides and you suffer from Agent Orange symptoms or health concerns linked to Agent Orange, there is help for you.

The VA rates disabilities related to your service from 0 to 100 percent. If you suffer from a condition presumptively associated with Agent Orange exposure, such as Parkinson’s disease, the VA will automatically link your disease to your herbicide exposure. 

Depending on the severity of your condition and its impact on your life, you will be assigned an Agent Orange VA disability rating. You can use the VA’s disability rating calculator to estimate your rating. If you have more than one disability or health condition, the VA will combine your ratings to a maximum of 100 percent.

The rating process is complex and depends on individual circumstances, such as your specific condition, the severity of your condition, and the evidence you can provide.

Your disability rating will directly impact your financial compensation. Other variable factors include the following: 

  • Whether you have dependents
  • Whether you are incarcerated for more than 60 days for a felony
  • Your marital status
  • The disability status of your spouse
  • The severity of your disability or if you have lost a limb
  • Whether you receive disability severance pay, military retirement pay, or separation pay

Compensation rates increase in increments of 10 percent. Veterans with a 10 percent disability rating may be eligible to receive $171.23 per month. Those with a 100 percent disability rating may qualify to receive $3,737.85 per month.

three people sitting on a couch with health items

Veterans Guide Can Help

When you qualify for VA benefits, it is important to receive the highest disability rating you qualify for. Veterans Guide provides resources and support to ensure that you file a claim with the evidence needed to get the rating you deserve. Contact us today to learn more and book a free consultation.

Need Help?
CONTACT US TODAY!