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January 14, 2022

Vietnam Veterans: Is Your Medical Condition on the Agent Orange Presumptive List?

Last updated on December 2, 2022

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Agent Orange Presumptive List

In this guide, we’ll explore the topic of Agent Orange and its long-lasting impact on millions of Vietnam veterans. We’ll also detail how to file a claim for the many different health conditions found in the VA’s Agent Orange presumptive list.

Agent Orange is a powerful chemical herbicide used during the Vietnam War. It’s been associated with serious health problems for those exposed to it (both military and civilians). Sometimes these health problems take decades to appear.

What exactly makes Agent Orange so harmful? Agent Orange contains chemical compounds known as dioxins that are highly toxic and can cause a variety of devastating health issues. Unfortunately, dioxins also remain in the environment for a long time and take decades to break down.

Let’s jump into how Agent Orange was used in Vietnam in the 1960s—and how you can get health care and VA disability compensation for your disabilities that are a result of Agent Orange exposure.


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Why was Agent Orange used in Vietnam?

During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military used many different chemicals across Southeast Asia. Some of these were herbicides—substances that are toxic to plants and can be used to destroy vegetation.


A class of herbicides known as rainbow herbicides included Agent Orange as well as Agent White, Agent Blue, Agent Pink, Agent Green, and Agent Purple. Of these, Agent Orange was the most widely used.

Agent Orange contained a mixture of two herbicide agents— 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T. A contaminant byproduct of its production was a third compound: the highly toxic dioxin 2,3,7,8-TCDD.

From 1962 to 1971 the U.S. military used aircraft, helicopters, trucks, and hand-held sprayers to spray millions of gallons of Agent Orange across the entire region as part of Operation Ranch Hand. The goal was to remove vegetation to disrupt the Viet Cong’s food supply, as well as to increase visibility and prevent ambushes by defoliating the dense jungle.

This operation was one of the first instances in which herbicides were used in a military conflict to clear land. Unfortunately, over 2.5 million U.S. soldiers—along with the Vietnamese people—were exposed to Agent Orange throughout the war.

As soldiers began returning home, reports of side effects from Agent Orange exposure mounted. These side effects included cancer, birth defects, miscarriages, and skin diseases. Sometimes these health conditions first appear years or decades after service and exposure.

Agent Orange and Presumptive Service

The Agent Orange Act of 1991 was passed to address the prevalence of specific health conditions among Vietnam-era veterans. It created an Agent Orange presumptive list to help veterans get the care and compensation they deserve. This gives presumptive service connection to veterans with specific Vietnam service dates and locations.

With a VA claim, you start with a current diagnosed disability that was caused or aggravated by your service, or an already service-connected disability. Typically you have to prove that you incurred the injury or illness as a result of service (service connection) when filing a VA disability claim. You need to show a “nexus” or link between your service and the disability condition.

With presumptive service connection, the VA assumes a link between one of the eligible diagnosed disabilities and your service. In these instances, your claim doesn’t have to prove a medical nexus between your condition and your military service (although you still need to meet other claim requirements).

To be eligible for an Agent Orange VA rating for an Agent Orange presumptive disability, you must meet two (2) criteria:

  1. You must have served during a specific time and place that falls into one of the following locations:
  2. You must have a current diagnosis of one or more of the disabilities recognized by the VA as linked to Agent Orange.

If your service meets one of the above criteria and your condition is included in the VA’s Vietnam presumptive list, the VA will presume service connection (you won’t have to prove a nexus when filing your claim). (You’ll still have to prove a current diagnosis and the in-service event or injury—i.e., the actual exposure event.)

If your specific health condition (current diagnosis) does not appear on this list, you can still apply for VA disability based on Agent Orange exposure. However, the presumption does not apply, so you’ll need to establish a service connection for your disability by including in your claim ALL of the following:

  • Evidence of diagnosis of a condition considered disabling by the VA.
  • Evidence of exposure to Agent Orange.
  • Evidence of a link between Agent Orange exposure and the medical condition being claimed.

This would satisfy all three essentials of a winning VA disability claim.  (In order for any VA disability claim for direct service connection to be successful, three main elements must be present: a current, diagnosed condition; an in-service event, injury, illness or aggravation; and a medical nexus linking the current, diagnosed condition to the in-service event, injury, illness or aggravation.)

Let’s take a look at all the conditions and diseases the VA associates with herbicides via the Agent Orange presumptive list.

What are the 14 diseases originally presumed associated with Agent Orange?

