What are the Long-Term Effects of Agent Orange?

Key Takeaways

Agent Orange exposure has long-term effects on veterans and their dependents.
Agent Orange contains a toxic dioxin that causes health conditions and disabilities.
Long-term health effects include an increased risk of cancer, birth defects, and more.
Veterans and their families can seek benefits from the VA.
Benefits include disability compensation, healthcare, and more.
Dependents of veterans exposed to Agent Orange may also be eligible for benefits.
If denied benefits, individuals can appeal the decision with the assistance of a VA attorney.

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What are the Long-Term Effects of Agent Orange?

Key Takeaways

Agent Orange exposure has long-term effects on veterans and their dependents.
Agent Orange contains a toxic dioxin that causes health conditions and disabilities.
Long-term health effects include an increased risk of cancer, birth defects, and more.
Veterans and their families can seek benefits from the VA.
Benefits include disability compensation, healthcare, and more.
Dependents of veterans exposed to Agent Orange may also be eligible for benefits.
If denied benefits, individuals can appeal the decision with the assistance of a VA attorney.

In the late 1960s and early 70s, American youth were pulled from the comfort of their homes and drafted into the stifling heat and thick jungles of Vietnam. The war was confusing and controversial, and as the years went on, opposition grew louder in the streets and campuses back home. But for those in the field, the challenges were immediate and life-altering. Drafted American soldiers faced more than just the Viet Cong. They were pitted against a new kind of adversary - one that they couldn't see, smell, or fully understand at the time. Agent Orange, a toxic herbicide, was used as a part of Operation Ranch Hand to clear the dense jungles and expose hidden enemy forces. Agent Orange clung to their uniforms, soaked their skin, and filled their lungs - causing complications that would follow them and their children for decades.

The long-term health consequences of Agent Orange exposure are severe and well-documented. Vietnam veterans experience increased rates of various cancers, including prostate, lung, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Other conditions, such as Parkinson's disease, peripheral neuropathy, and type 2 diabetes, have also been associated with exposure.

For veterans and dependents affected by Agent Orange, benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are often necessary to manage the long-lasting effects of their exposure. However, the application process for these benefits can be extensive, requiring comprehensive documentation and evidence. To navigate this process effectively, it’s important to understand both the long term effects of Agent Orange and what types of VA benefits are available to veterans and their families.

What is Agent Orange, Exactly?

Agent Orange, an herbicide used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War, was employed as a part of “Operation Ranch Hand” to enhance visibility of enemy targets by clearing vegetation. It consisted of equal parts 2, 4 - Dichlorophenoxyacetic (2, 4 - D) and 2, 4, 5-Trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T), but was contaminated with a highly toxic compound known as 2, 3, 7, 8 - Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). This highly toxic dioxin persists in the environment for extended periods, leading to gradual health effects among exposed individuals.

The long-term implications of TCDD exposure became clear over time as research linked it to an array of severe health conditions, including cancer, type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and peripheral neuropathy. More alarmingly, the impact extends to the next generation, with offspring of exposed individuals showing a greater likelihood of birth defects. Agent Orange had a profound, enduring effect on American veterans, damaging not just those who were directly exposed, but the generations after them.

Double exposure Silhouette of Soldier on the United States flag in sunset for Veterans Day is an official USA public holiday background,copy space.

Common Long-Term Health Effects of Agent Orange

Exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange can result in enduring health consequences for both Vietnam War veterans and their families, spanning over the long term. Some of these long-term effects include:

Cancer

Research has established a correlation between exposure to Agent Orange and an elevated incidence of several cancer types, such as prostate cancer, lung cancer, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Studies indicate that veterans exposed to Agent Orange face a higher risk of developing these cancers compared to those unexposed. Moreover, evidence suggests that the offspring of exposed individuals may also exhibit an augmented susceptibility to certain forms of cancer.

Birth Defects

Extensive evidence supports the connection between Agent Orange exposure and the occurrence of birth defects, notably spina bifida. Spina bifida is a neural tube defect that arises when the spinal column fails to fully close during the fetal developmental stage. Research has demonstrated that the risk of spina bifida is greater among the offspring of individuals exposed to Agent Orange in comparison to the general population.

Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's disease is a progressive neurological disorder characterized by movement impairments. Studies have indicated a potential association between Agent Orange exposure and an elevated risk of developing Parkinson's disease, although the precise mechanism behind this link remains incompletely understood.

Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy is a form of nerve damage that manifests as weakness, numbness, and pain in the hands and feet. Research has revealed a potential correlation between exposure to Agent Orange and an augmented likelihood of developing peripheral neuropathy, although the severity of the condition can fluctuate significantly.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a medical condition characterized by insufficient insulin production or impaired insulin utilization by the body. Some evidence indicates that exposure to Agent Orange could potentially elevate the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, although the precise mechanism behind this relationship remains partially unclear.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) is a progressive respiratory illness that hampers the ability to breathe. Research has indicated a potential connection between exposure to Agent Orange and an elevated risk of developing COPD, although the severity of the disease can differ significantly.

Ischemic Heart Disease

Ischemic heart disease refers to a cardiovascular condition resulting from diminished blood flow to the heart. Evidence suggests a potential association between exposure to Agent Orange and an amplified risk of developing ischemic heart disease, although the precise mechanism underlying this relationship remains incompletely understood.

If you or a loved one has been exposed to Agent Orange, it is essential to reach out to a healthcare provider for screening of potential adverse health conditions. These conditions can vary significantly in their severity, and not everyone exposed to Agent Orange will necessarily develop them. However, it is crucial to promptly detect and diagnose these issues to ensure the availability of the most effective treatment options.

Agent Orange Exposure and VA Benefits

Agent Orange Registry

The Agent Orange Registry is a program administered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide specialized medical evaluations to eligible Vietnam War veterans who may have been exposed to Agent Orange. By proactively screening and evaluating veterans, the registry helps identify long-term health conditions that may be related to Agent Orange exposure during military service.

When a veteran enrolls in the registry, they will undergo a free and comprehensive medical examination focused on identifying potential conditions connected to contact with Agent Orange. The exam will review the veteran's full medical and service history, including details on when and where they served in Vietnam along with duties that may have led to contact with Agent Orange.

During the exam, the veteran will receive various diagnostic tests and assessments tailored to detect conditions linked to dioxin exposure, such as soft tissue sarcomas, lung cancer, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. Additionally, the veteran can discuss any concerns about their health or Agent Orange exposure with an experienced VA physician.

Participation in the Agent Orange Registry provides veterans several key benefits:

It allows early evaluation and proactive screening for Agent Orange related conditions, ensuring timely medical care and attention;

It establishes a comprehensive baseline understanding of the veteran's health status related to potential Agent Orange exposure - an important reference point for monitoring and caring for the veteran's health over time;

Crucially, it provides medical documentation to support filing disability claims for conditions related to Agent Orange exposure while in service.

Disability Compensation

Veterans who can establish a connection between their health condition and exposure to Agent Orange may be eligible for disability compensation through the VA. The amount of compensation provided is determined based on the severity of the condition and the degree to which it affects the veteran's daily life and functioning.

The VA uses a rating system ranging from 0 to 100% to evaluate the impact of the condition, assigning a disability rating percentage that corresponds to a specific level of compensation. For instance, a veteran with a 30% rating may receive lower compensation compared to someone with a 70% rating, who is deemed to have more severe impairments. This compensation is meant to provide financial support and acknowledgment of the challenges faced by veterans due to their service-related health conditions.

Importantly, veterans also have the opportunity to appeal their disability rating if they believe it does not accurately reflect the severity of their condition. New medical evidence can be submitted, and in some cases, additional evaluations may be conducted to reassess the rating. If you’re seeking an appeal, consider contacting Wettermark Keith’s VA disability lawyers at 877-715-9300. We’ve handled cases like yours before and are fully prepared to advocate for the benefits you deserve.

The 2022 PACT Act

The Presumptive Agent Orange Conditions for Veterans (PACT) Act was passed in August 2022 to address the difficulties that veterans who had been exposed to Agent Orange face when attempting to claim their VA benefits. The PACT Act amends Title 38 of the U.S. Code for VA benefits to consider an expanded list of conditions as “presumed” to be service-connected.

This presumptive status means that a veteran does not need to prove that their illness is linked to their service to qualify for disability compensation. Instead, the VA would presume that their condition is service-related if the veteran served in a location during a time period when they could have been exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides.

Although the PACT Act was not specifically intended for surviving spouses and dependents, if it were to pass, it would still indirectly benefit them. With more conditions being recognized as service-related due to exposure to Agent Orange, the likelihood of their veteran's death being classified as "service-connected" would increase. This designation is vital because surviving spouses, children, and parents are only eligible for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) from the VA if their veteran's death is service-connected.

 

Presumptive Conditions for Agent Orange Exposure

Through the PACT Act, the VA established a list of "presumptive conditions" that are automatically considered service-connected for veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, as well as a few other locations and deployments. If a veteran has one of these conditions and can demonstrate that they were exposed to Agent Orange during service, they will be eligible for the VA’s disability compensation and other benefits.

