Agent Orange Exposure and Secondary Conditions
Most Veterans eligible for benefits due to Agent Orange exposure either have presumptive conditions or directly
service-related conditions. Benefits are available for presumptive conditions if the Veteran had a
listed condition, such as lymphoma, and served in the Vietnam theater in the 1960s. In 2019,
Congress expanded the definition of “Vietnam theatre” for presumption status to include the
veterans who served within 12 nautical miles of the Republic of Vietnam.
Frequently, a secondary service connection aggravates or causes a non-service-related condition.
These conditions could manifest themselves at any time. Generally, they arise several years, or
even several decades, after the Veteran is discharged.
Proportional benefits are usually available in these situations. The Veterans Administration
compensates the Veteran for the portion of the aggravated disability which is in addition to the
pre-service disabling illness. If the service-connected condition causes another condition, it will
be service-connected for the full extent of the impairment on the veteran’s functionality.
Competent representation from a VA disability attorney is often the key to fair compensation in
these situations. Presumptive condition claims are usually rather straightforward, and service-
related claims are usually one dimensional (i.e. the link between Agent Orange exposure and
illness). But secondary service connections are multidimensional (i.e. the exposure/illness link
and the degree of service-related harm). So, without a good lawyer, these Veterans often end up
settling for less or not receiving any benefit at all.
Proving a Secondary Service Connection
Due to the complexity of these cases, Claims Examiners usually deny benefits petitions, mostly
because they lack the expertise to properly analyze these claims. Upon appeal, evidence is
The burden of proof is only as likely as not (50%). That is the lowest burdens of proof in
the law. Specific kinds of evidence includes:
● Medical Evidence: It is almost impossible to win these claims without compelling
medical evidence. Generally, this evidence comes from an independent medical
examination. The examining physician should be well-credentialed, thorough, articulate,
and familiar with certain VA “magic words” which must be included in the report.
● Non-Medical (Lay) Evidence: Frequently, there are gaps in the Veteran’s service record.
These gaps could make it hard to prove that the Veteran was exposed to Agent Orange.
Buddy statements from fellow Veterans usually fill in these gaps. Furthermore, since
these buddies have nothing to gain by coming forward and testifying, their testimony is
usually quite compelling.
The amount of the benefits awarded is based on the degree of impairment on the veteran’s capacity to work. Thus the more clearly the evidence demonstrates such impairment, the more likely the VA will grant a higher benefit award.
Types of Benefits Available
Secondary Agent Orange exposure is almost never a 100% disabling condition because of the
aforementioned proportionality issue. Nevertheless, full benefits are often available, thanks to the
Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability benefits are available if the Veteran’s
partial service-connected disability(ies) precludes substantial, gainful employment outside of a
Typically, substantial, gainful employment means the Veteran earns a high enough wage and
works enough hours to live above the poverty line. However, the Veteran’s income must usually be high
enough to lift the entire household out of poverty. Also, sheltered work environments, which include family-
owned companies, Veteran-owned companies, and other employers who give disabled Veterans
accommodations, such as frequent days off, which are unavailable to other public or private
Count on Experienced Attorneys
Full disability benefits are available even if an indirect service-related condition leaves you
partially disabled. For a free consultation with an experienced Veterans disability lawyer, contact
the Cameron Firm, P.C. at 800-861-7262 or fill out the contact box to your right. Whereas, we are here to
represent Veterans nationwide.
This article is for educational and marketing purposes only. Therefore, it does not create an attorney-client