What is Agent Orange?
“Agent Orange” refers to a mix of tactical herbicides the U.S. military sprayed in the jungles of Vietnam and around the Korean demilitarized zone to remove trees and dense tropical foliage that provided enemy cover. Herbicides were also used by the U.S. military to defoliate military facilities in the U.S. and in other countries as far back as the 1950s.
When is Agent Orange exposure presumed?
VA presumes that Veterans were exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides if they served:
In Vietnam anytime between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975, including brief visits ashore or service aboard a ship that operated on the inland waterways of Vietnamin or near the Korean demilitarized zone anytime between April 1, 1968 and August 31, 1971
What does presumed exposure to Agent Orange mean?
The “presumptive policy” makes it easier for veterans to prove their disability claims. Specifically, if exposure to Agent Orange is presumed, the veteran does not need to submit evidence of actual exposure to Agent Orange.
How do you prove actual exposure when exposure to Agent Orange is not presumed?
Even if you did not serve in Vietnam or the Korean demilitarized zone during the specified time periods, you can still apply for disability compensation if you were exposed to an herbicide while in the military and believe it led to the onset of a disease. This includes:
- Veterans who served on or near the perimeters of military bases in Thailand during the Vietnam Era;
- Veterans who served where herbicides were tested and stored outside of Vietnam;
- Veterans who were crewmembers on C-123 planes flown after the Vietnam War; and
- Veterans associated with Department of Defense (DoD) projects to test, dispose of, or store herbicides in the U.S.
Which diseases are presumed to have been caused by Agent Orange Exposure?
The VA presumes the following diseases are caused by exposure to Agent Orange:
- AL Amyloidosis - a rare disease caused when an abnormal protein, amyloid, enters tissues or organs;
- Chronic B-cell Leukemia - a type of cancer which affects white blood cells;
- Chloracne (or similar acneform disease) - 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;
- Diabetes Mellitus Type 2 – disease characterized by high blood sugar levels resulting from the body’s inability to respond properly to the hormone insulin;
- Hodgkin’s Disease – malignant lymphoma (cancer) characterized by progressive enlargement of the lymph nodes, liver, and spleen, and by progressive anemia;
- Ischemic Heart Disease – disease characterized by a reduced supply of blood to the heart, that leads to chest pain;
- Multiple Myeloma – cancer of plasma cells, a type of white blood cell in bone marrow;
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – group of cancers that affect the lymph glands and other lymphatic tissue;
- Parkinson’s Disease – progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects muscle movement;
- Peripheral Neuropathy, Early-Onset – nervous system condition that causes numbness, tingling, and motor weakness. Under VA’s rating regulations, it must be at least 10 percent disabling within one year of herbicide exposure;
- Porphyria Cutanea Tarda – 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 - 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) – group of different types of cancers in body tissues such as muscle, fat, blood and lymph vessels, and connective tissues;
- Children with Birth Defects – VA presumes certain birth defects in children of Vietnam and Korea Veterans associated with Veterans’ qualifying military service; and
- Veterans with Lou Gehrig’s Disease – VA presumes Lou Gehrig’s Disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS) diagnosed in all Veterans who had 90 days or more continuous active military service is related to their service, although ALS is not related to Agent Orange exposure.
Assuming Agent Orange exposure, what evidence is needed to prove your disability claim?
If you are seeking service connection for one of the diseases VA presumes is associated with exposure to herbicides during service, VA requires the following:
- A medical diagnosis of a disease which VA recognizes as being associated with Agent Orange (listed above);
- Competent evidence of service in Vietnam or at or near the Korean demilitarized zone during the dates shown above; or exposure to herbicides in a location other than the Vietnam or the Korean demilitarized zone; and
- Competent medical evidence that the disease began within the deadline (if any). (See 38 CFR 3.307(a)(6)(ii) for more information on deadlines.)
If you believe that you have a disease caused by herbicide exposure, but that disease is not on the list of diseases associated with Agent Orange, you may still apply for service-connection. In these cases, VA requires all of the following:
- Competent medical evidence of a current disability;
- Competent medical evidence of an actual connection between herbicide exposure and the current disability; and
- Competent evidence of service in Vietnam or at or near the Korean demilitarized zone during the dates shown above, or exposure to herbicides in a location other than Vietnam or the Korean demilitarized zone.