Viet Nam Era Veterans and Agent Orange
What is Agent Orange?
Agent Orange was one of the weed-killing chemicals used by the U.S. military in the Vietnam War. It was sprayed to remove leaves from trees that enemy troops hid behind. Agent Orange and similar chemicals were known as “herbicides.” Agent Orange was applied by airplanes, helicopters, trucks and backpack sprayers.
As a Vietnam Veteran, What Kind of Benefits Can I Get?
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pays disability compensation to Vietnam veterans with injuries or diseases that began in, or were aggravated by, their military service. These are called “service-connected” disabilities. VA has several pamphlets describing VA benefits. They are available on the Internet at: www.va.gov/publ/direc/eds/edspamph.htm. If you do not have Internet access at home, you can get free access at most public libraries. Publications are also available at your VA Regional Office or by calling these offices at 1-800-827-1000.
How Much Compensation Will I Get?
Monthly payment rates are based on the veteran’s combined rating for his or her service-connected disabilities. These ratings are based on the severity of the disabilities. Additional amounts are paid to certain veterans with severe disabilities (“special monthly compensation”) and certain veterans with dependents.
Who Can Get Benefits?
Under the law, veterans who served in Vietnam between 1962 and 1975 (including those who visited Vietnam even briefly), and who have a disease that VA recognizes as being associated with Agent Orange, are presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange.
These veterans are eligible for service-connected compensation based on their service, if they have one of the diseases on VA’s list of “Diseases associated with exposure to certain herbicide agents.” This list is found in VA’s regulation, Section 3.309(e), in title 38 of the Code of Federal Regulations. VA updates this list regularly based on reports from the National Academy of Sciences, an independent research and education institution.
Diseases Associated With Exposure to Agent Orange
These are the diseases which VA currently presumes resulted from exposure to herbicides like Agent Orange. The law requires that some of these diseases be at least 10% disabling under VA’s rating regulations within a deadline that began to run the day you left Vietnam. If there is a deadline, it is listed in parentheses after the name of the disease.
- Chloracne or other acneform disease consistent with chloracne. (Must occur within one year of exposure to Agent Orange).
- Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
- Diabetes Mellitus, Type II
- Hodgkin’s disease.
- Multiple myeloma.
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
- Acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy. (For purposes of this section, the term acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy means temporary peripheral neuropathy that appears within weeks or months of exposure to an herbicide agent and resolves within two years of the date of onset.)
- Porphyria cutanea tarda. (Must occur within one year of exposure to Agent Orange).
- Prostate cancer.
- Respiratory cancers (cancer of the lung, bronchus, larynx, or trachea).
- Soft-tissue sarcoma (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or mesothelioma).
What If I Served in Vietnam and Have a Disease Not on VA’s List
If you served in Vietnam and believe that you have a disease caused by herbicide exposure, but that disease is not on VA’s list of diseases associated with herbicides like Agent Orange, you may still apply for service-connection. Such a veteran needs to establish entitlement to service connection on a “direct” (rather than “presumptive”) basis. In these cases, VA requires:
- competent medical evidence of a current disability;
- competent evidence of exposure to an herbicide in Vietnam; and
- competent medical evidence of a nexus (causal relationship) between the herbicide exposure and the current disability.
How Can I Apply for VA Benefits?
To apply for benefits, apply on-line or send the VA Regional Office a letter stating that you have a specific health problem and that you claim it is due to your exposure to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam . This is called an informal claim and will set the effective date for your benefits payments, if your claim is granted. The VA Regional Office will then send you an application form, which you must fill out and return. To get the address of your VA Regional Office, call 1-800-827-1000.
VA Medical Care
Even if you decide not to file a claim for VA compensation benefits based on Agent Orange, you can still get a free physical examination at the nearest VA Medical Center. This is called the Agent Orange Registry Exam. This exam consists of four parts: an exposure history, a medical history, laboratory tests and a physical exam of those body systems most commonly affected by toxic chemicals. This exam might detect diseases which can be treated more effectively the earlier they are diagnosed. You may also be entitled to free ongoing medical treatment at a VA medical facility. Information on VA health care is available on the Internet at: www.va.gov/vbs/health/index.htm.
More information can be found at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Agent Orange Web page.