Agent Orange VA Disability | Military Disability Benefits Lawyers
The dense jungles of Vietnam can be difficult to navigate and unforgiving. Along with its thick foliage, diverse ecosystem, and abundance of animals, it can be even harder to travel through the jungle during the intense rainy season that lasts roughly six months out of the year. When American troops were deployed to help South Vietnam, they were often ambushed by local insurgents who supported communist North Vietnam. These insurgents, known as the Viet Cong, were well-versed in the jungle and knew how to use it to their advantage. They would often set up ambushes along trails and roads, and they would use the thick vegetation to conceal their movements. As a result, American troops were often caught off guard and suffered heavy casualties from the guerilla attacks. In an effort to protect American forces, the U.S. military authorized the use of a herbicide, known as Agent Orange, to destroy the thick jungles and crops that the Viet Cong relied on for food and concealment.
Unfortunately, Agent Orange contained dioxin, a toxic chemical that can cause a variety of health problems, including cancer, birth defects, and neurological disorders. Many veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange have developed these health problems or have also suffered from psychological problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The impact of Agent Orange on veterans has been far-reaching and devastating. Many veterans have been unable to work due to their health problems. Others have struggled to raise families and maintain relationships. Some veterans have even committed suicide.
It is both heartbreaking and infuriating that despite their commitment and sacrifice to our country, many veterans are struggling after being exposed to the effects of Agent Orange and have their claims denied by the VA. The denial of a claim not only means they are missing out on benefits they earned, but they must also bear the additional burden of financial and physical strain from the conditions caused by exposure to Agent Orange. These veterans and their families deserve our respect and compassion, as we are all forever indebted to them for their brave sacrifices.
If you are a veteran who is still experiencing health problems due to exposure to Agent Orange, you may be eligible for compensation and other benefits to help with necessary lifestyle changes. These benefits can help alleviate the financial burden of medical bills, disability accommodations, and living expenses. Today, we're sharing how this process works and what to do when your Agent Orange claim is denied by the VA.
What Is Agent Orange?
During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military sprayed different herbicides, including Agent Orange, all across southern and central Vietnam. This operation aimed to clear away leaves and other vegetation to improve visibility and make more room for military operations. In addition to the areas it directly hit with Agent Orange, the military also tested, used, and stored the solution at other locations.
Not only was Agent Orange highly toxic, but exposure levels were also incredibly high. Reports show that military personnel sprayed the solution at up to 20 times the concentration required to kill plants effectively. Not only did these exercises destroy millions of acres of forests and farmland, but they also exposed military service members to the dangerous chemicals in the herbicide, including dioxin.
It is comprised of two different chemical compounds: 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid and 2,4,5-Trichlorophenoxyacetic acid. As a result of their use, Agent Orange caused widespread devastation to Vietnam’s countryside, leading to lasting effects for people, animals, and ecosystems. Studies have linked Agent Orange exposure to an increased risk of certain cancers, neurological disorders, birth defects, and other diseases. The U.S. government has since established a compensation fund for veterans exposed to Agent Orange.
Where and When Was Agent Orange Used By The US Military?
The US military sprayed over 19 million gallons of herbicides, including Agent Orange, across South Vietnam and Guam between 1962 and 1971. They used these herbicides to clear the Vietnamese jungles' woods, trees, and other vegetation. All four of Vietnam’s military zones were sprayed, with some of the most heavily sprayed areas being inland forests near the demarcation zone and at the junction of the borders between Cambodia, South Vietnam, and Laos.
Many military veterans who served in the Vietnam War have since developed illnesses and conditions that are now thought to be caused by Agent Orange. These presumptive conditions may affect veterans based in heavily sprayed areas of Vietnam or they may affect veterans based in other parts of the country. Regardless, all veterans who served in Vietnam during the relevant time period are eligible to claim Agent Orange benefits if they have developed one of the listed Agent Orange diseases.