According to the PACT Act, these presumptive conditions include:

AL Amyloidosis

Chronic B-cell Leukemias

Chloracne

Diabetes Mellitus Type 2

Hodgkin's Disease

Ischemic Heart Disease

Multiple Myeloma

Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Parkinson's Disease

Peripheral Neuropathy, Early-Onset

Porphyria Cutanea Tarda

Prostate Cancer

Respiratory Cancers (including lung cancer)

Soft Tissue Sarcomas (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi's sarcoma, or mesothelioma)

In addition to these presumptive conditions, veterans and survivors exposed to Agent Orange may be eligible for benefits through other conditions not on the presumptive list. To receive benefits, veterans or survivors must show that there is a link between the veteran’s military service and condition by providing evidence, medical records and documentation of their exposure to Agent Orange.

Aside from VA Disability Compensation, veteran benefits for Agent Orange exposure (or other conditions) may include:

Healthcare

Eligible Vietnam War veterans exposed to Agent Orange can receive comprehensive healthcare services from the VA to address the specific conditions associated with their exposure. The VA provides a range of medical services, including medical examinations, diagnostic tests, treatments, and medications tailored to address the health issues linked to Agent Orange exposure. These services aim to alleviate symptoms, manage chronic conditions, and improve the overall well-being of affected veterans. By offering specialized care and ongoing support, the VA strives to meet the unique healthcare needs of veterans impacted by Agent Orange, ensuring they have access to the necessary medical resources for their condition.

Survivor Benefits

Survivor benefits, including Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), are available to eligible dependents of veterans who passed away due to a service-connected disability associated with Agent Orange exposure. These benefits serve to provide financial support and assistance to the surviving family members, acknowledging the loss they have experienced and recognizing the sacrifices made by the veteran. DIC benefits can help alleviate the financial burden and provide a measure of stability for dependents in the aftermath of their loved one's passing. It is important for eligible dependents to explore these benefits and understand the application process to ensure they receive the support they are entitled to.

Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Program

Veterans with service-connected disabilities, including those attributed to Agent Orange exposure, have access to a range of employment support services. These services are aimed at assisting veterans in all aspects of their employment journey. This support can include vocational rehabilitation and career counseling to explore suitable job options, skill development and training programs to enhance employability, job placement assistance to connect veterans with potential employers, and on-the-job accommodations to ensure a successful transition and sustained employment.

Additionally, there are programs and incentives available to encourage employers to hire veterans with disabilities, further promoting their integration into the workforce. These employment support services play a crucial role in empowering veterans to overcome challenges and achieve meaningful and sustainable employment outcomes.
As the eligibility criteria and benefits for these programs can vary, it may help to contact one of our VA attorneys for the most accurate and up-to-date information

How Agent Orange Effects the Dependents of Vietnam War Veterans

When a veteran is exposed to Agent Orange during service, their dependents may also be affected later in life - emotionally, financially, and physically. Providing ongoing care can be difficult financially, and losing a loved one prematurely is devastating. Families may struggle to cope with grief and pay off medical bills and funeral costs. Some conditions linked to second-hand exposure, like spina bifida, also put dependents at higher health risk. Below are some of the key benefits the VA offers to surviving spouses and dependents:

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)

DIC provides monthly tax-free payments to the surviving spouse and dependent children of a veteran who died from a service-related illness, including those linked to Agent Orange like lung cancer or non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. DIC aims to replace lost income and compensate for the family's loss. Payments are adjusted annually based on cost of living. Surviving spouses may receive additional allowances to aid assisted living and health care. Children are eligible for DIC until age 18, or age 23 if pursuing a full-time education.

Survivors Pension

The Survivors Pension supplies supplemental income to low-income surviving dependents of deceased wartime veterans or those fully disabled for non-service related reasons. Pension amounts depend on the survivor's income level and whether assisted living is required. This benefit aims to raise the dependent's overall income level and help cover basic living expenses. Eligibility is reassessed annually through submitted paperwork.

Education and Training Assistance

Qualifying dependents can access financial aid for education through programs like the Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance (DEA) program. This covers up to 45 months of tuition, housing, books, and supplies for degree and certificate programs at approved institutions. Counseling is also available to help dependents select an appropriate field based on interests and aptitudes. Education aid enables survivors to pursue college and advance their career opportunities.

Health Care

CHAMPVA provides comprehensive low-cost health care, including inpatient/outpatient treatment, mental health services, and prescriptions to eligible survivors and dependents of veterans. Covered services range from routine checkups to surgery for injuries and illnesses. Enrollees can receive care from any approved provider to meet their medical needs. On top of CHAMPVA, other VA plans may offer dental, vision, or long-term care coverage.

