You may be aware that the Department of Veterans Affairs has expanded the locations military members may have been exposed to the weed killer known as Agent Orange when considering medical and disability claims.
The VA has added service aboard ships within 12 nautical miles of the coast of Vietnam and Cambodia to the list of what can qualify veterans and their children for possible health care and disability benefits due to exposure to the defoliant. Previously, only those who served on the ground or on inland rivers could claim that exposure to the chemical made them ill. Veterans groups have long argued that military members came into contact with the chemical onboard ships while loading aircraft and conducting other operations.
Agent Orange was a weed killer sprayed on the jungles of Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War to eliminate forest cover and crops for North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops. The name "Agent Orange" came from the orange identifying stripe used on the 55-gallon drums in which it was stored.
The new law adds an estimated 420,000 to 560,000 veterans to those already eligible for care and benefits for possible exposure.
According to the VA, the following veterans may be eligible for benefits, including those who:
- Came into contact with Agent Orange during their military service
- Served in or near the DMZ between Sept. 1, 1967, and Aug. 31, 1971
- Served in the Republic of Vietnam between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975. This may include serving on a vessel on the inland waterways or operating within 12 nautical miles of Vietnam or Cambodia.
There were plenty of other ways veterans came into contact with Agent Orange, including on planes that sprayed the chemical or locations that loaded and tested the chemical. In fact, the military used Agent Orange as far back as 1944.
The VA considers a number of illnesses to be presumptive to Agent Orange exposure. This means that all you have to do is have one of the covered conditions and have served in a covered location to be eligible for benefits; you don't need to prove anything else to receive medical care and benefits.
The diseases that the VA considers presumptive, meaning it is known that Agent Orange can cause them, includes:
- AL amyloidosis
- Chloracne (or other types of acneiform disease like it)
- Diabetes mellitus type 2
- Ischemic heart disease.
- Parkinson's disease
- Peripheral neuropathy, early onset
- Porphyria cutanea tarda
Several types of cancers are also on the list:
- Chronic B-cell leukemia
- Hodgkin's disease
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
- Prostate cancer
- Respiratory cancers (including lung cancer)
- Soft tissue sarcomas (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi's sarcoma, or mesothelioma)
Agent Orange also caused the birth defect spina bifida in children of exposed veterans.
This list of diseases isn't all-inclusive. There are several other serious health conditions that may be related to Agent Orange, but you may have to fight to get benefits. The VA tried to add bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, hypertension and Parkinson's-like symptoms to the list of presumptive conditions, but that was delayed by the White House.
If you or someone you know has one of the conditions listed above or a condition you think may be related to contact with the chemical, you should contact the VA immediately to get assistance.
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