Agent Orange: Beyond Vietnam

Airplane releasing Agent Orange herbicide chemicals

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Background

Agent Orange is a blend of herbicides (chemicals used to kill plants) which the U.S. military employed as a part of its herbicidal warfare program during the Vietnam War and in other parts of Asia. This herbicide specifically was intended as a tactical strategy to remove dense foliage that provided enemy cover.

Over the course of the Vietnam War, over 19 million gallons of “rainbow” herbicide combinations were sprayed, of which Agent Orange was the most prevalent. Its name came from the orange identifying stripe used on the 55-gallon drums in which it was stored.

It is estimated that some 2.4 million Americans could have been exposed throughout its use, in addition to allied forces and the local populations where it was used.

Agent Orange Associated Diseases

Agent Orange is associated with at least 15 types of diseases and various forms of cancer. Veterans and their survivors could be eligible for benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for these diseases, which include:

If you have any of these diseases and served in locations listed in the following paragraphs, you will be granted a presumption that your exposure resulted in the disease and receive disability compensation.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This is a current list as of June 2021, but it may be updated. For official updates search for Title 38 Code of Federal Regulations Section 3.309(e), “Diseases associated with exposure to certain herbicide agents.”

Exposure by Location

Vietnam and Brown Water Veterans

The VA concedes that veterans were exposed to toxic herbicides if they served in the below locations:

Other veterans can still apply for disability compensation. However, these veterans must show evidence that they were exposed toxic herbicides at a dose resulting in disease during their military service to be eligible for service connection. Veterans in this category include:

  • Vietnam: anytime between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975, if the veteran was “boots on the ground.”
  • “Brown Water” Veterans: If you served on a ship in the inland waterways of Vietnam.
  • “Blue Water” Veterans: If you served on open sea ships off the shore of Vietnam you need to have actually stepped foot on land in Vietnam to receive the exposure presumption.

Other veterans can still apply for disability compensation. However, these veterans must show evidence that they were exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides at a dose resulting in a disease during their military service to be eligible for service-connection. Veterans in this category include:

  • Veterans who were crew members on C-123 planes flown after the Vietnam War.
  • Veterans who served where herbicides were tested and stored outside Vietnam.
  • Veterans associated with Department of Defense projects to test, dispose of, or store herbicides in the U.S.

Vietnam and Blue Water Veterans

The VA concedes that veterans were exposed to toxic herbicides if they served in the below locations:

  • “Blue Water” Veterans – those who served on open sea ships off the shore of Vietnam.

President Trump signed the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act into law on June 25, 2019, that will fast-track disability compensation for personnel with medical conditions related to the chemical herbicide. The enactment follows a decades-long fight by Sailors, Marines, and others who served off the coast of Vietnam.

The law means they will now receive the same presumption as ground troops that certain diseases are connected to exposure. The bill extends disability compensation to personnel who served offshore of the Republic of Vietnam between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975, within 12-nautical miles of the coast of Vietnam and Cambodia, along a line of demarcation spelled out in the bill.

Those eligible include veterans with one or more of the presumptive diseases whose claims were previously denied, as well as new claims. The bill also covers veterans who served in the Korean Demilitarized Zone between September 1, 1967 and August 31, 1971, as well as children born to veterans who served in Thailand between January 1962 and May 1975.

Korea and Thailand

While much of the focus is concentrated on Vietnam, the VA also concedes that veterans were exposed to herbicides if they served in the below locations. As with Vietnam and Brown Water veterans, these veterans need not show evidence that they were exposed to a specific harm-causing dose to be eligible for VA disability compensation.

  • Korea: In or near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) anytime between April 1, 1968 and August 31, 1971.
    • NOTE: The presumption only applies for veterans who were in units that operated along the DMZ.
  • Thailand: Veterans stationed at certain military bases in Thailand during the Vietnam Era (see below).
    • NOTE: The presumption only applies if the veteran had a job in which they crossed the perimeter of the base. If the perimeter of the base was not crossed, the presumption of exposure does not apply.

Military Bases in Thailand

If you served in Thailand at one of the listed bases between February 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975, then you are eligible for a presumption of exposure.

Further, Air Force veterans must have served as a security policeman, security patrol dog handler, member of a security police squadron, or otherwise served near the airbase perimeter.

Army veterans who were stationed in Thailand must have served as a member of a military police (MP) unit that was placed at or near the base perimeter. Such jobs will be indicated by a veteran’s MOS (Military Occupational Specialty).

Other Information for U.S. Navy & Coast Guard Ships in Vietnam

For Brown Water veterans, and Blue Water veterans who may have also served on the inland waters of Vietnam, you can find more information on whether your ship qualifies for the exposure presumption on the VA Public Health website.

Ships or boats that were part of the Mobile Riverine Force, Inshore Fire Support (ISF) Division 93, or had one of the designations listed on the above link operated on the inland waterways of Vietnam, thus qualifying you as a Brown Water Veteran.

How to Apply for Agent Orange Disability Compensation

No matter what benefit you are applying for, the first item you will need to acquire is a copy of your DD-214 (Notice of Discharge from Active Service), which will show your character of service. Generally, an other-than-dishonorable discharge is required to receive VA disability benefits.

A veteran’s monthly benefits depend on the VA’s rating for their service-connected disabilities. The more severe the disability, generally speaking, the higher the rating. Additional benefits may be available for veterans with dependents. Veterans and their families can apply by going to their VA regional office and asking for assistance. Applications are also available online using the VA’s eBenefits system.

Veterans who served in certain locations are presumed to have been exposed. That means these veterans do not need to prove service connection for the 14-associated diseases. However, there is no guarantee of the disability rating VA will grant you.

Legal Help and Appeals

Legal Help For Veterans, PLLC has nearly twenty years of experience helping veterans apply for Agent Orange disability benefits. We can assist in starting a new disability claim, appeal VA decisions, and file for an increased disability rating to receive a higher level of benefits.

If you were denied service connection or benefits for an associated disease, or if you seek a higher rating for such a disease, our firm can help. We can also put you and your family in touch with other critical resources to ensure you receive the treatment that you deserve.

Give us a call at (800) 693-4800 or visit us online for more information.


“It is our duty to protect those who protected us.”

– Brigadier General Carol Ann Fausone (ret.)


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