Estimates from the US Department of Veterans Affairs show that almost 3 million Americans may have been exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War and in certain other combat areas. Many of these military veterans have experienced a range of medical conditions and diseases that have been linked to exposure to this powerful herbicide mixture. As a result, many veterans may qualify for Agent Orange benefits.
Agent Orange was a chemical herbicide mixture that was used to eliminate any dense foliage and tropical forested landscapes in Vietnam and other military zones in order to remove any enemy cover. The chemicals were also used to defoliate US military bases in America and other countries, and Agent Orange use by the US military first started in the1950s.
Agent Orange is Not a Single Chemical
During the Vietnam War over 1 million gallons of Agent Orange were used to remove foliage in South Vietnam. These various herbicide mixtures were so named because of the orange stripe on the storage barrel and not on the specific compounds in the product. There were a variety of different chemical formulations that were used for foliage removal and deforestation, some with dioxin in them.
Some of the chemicals used for Agent Orange, especially dioxin, have been linked to certain diseases like cancers, numerous health and medical related disabilities, and even birth defects in children whose parent was exposed to Agent Orange. Until 1991, Agent Orange benefits were difficult to qualify for because proving exposure during military service caused the conditions could be extremely hard.
H.R. 556: The Agent Orange Act of 1991
H.R. 556, the Agent Orange Act of 1991, was passed by the 102nd Congress in 1991. This act established a presumptive connection between certain service-connected diseases caused by exposure to herbicide agents including dioxide unless the contrary can be proven with affirmative evidence. This single act by Congress made it much easier for Vietnam veterans to qualify for Agent Orange benefits.
Producing evidence that was sufficient to definitively prove that an illness was linked to exposure to Agent Orange was very difficult for many veterans, and these vets were often denied VA compensation as a result. The Agent Orange Act of 1991 changed that by making a presumption that certain illnesses and diseases were caused by herbicide exposure in service unless it can be proved otherwise.
Which Veterans are Eligible for Agent Orange Benefits?
Veterans must meet certain conditions to qualify for presumptive connection for Agent Orange benefits from the VA. In addition to having the specified medical conditions or diseases that are scientifically linked to herbicide exposure a veteran must also:
- Have set foot on the ground or entered into the inland waterways of Vietnam or another combat area where Agent Orange was used such as Korea during the specified periods.
- Have any type of discharge except dishonorable from the service.
- Meet all other requirements put in place by the VA to qualify for Agent Orange benefits.
Veterans who served in other areas and who were exposed to Agent Orange may also qualify for Agent Orange benefits, but these veterans must show evidence that they were exposed to the herbicides during their military service. An exception is blue water veterans who have non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma because of the association that this disease has with herbicide exposure.
What are Blue Water Veterans?
Blue water veterans are vets who were on ships docked or stationed in the waters off Vietnam, and these veterans usually must show a factual basis for exposure to qualify for Agent Orange benefits from the VA except with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Attempts to pass legislation that would reinstate a presumptive connection for blue water vets have failed so far.
The Agent Orange Fast Track Application System
Recently the VA rolled out the Agent Orange Fast Track Application System to help veterans who qualify for Agent Orange benefits. This system is supposed to make the application process faster and more streamlined so that eligible veterans get the compensation that they deserve. Vets can apply for benefits online or in person at a local VA office.
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