By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support local journalism.
Agent Orange victims get victory in court
David Smith.jpg
David Smith

There is new hope for Vietnam veterans who have been denied disability or compensation benefits for exposure to Agent Orange. 

Robert Wilkie, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, has announced the Department of Veterans Affairs will not oppose a federal appeals court ruling which could now provide disability and compensation benefits to potentially thousands of Vietnam veterans who may have been exposed to Agent Orange in the waters off the coast of Vietnam.

Warren County veteran service officer David Smith says this is welcome news for some of those veterans who were exposed to the chemical herbicide.

“Benefits or compensation is not promised or guaranteed, but now there is the possibility that Blue Water veterans can receive benefits,” said Smith. “I would urge them to get their records and talk to a veteran service officer.”

Records should include DD-214, or other discharge documents, service treatment records, and any VA or private provider treatment records showing date and place of treatment, as well as diagnosis.

If you served on a Blue Water Navy ship on the inland waterways of Vietnam between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975 – or you ever went ashore in Vietnam – you likely had contact with Agent Orange. The U.S. military used this toxic chemical to clear trees and plants during the war. 

It is estimated nearly 100,000 sailors and others were exposed. Symptoms include rare heart conditions and cancers that have been linked with exposure to cancer-causing chemicals in defoliants like Agent Orange. 

Under Department of Veterans Affairs rules, troops that served on the ground and inland waterways during the Vietnam War are presumed to have been exposed to the dangerous chemicals, and given a quicker path to receiving benefits. However, veterans who served on ships are eligible for VA medical care related to their illnesses but first had to prove direct chemical exposure. 

“Up until this decision, in order to receive disability benefits these affected veterans had to show proof that their illnesses were directly connected to exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange, which was used extensively in Vietnam as a defoliant,” said Smith. “Only those who served on land, boots on the ground, and inland waterways were presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange prior to this decision.”

The court ruling also stated it is unrealistic for veterans to show proof to exposure that could have happened over 50 years ago. 

A list of presumptive illnesses the VA has recognized as associated with exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides during military service include AL Amyloidosis, Chronic B-cell Leukemia, 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 (includes lung cancer, larynx, trachea, and bronchus), and Soft Tissue Sarcomas (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or mesothelioma). 

“If you have been diagnosed with one of these diseases and were exposed to Agent Orange, then the VA automatically presumes that your illness was caused by that exposure,” said Smith. 

Warren County veterans who need help with submitting an Intent to File or submitting an actual claim can call Smith at 473-6920 to schedule an appointment. Assistance can also be obtained by calling the VA directly at 1-800-827-1000 or visit https://www.ebenefits.va.gov.