Agent Orange Diseases
The VA acknowledges that veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides during their service are at an increased risk for developing certain cancers and other health problems. Veterans and survivors may be eligible for VA benefits for diseases linked to Agent Orange such as:
Chronic B-cell Leukemias
Diabetes Mellitus Type 2
Hypertension (also known as High Blood Pressure)
Ischemic Heart Disease
Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS)
Peripheral Neuropathy, Early-Onset
Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
Respiratory Cancers (including lung cancer)
Soft Tissue Sarcomas (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or mesothelioma)
It's important to note that the effects of Agent Orange can take years to appear. Even if it's been decades since you were exposed to the chemicals during military service and you just recently received your medical diagnosis, it isn't too late to file a claim. As long as you can prove that you suffered from Agent Orange exposure during service and you have an associated presumptive condition, the VA must acknowledge the service connection.
In addition, you can also seek compensation to help cover the costs of birth defects suffered as a result of Agent Orange exposure. Researchers have found that rates of stillbirths and birth defects are high in veterans who were exposed to this solution. Examples of common birth defects include:
Congenital heart disease
Neural tube defects
Be the biological child of a female Vietnam Veteran who served between February 28, 1961, and May 7, 1945
Have been conceived after the date on which the Veteran first entered the Republic of Vietnam
However, children born with spina bifida (except spina bifida occulta) as a result of exposure have different eligibility requirements for benefits. To be eligible, they must be the biological child of a male or female who meets the following service conditions:
Served in Vietnam between January 9, 1962, through May 7, 1975, or
Served in or near the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) anytime between September 1, 1967 and August 31, 1971
The child must also have been conceived after the veteran entered Vietnam or the Korean DMZ during the same time period.
Establishing Service Connection
To be eligible to receive VA disability benefits, you must be able to prove that both of these statements are true:
You have a health condition that the VA recognizes is linked to Agent Orange
The VA will determine that you have a presumption of exposure if you meet certain service requirements, such as serving in certain locations during specific timeframes. A presumptive condition for toxic exposure is a condition that is accepted as related to toxic exposure, or as being caused by it, without requiring proof from medical tests or other evidence. This is most often seen in policy and legal contexts, such as when a person applies for compensation or benefits due to toxic exposure.
A veteran is presumed to have been exposed if they meet at least one of the following service requirements.
Between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, you must have served for any length of time in at least one of these locations:
In the Republic of Vietnam, or
Aboard a U.S. military vessel that operated in the inland waterways of Vietnam, or
On a vessel operating not more than 12 nautical miles seaward from the demarcation line of the waters of Vietnam and Cambodia
Or at least one of these must be true for you:
Any U.S. or Royal Thai military base in Thailand from January 9, 1962, through June 30, 1976, or
Laos from December 1, 1965, through September 30, 1969, or
Cambodia at Mimot or Krek, Kampong Cham Province from April 16, 1969, through April 30, 1969, or
Guam or American Samoa or in the territorial waters off Guam or American Samoa from January 9, 1962, through July 31, 1980, or
Johnston Atoll or on a ship that called at Johnston Atoll from January 1, 1972, through September 30, 1977
Or you must have served in at least one of these locations that the VA added based on the PACT Act:
You served in or near the Korean DMZ for any length of time between September 1, 1967, and August 31, 1971, or
You served on active duty in a regular Air Force unit location where a C-123 aircraft with traces of Agent Orange was assigned, and had repeated contact with this aircraft due to your flight, ground, or medical duties, or
You were assigned as a Reservist to certain flight, ground, or medical crew duties at one of the locations listed below.:
Lockbourne/Rickenbacker Air Force Base in Ohio, 1969 to 1986 (906th and 907th Tactical Air Groups or 355th and 356th Tactical Airlift Squadrons)
Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts, 1972 to 1982 (731st Tactical Air Squadron and 74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, or 901st Organizational Maintenance Squadron)
Pittsburgh International Airport in Pennsylvania, 1972 to 1982 (758th Airlift Squadron)
What Is The Purpose of Filing for Agent Orange Disability?