Many Vietnam veterans develop cancers and other health problems as a result of their Agent Orange exposure. Here is the list of the 14 diseases originally established on the Agent Orange presumptive list:

  • AL Amyloidosis – A rare disease caused when an abnormal protein, amyloid, enters tissues or organs.
  • Chronic B-cell Leukemias – A type of cancer that affects white blood cells.
  • Chloracne (or other similar acneform disease) – A skin condition that occurs soon after exposure to chemicals and looks like common forms of acne seen in teenagers. Under VA’s rating regulations, it must be at least 10 percent disabling within one year of exposure to herbicides.
  • Type 2 Diabetes – A disease characterized by high blood sugar levels resulting from the body’s inability to respond properly to the hormone insulin
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – A malignant lymphoma (cancer) characterized by progressive enlargement of the lymph nodes, liver, and spleen, and by progressive anemia.
  • Ischemic Heart Disease – A disease characterized by a reduced supply of blood to the heart, which leads to chest pain.
  • Multiple Myeloma – A cancer of plasma cells, a type of white blood cell in bone marrow.
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – A group of cancers that affect the lymph glands and other lymphatic tissue.
  • Parkinson’s Disease – A progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects muscle movement.
  • Acute and Subacute Peripheral Neuropathy – A nervous system condition that causes numbness, tingling, and motor weakness. Under VA’s rating regulations, this one must be at least 10 percent disabling within one year of herbicide exposure.
  • Porphyria Cutanea Tarda – A disorder characterized by liver dysfunction and by thinning and blistering of the skin in sun-exposed areas. Under VA’s rating regulations, it must be at least 10 percent disabling within one year of exposure to herbicides.
  • Prostate Cancer – Cancer of the prostate, one of the most common cancers among men.
  • Respiratory Cancers (includes lung cancer) – Cancers of the lung, larynx, trachea, and bronchus.
  • Soft Tissue Sarcomas (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or mesothelioma) – A group of different types of cancers in body tissues such as muscle, fat, blood and lymph vessels, and connective tissues.

If you served in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War and are experiencing one or more of the above medical disabilities, you may be dealing with the after-effects of Agent Orange exposure.


What is the updated list of diseases added to the Agent Orange Presumptive list?

The Agent Orange Act of 1991 empowered the VA to add conditions to the presumptive list over time through the creation of new regulations or statutes.

Congress recently added three new diseases to the Agent Orange presumptive list. These include:

  • Bladder Cancer – A type of cancer that affects the bladder.
  • Hypothyroidism – A condition that causes the thyroid gland to produce too little of key thyroid hormones, which regulate critical metabolic processes.
  • Parkinson’s-like Symptoms – Any condition that causes abnormal  stiff or slow) muscle movements, trouble speaking, or tremors.

If you’re experiencing one of these medical disabilities and meet the service date and duty location requirements, you qualify for presumptive status.

This addition to the list has made tens of thousands more veterans eligible for VA disability benefits.

What is the VA disability rating for Agent Orange?

You can’t file a VA disability claim based solely and directly on exposure. However, if you’ve developed a medical condition on the Agent Orange presumptive list, you’re eligible to claim disability compensation from the VA.

Veterans can receive anywhere from a 0 percent VA rating up to a 100 percent for disabilities related to Agent Orange exposure. The VA disability rating for which you’re eligible depends on the specific medical disability you’re experiencing. The ratings vary greatly by condition.

Here are a few examples:

  • Cancer – The various cancers on the Agent Orange presumptive list are rated by the VA at 100 percent if a veteran is actively dealing with them.
  • Parkinson’s Disease – This condition is evaluated based on its symptoms and has a minimum rating of 30 percent.
  • Ischemic Heart Disease – This condition is rated at either 10, 30, 60, or 100 percent based on severity of symptoms and heart function.

How do I know if I was exposed to Agent Orange?

If you served during the dates and at the locations specified by the Agent Orange presumptive list, it’s likely that you were exposed to Agent Orange and/or other herbicides. You may have been exposed and not even be aware of it. But if you’re experiencing any of the disabilities or effects on the presumptive list, that may be an indication that you were exposed.

The VA offers a free Agent Orange Registry health exam to veterans who meet service and duty location requirements. This exam won’t tell you exactly what chemicals you were exposed to, but it can help inform you about developing disabilities that could be linked to your exposure.

During your exam, you’ll meet with a provider and receive a physical exam, discuss your service history, and get any tests done if necessary (including blood labs, MRIs, or X-rays).

You don’t have to enroll in VA health care to receive a registry health exam.

If you think you may be experiencing health conditions linked to Agent Orange exposure but don’t yet have a medical diagnosis, pick up the phone and call the VA Environmental Health Coordinator nearest you. Make an appointment to get your Agent Orange exam scheduled right away!

How do you prove exposure to Agent Orange?

Thankfully, the Agent Orange presumptive list makes it much easier to receive VA disability compensation for diagnosed disabilities caused by exposure. The very point of the list is that you don’t have to directly prove exposure to Agent Orange.

