The VA presumes that veterans who had “boots on the ground” in the Republic of Vietnam or served in the country’s inland waterways or territorial waters during the war (January 9, 1962 – May 7, 1975) were exposed to herbicides, including Agent Orange. The U.S. military used herbicides during the war to clear the thick vegetation that characterizes much of Vietnam, so they could more easily monitor what was going on around them and detect any potential attacks before they happened. In 2019, a court case decided that the approximately 90,000 veterans who served in Vietnam’s territorial waters, or within 12 nautical miles of the coast, were included in the exposed group.
It’s important to determine if a Vietnam veteran was exposed to herbicides because there is a list of conditions the VA presumes were caused by that exposure, and if the veteran’s condition is on that list, they can get VA disability (compensation) benefits. In other words, if a veteran served in the war, in one of the locations required for herbicide exposure to be presumed, the VA will automatically award VA benefits if they have any of the listed conditions. These benefits provide a monthly, cash payment for veterans. As of the date of this blog, the conditions on the list include:
|Chronic B-cell leukemia||Hodgkin’s Disease|
|Multiple Myeloma||Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma|
|Prostate cancer||Respiratory cancer (including lung cancer)|
|Bladder cancer||Some soft tissue sarcomas|
|Parkinson’s disease||Parkinson’s-like symptoms|
|Hypothyroidism||Chloracne (or similar diseases)|
|Diabetes type 2||Peripheral neuropathy (early onset)|
|AL amyloidosis||Ischemic heart disease|
|Porphyria cutanea tarda|
The VA normally requires an official medical diagnosis to agree that a veteran has one of these conditions. However, if the veteran does not have a doctor or a diagnosis, they should still apply for compensation benefits and include a statement as to why they believe they have a certain condition, and include proof if possible. The VA must schedule a Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam if it appears that an exam will help resolve the veteran’s claim, and as a result of that examination, the veteran might be diagnosed with a listed condition. For more on C&P examinations, read my blog – https://veteranspractice.com/2018/03/22/how-to-handle-a-cp-examination/.
Once a veteran is diagnosed with a condition on the list and the VA confirms they were in one of the designated areas of Vietnam, during the prescribed dates, they will receive disability benefits. How much of a benefit the veteran would get every month depends on how severe the condition is, determined by the VA’s rating. I would explain how ratings work now but I already have! Please refer to my blog about ratings, which you can find here: https://veteranspractice.com/2019/07/17/va-ratings-what-are-they-and-how-do-they-work/.
Advocates are consistently urging the VA to add more conditions onto the list presumed caused by Agent Orange and other herbicides and I believe the VA will likely do so in the future, so it’s worth keeping tabs on what conditions are on the list. For more information or if you have questions, feel free to contact Catherine Cornell at the Veterans Practice. Thanks for reading!