If you suffer from a condition with a presumptive service connection to your time in the military, claiming disability benefits from the VA could have the potential to massively improve your quality of life. Many veterans with service-connected conditions, such as dementia and sarcoma cancers, face significant costs due to their illnesses. These costs can include medical expenses, lost wages, and other financial burdens.
The purpose of disability compensation is to cover these costs and compensate veterans and their families for their lost time, earnings, and quality of life. Some diseases caused by chemical exposure can be treated automatically after diagnosis, while others may require more specialized care from oncologists, which can be paid for through successful claims.
At Wettermark Keith, we work closely with veterans across the U.S. to secure compensation and benefits for presumptive conditions that help veterans to cover the cost of medicine and treatment. Our legal experts can help you to prove a connection between your time in service and your exposure to dangerous chemicals and claim compensation for Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam.
Agent Orange Exposure
You cannot file a claim just because you were exposed to Agent Orange during your time in the military. You must file for an illness that’s presumed to be connected with your exposure to Agent Orange. However, many of the Agent Orange presumptive illnesses can emerge years or decades after exposure to Agent Orange. This means that, even if you only fall ill decades after your service, you may still be eligible to file a claim.
If you were exposed to Agent Orange during your time in service, you can join the Agent Orange registry to keep a closer eye on your physical health and monitor relevant conditions. The Agent Orange Registry health exam is a free exam offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in order to assist veterans who may have been exposed to herbicides used during the Vietnam War. Your doctor will ask you about possible exposure to herbicides in Vietnam and carry out basic testing to check for signs of common Agent Orange conditions.
The exam offers an evaluation of possible health effects due to herbicide exposure, health counseling, and referrals for additional VA benefits. However, the doctor administering the exam cannot confirm exposure to Agent Orange because the exam is based on the veteran's recollection of service, not their military records. A veteran does not have to be enrolled in the VA’s health care system to take the exam and it is important to note that veterans’ family members are not eligible for the exam.
Veterans can qualify for Agent Orange health services and benefits from the VA if they can provide proof that they:
- Provide medical diagnosis of health conditions that can be linked to Agent Orange exposure.
- Served in one of the qualifying locations listed below:
- In the Republic of Vietnam or aboard a U.S. military vessel that operated in the inland waterways of Vietnam or on a vessel operating not more than 12 nautical miles seaward from the demarcation line of the waters of Vietnam and Cambodia between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975
- Any U.S. or Royal Thai military base in Thailand from January 9, 1962, through June 30, 1976
- Laos from December 1, 1965, through September 30, 1969
- Cambodia at Mimot or Krek, Kapong Cham Province from April 16, 1969, through April 30, 1969
- Guam or American Samoa or in the territorial waters off Guam or American Samoa from January 9, 1962, through July 31, 1980
- Johnston Atoll or on a ship that called at Johnston Atoll from January 1, 1972, through September 30, 1977
- In or near the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) for any length of time between September 1, 1967, and August 31, 1971
- In a regular Air Force unit location where a C-123 aircraft with traces of Agent Orange was assigned, and had repeated contact with this aircraft due to your flight, ground, or medical duties
- Involved in transporting, testing, storing, or other uses of Agent Orange during your military service
- Additionally, the following reserve locations, time periods and units are eligible for Agent Orange benefits:
- Lockbourne/Rickenbacker Air Force Base in Ohio, 1969 to 1986 (906th and 907th Tactical Air Groups or 355th and 356th Tactical Airlift Squadrons)
- Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts, 1972 to 1982 (731st Tactical Air Squadron and 74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, or 901st Organizational Maintenance Squadron)
- Pittsburgh International Airport in Pennsylvania, 1972 to 1982 (758th Airlift Squadron)
What is the PACT Act?
Veterans and their survivors who have been exposed to common toxic substances like burn pits and Agent Orange now have access to improved care and benefits through the PACT (Presumptive Benefits for War Time Exposure Act) Act.
This new law extends VA health care and other benefits by assuming or presuming a set of health conditions are the result of exposure to such substances, as well as providing Veterans with the care and benefits they need and are deserving of.
