What Every Veteran Exposed to Agent Orange Should Know

What Every Veteran Exposed to Agent Orange Should Know

Few experiences are shared among veterans as being exposed to Agent Orange. During the Vietnam War around 20 million gallons of this hazardous blend of herbicides were used to kill plants and clear land for our military. Unfortunately, Agent Orange was filled with dioxin, a chemical now known to cause cancer and other serious health issues. 

Between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, about 2.7 million service members were exposed to this dangerous chemical. The result has been a number of health issues among veterans. 

Health Problems Caused by Agent Orange Exposure

Currently, there are 14 conditions that have been directly linked to Agent Orange. Those conditions are:

  • Chronic B-Cell Leukemias (including lymphocytic leukemia and hairy-cell leukemia)
  • Hodgkin’s disease
  • Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma
  • Multiple Myeloma
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Prostate Cancer
  • AL amyloidosis
  • Chloracne
  • Ischemic heart disease
  • Peripheral Neuropathy
  • Porphyria cutanea tarda
  • Respiratory Cancers
  • Soft-tissue sarcoma

There have also been accusations that Agent Orange also caused a number of other cancers, including tumors on the Central Nervous System, bladder cancer and prostate cancer. However, at this time there is insufficient evidence to determine direct association to these other conditions. 

Effects of Agent Orange on Children of Veterans

Some veterans of Vietnam and Korea have had children with birth defects linked to their parents’ Agent Orange exposure. Those defects include developmental delays, defects of the circulatory system and heart, and spina bifida. Many cases believed linked to Agent Orange exposure continue today. 

The children born with these defects may be eligible for a number of VA benefits including monthly compensation, health care benefits, and even vocational training after their 18th birthday.

Veterans of Vietnam and Presumption of Agent Orange Exposure

Because of the overwhelming number of veterans affected by their exposure to Agent Orange, in 1991 Congress passed the Agent Orange Act. This directed the VA to presume service-connected disability for the conditions related to Agent Orange. 

Therefore, if you served in Vietnam between 1962-1975 and have been diagnosed by a medical professional with any of the above-mentioned conditions, you will not have to establish any further service-connection. It doesn’t matter when the condition began to affect you either. But you must file a claim in order to be considered for disability compensation and benefits. 

All conditions linked to Agent Orange exposure will be rated individually for disability benefits, and the rating will vary according to the severity. 

Agent Orange Registry

Since 1978 there has been a registry created by the VA available to all qualified veterans to take part in. Those who participate receive a free medical exam, lab tests, and specialty referrals. This Agent Orange Registry can be enrolled in even if you are not enrolled in the VA health care system. 

Other benefits of enrolling in the Agent Orange Registry are that it can be used to better inform future care, and the data collected helps the VA better understand similar conditions for other veterans. 

Conclusion

Agent Orange exposure is one of the more tragic issues that the military enacted upon its own members. The link to health issues in exposed veterans and their families is still not fully understood.

If you were exposed to Agent Orange during your time in the military, it is highly recommended that you file a claim with the VA for any health issues you have experienced since. 

Need help getting started on your claim? This is the link to begin the process!

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