All you have to do when filing a VA claim is show you meet the duty station and time conditions. Submit your military duty records along with your VA claim to show you meet the requirements. These records, along with a medical diagnosis of one of the conditions on the Agent Orange presumptive list, will qualify you for VA disability compensation.

If you weren’t deployed to one of the areas that normally qualifies for an Agent Orange presumptive rating, you still may be covered if you were exposed during testing, storage, or disposal in the U.S. or abroad. You must be able to show records of deployment from these facilities, or the use or storage of these chemicals.


Is Agent Orange still present in Vietnam?

Unfortunately, the impact of Agent Orange is still felt in Vietnam today. Although it’s been over 50 years since the Vietnam War, dioxin levels are still dangerously high at many locations across the country. These locations are mainly near former air bases. Agent Orange can be found in these locations in the soil, water, sediment, fish, and food supply.

According to research from the University of Illinois and Iowa State University, the site with the highest levels of dioxin is Bien Hoa air base, just north of Ho Chi Minh City.

The Vietnamese people continue to develop Agent Orange-related health conditions today—especially birth defects, just as Vietnam veterans experience birth defects after serving in Vietnam.

What birth defects are caused by Agent Orange?

Spina bifida is a common birth defect impacting Vietnam veterans. This condition impacts the development of a child’s spine. The resulting disability can range from mild to severe. In severe cases, it limits the child’s ability to move and function. Some children are paralyzed or unable to move parts of their bodies.

Spina bifida is a presumptive condition. In order to claim VA compensation and health care benefits for birth defects:

  • The biological parent of the impacted child must have served:
    1. In Vietnam or Thailand between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, OR
    2. In or near the Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ) between September 1, 1967, and August 31, 1971.
  • The impacted child must have been conceived after the date that the veteran entered Vietnam, Thailand, or the Korean DMZ.
  • The impacted child must have a spina bifida diagnosis.

Many other birth defects are caused by exposure to Agent Orange as well. In general, these conditions are presumptive only for children of women Vietnam veterans. Here’s the VA list of presumptive Agent Orange birth defects for children of women Vietnam veterans:

  • Achondroplasia
  • Cleft lip and cleft palate
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Congenital talipes equinovarus (clubfoot)
  • Esophageal and intestinal atresia
  • Hallerman-Streiff syndrome
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Hirschprung’s disease (congenital megacolon)
  • Hydrocephalus due to aqueductal stenosis
  • Hypospadias
  • Imperforate anus
  • Neural tube defects
  • Poland syndrome
  • Pyloric stenosis
  • Syndactyly (fused digits)
  • Tracheoesophageal fistula
  • Undescended testicle
  • Williams syndrome

The VA offers health care and disability compensation to eligible Vietnam veterans affected by Agent Orange exposure, as well as to the children of Vietnam veterans who have spina bifida and other birth defects.

There are a few things to keep in mind when claiming VA disability and health care benefits for birth defects other than spina bifida:

  • The biological mother of the impacted child must have served in Vietnam between February 28, 1961, and May 7, 1975.
  • The impacted child must have been conceived after the date that the veteran entered Vietnam.
  • The impacted child must have a covered birth defect that resulted in a permanent physical or mental disability.
  • The family must not have a family history of related disorders or birth-related injuries.

You can learn more about benefits for spina bifida here and other birth defects here. You can also apply for VA benefits by completing VA Form 21-0304 (Application for Benefits for Certain Children with Disabilities born in Vietnam and Certain Korea Service Veterans).

Get help with your claim—and the compensation you deserve.

Regardless of whether or not you qualify for a Vietnam presumptive claim, it’s important to pursue monthly compensation and benefits for any disabilities connected to your military service.  

Most veterans are underrated for their disabilities and therefore not getting the compensation they’re due. At VA Claims Insider, we help you understand and take control of the claims process, so you can get the rating and compensation you’re owed by law.

Our process takes the guesswork out of filing a VA disability claim and supports you every step of the way in building a fully-developed claim (FDC)—so you can increase your rating in less time!

If you’ve filed your VA disability claim and have been denied or have received a low rating—or you’re unsure how to get started—reach out to us! Take advantage of a FREE VA Claim Discovery Call. Learn what you’ve been missing—so you can FINALLY get the disability rating and compensation you deserve!

We’ve supported more than 15,000 veterans to win their claims and increase their ratings. NOW IT’S YOUR TURN.

About the Author

About VA Claims Insider

VA Claims Insider is an education-based coaching/consulting company. We’re here for disabled veterans exploring eligibility for increased VA disability benefits and who wish to learn more about that process. We also connect veterans with independent medical professionals in our referral network for medical examinations, disability evaluations, and credible independent medical opinions and nexus statements (medical nexus letters) for a wide range of disability conditions.

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