The PACT Act expands and extends eligibility for VA health care for Veterans with toxic exposures, those who served in the Vietnam, Gulf War, and post-9/11 eras. It adds more than 20 presumptive conditions to cover burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic exposures, as well as additional presumptive-exposure locations for Agent Orange and radiation.
The act also calls for VA to give a toxic exposure screening to every Veteran enrolled in VA health care, to further improve research, staff education, and treatment related to these exposures. Veterans and survivors of Veterans may take advantage of these PACT Act-related benefits by filing claims right away.
What additional presumptive conditions related to exposure to Agent Orange will the VA recognize?
Based on the PACT Act, two new Agent Orange presumptive conditions have been added by the VA: hypertension and monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS). In addition to these, you may be eligible for disability compensation for other conditions linked to Agent Orange exposure, such as certain cancers, type 2 diabetes, and other illnesses.
For a full list of Agent Orange's presumptive conditions, please follow the link here. If you believe you qualify for VA health care benefits, then we strongly encourage you to apply now.
Will VA be adding any additional presumptive locations for Agent Orange exposure?
The VA has included five additional presumable locations in the list: any U.S. or Royal Thai military bases in Thailand from January 9, 1962, to June 30, 1976, Laos from December 1, 1965, to September 30, 1969, Mimot and Krek in Kampong Cham Province, Cambodia from April 16, 1969, to April 30, 1969, Guam and American Samoa, or the territorial waters off of those locales, from January 9, 1962, to July 31, 1980, and Johnston Atoll or ships that called there from January 1, 1972, to September 30, 1977.
If you served in any of these areas, the VA will presume that you were exposed to Agent Orange.
Filing a VA Disability Claim
If you believe that you're suffering from a condition that you can link back to Agent Orange exposure, the first step is to file a claim with the VA. You can file a claim in a few different ways, including:
Evidence to Include
When reviewing your disability claim, the VA will want to see evidence of your condition, as well as how it relates to your time in active military service. To prove these facts, you will need to provide two important documents:
A medical record that states you have a health condition related to Agent Orange
Military records that show you were exposed to Agent Orange during your time in service (e.g. discharge or separation papers)
These are the only two forms you will need as long as you have a condition that's included on the VA's list of Agent Orange presumptive conditions. If your condition is not on this list, you will also need to provide at least one of the following:
Evidence that shows the problem originated or worsened during your military service
Scientific/medical evidence linking your condition to Agent Orange (e.g. published study or medical journal article)
Appealing a Decision
If the VA denies your request for any reason, you have the right to appeal. An experienced veterans disability lawyer that is accredited by the VA can help you navigate the appeals process and fight for the benefits you deserve. It is important to select an attorney who is accredited by the VA to ensure they have the experience and knowledge to represent your veteran's disability claim. Not all law firms are accredited by the VA or have experience with filing an appeal for veterans. When choosing an attorney, be sure to ask about their experience with veterans disability claims, their fees, and their success rate. You should also feel comfortable with the attorney and confident that they will fight for your rights.
Veterans Seeking Compensation for Agent Orange Effects and Conditions
Are you a veteran who was exposed to Agent Orange effects during the specified time periods, and now you're experiencing a health concern? If so, there could be a connection between your chemical exposure and the symptoms you're suffering.
By filing a claim with the VA, you can fight to make sure you get the compensation you deserve. If the VA denies your claim for any reason, our team at Wettermark Keith is here to help you work through the appeal process.
Wettermark Keith is dedicated to helping veterans who are suffering from the effects of Agent Orange. Our firm is uniquely suited to provide specialized and effective legal help in such cases.
Our experienced attorneys are accredited by the VA to handle disability claims for veterans suffering from conditions related to Agent Orange exposure. We are committed to providing lifelong legal service to veterans and their families. We understand the enormous emotional and financial toll that Agent Orange exposure can have and are eager to assist veterans in their mission of getting the care and advocacy they deserve.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about the services we provide.
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