Connecting with an accredited VA attorney can help dependents navigate eligibility and apply for these vital benefits. While nothing can fully compensate for the losses endured, VA assistance can provide some measure of acknowledgment and financial security.

How to File for Agent Orange Disability Benefits:

Filing an Agent Orange disability claim with the VA is a complex, multi-step process.

You can file a claim for Agent Orange exposure with the VA in three ways:

Online using the VA.gov website;

By calling a VA representative or agent;

In person at a regional VA office.

For assistance, you can call the Agent Orange help line at 800-749-8387 or send an email to GW/AOHelpline@vba.va.gov

Carefully following the steps listed below will help ensure you submit a strong claim:

1. Gather Supporting Documents

Obtain medical records that provide an official diagnosis and treatment history for your claimed condition. This proves you have the illness and it's not just a temporary complaint.

Get military service records showing you served on the ground in Vietnam or its inland waterways during the Vietnam War period. This verifies you meet the Agent Orange exposure criteria.

Look for "buddy statements" from fellow veterans attesting to your presence in a sprayed area. These help corroborate Agent Orange contact.

Collect personal statements detailing your duties in Vietnam and first-hand experience of herbicide exposure.

2. Confirm Your Eligibility

Review eligibility rules on the VA's website to ensure you qualify based on service history, medical condition, and timing of symptom onset.

Research the list of presumptive medical conditions the VA recognizes as related to Agent Orange so you can claim one.

If your condition is not on the presumptive list, still gather evidence that it is just as likely caused by dioxin exposure.

3. Complete the Application Form

Request a VA Form 21-526EZ from the VA and fully complete all required sections.

Provide every detail requested, while being honest and consistent throughout your responses.

Double check for errors and obtain help filling out the form if needed. Mistakes can delay processing.

4. Submit Your Claim

Mail the completed form to your VA regional office or submit online if possible. Send original copies of supporting documents as well.

Request delivery confirmation and keep the tracking number to prove your claim was received.

5. Undergo a C&P Exam If Needed

If the VA requires it, promptly schedule a C&P exam with an approved doctor to evaluate your disability.

Answer the doctor's questions thoroughly and inform them of all your symptoms to get an accurate rating.

Request a copy of the exam report be added to your claim.

6. Wait for the VA's Decision

It may take 3-6 months to get a decision. Complex claims can take over a year. Regularly contact the VA for status updates.

If denied, consider filing a supplemental claim or requesting a higher-level review before starting a formal appeal. New evidence can be submitted. You also have the option to immediately file a Notice of Disagreement to appeal.

Consider hiring a VA-accredited attorney to assist with appeals and provide advice.

What Happens if You are Denied VA Compensation Benefits?

In the event of a denial of VA benefits for Agent Orange, you have the right to appeal the decision. While the appeals process can be complex, it is crucial to pursue an appeal if you believe you are entitled to Agent Orange benefits. To begin this appeal, we recommend that you contact one of our accredited VA attorneys to guide you through the process.

Before starting a formal appeal, consider filing a supplemental claim or requesting a higher-level review to have your case re-reviewed. If those options are unsuccessful, we recommend contacting one of our accredited VA attorneys to guide you through filing a Notice of Disagreement to formally begin the appeal process.

Once your appeal has been filed, the VA will conduct a thorough review of your Agent Orange benefits case. Your case will be presented to the Board of Veterans' Appeals, where a judge will carefully assess the evidence and reach a decision. If you remain dissatisfied with the outcome, you may have the option to further appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. 

During this appeals process, it's crucial to understand that Vietnam War veterans can request back pay of benefits. The VA will provide retroactive compensation dating back to when the original claim was filed. The VA provides back pay from when the claim was first filed—not preceding years. To maximize potential back pay, we advise starting the appeals process as soon as possible after a denial. For the greatest amount of back pay, we recommend you contact an attorney and initiate the appeal process without delay. Seeking guidance from an accredited VA attorney can significantly improve your chances of a successful appeal. 

Wettermark Keith: Ensuring Vietnam Veterans Obtain the Benefits They Deserve

If your Agent Orange benefits claim is denied, take action quickly. We have the expertise to guide you through the complex appeals process - and our VA-accredited lawyers understand exactly what it takes to build a strong appeal and finally get you the benefits this country owes you for your service.

Our attorneys are prepared to craft persuasive arguments to challenge the VA’s denial decision. We will handle all complicated paperwork and procedures for you, thoroughly review your case, gather additional evidence as needed, and seek to prove that your long term health effects connect to your Agent Orange exposure during service.
Don't let a VA denial stand in the way of receiving your disability pay and health coverage. Call 877-715-9300 today for a free consultation with Wettermark Keith’s accredited VA attorneys, or contact us through our website.

With offices located throughout Alabama, Tennessee, and Florida, Wettermark Keith has an excellent reputation as one of the most accomplished personal injury firms in the country. We have a diverse range of practice areas, including VA Disability claims. We practice with care and compassion, making sure we understand your disability and convey that to the VA as best as we can. We do this by building strong relationships based on constant communication, trust, and a dedication to the truth. Caring for you is our goal, and winning is just how we show it.

Frequently Asked Questions

The half-life of TCDD, the primary dioxin found in Agent Orange, is generally estimated to be around 7-11 years in humans. This means that within that time frame, approximately half of the TCDD present in the body will be eliminated. However, it's important to understand that dioxins are persistent chemicals that tend to accumulate in fatty tissues, leading to a prolonged presence in the body.

While the half-life provides an estimation of elimination, it does not imply that TCDD completely disappears from the body after this period. Some dioxins can persist in the body for many years, highlighting the potential for long-term effects resulting from Agent Orange exposure. The accumulation of dioxins in fatty tissues and their slow elimination contribute to the lasting impact on health and the need for ongoing monitoring and support for individuals exposed to Agent Orange.

Exposure to Agent Orange has been strongly correlated with a range of health issues. This potent herbicide has been identified as a carcinogen, meaning it has the potential to cause cancer. Several types of cancer have been linked to Agent Orange exposure, including soft tissue sarcoma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and others.

In addition to cancer, Agent Orange exposure can lead to various non-cancerous health conditions. These include diabetes, chloracne (a severe skin condition characterized by acne-like eruptions), respiratory disorders, heart disease, peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage affecting the limbs), and various reproductive issues.The detrimental impact of Agent Orange on health underscores the need for continued research, support, and medical care for individuals who have been exposed. By understanding the full extent of the health effects associated with Agent Orange, we can better address the needs of those affected and develop strategies to mitigate the long-term consequences of exposure.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recognizes a list of 14 health conditions as being presumptively associated with exposure to Agent Orange. These conditions are:

  • Chronic B-cell Leukemias
  • Hodgkin's Disease
  • Multiple Myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Respiratory Cancers (lung, bronchus, larynx, or trachea)
  • Soft Tissue Sarcomas
  • AL Amyloidosis
  • Chloracne
  • Diabetes Mellitus Type 2
  • Ischemic Heart Disease
  • Parkinson's Disease
  • Peripheral Neuropathy, Early-Onset
  • Porphyria Cutanea Tarda

Exposure to Agent Orange, particularly the dioxin TCDD, has raised concerns about potential neurological effects. Studies have suggested a possible correlation between Agent Orange exposure and an elevated risk of developing Parkinson's disease, a progressive neurological disorder characterized by motor impairment. However, the precise mechanisms by which Agent Orange impacts the brain are still being explored, as the intricate neural networks and complex interactions with TCDD require further investigation.

Scientists are actively engaged in unraveling how TCDD may disrupt neurological pathways and contribute to the development of Parkinson's disease and other neurological conditions associated with Agent Orange exposure. By deepening our understanding of these mechanisms, researchers aim to enhance our knowledge of the long term effects of Agent Orange on the brain and develop strategies for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. Continued research in this field is essential for advancing our understanding and providing support for individuals affected by Agent Orange exposure.

Yes, Agent Orange exposure can have long term health effects. Many of the associated health conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and neurological disorders, can develop years or even decades after exposure. The latency period for some of these conditions can be significant, and individuals exposed to Agent Orange should monitor their health and seek appropriate medical care if needed. One of the remarkable aspects of Agent Orange-related health conditions is the latency period associated with them. This means that the onset of these conditions may not occur immediately after exposure but can take a considerable amount of time.

This highlights the importance of ongoing monitoring and regular check-ups to detect any potential health issues that may arise in the future. By staying informed about the potential health risks associated with Agent Orange exposure and maintaining a proactive approach to healthcare, individuals can take necessary precautions and seek timely treatment if any symptoms or concerns arise. Consulting with healthcare professionals who are knowledgeable about the long term effects of Agent Orange exposure can provide valuable guidance and support in managing and addressing any health challenges that may arise.

Agent Orange exposure can affect both individuals directly exposed to it and their immediate offspring. While ongoing research aims to understand potential transgenerational effects, the current scientific evidence remains inconclusive regarding the direct impact of Agent Orange on future generations beyond the offspring of those exposed.

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