Breaking Down an Agent Orange Illness Claim
Does an Agent Orange illness trouble you? Agent Orange may be one of the most well-known herbicides, and not for a good reason.
This defoliant was widely used throughout the 1960s, mainly in Vietnam. It contained a contaminant called dioxin, and now both Agent Orange and dioxin are known to be linked with cancer and several other serious illnesses, including diabetes and birth defects. Both Vietnamese and Americans stationed in Vietnam during the Vietnam War were exposed to Agent Orange and many have developed the illnesses mentioned.
Before Agent Orange was studied extensively, Vietnam veterans with, say, cancer or diabetes,
had to clear many hurdles to be successful in claims for service connection. As the links between
Agent Orange and those illnesses have become established, the VA has streamlined the process
by creating a list of “presumptive” conditions which are assumed to be related to Agent Orange
exposure. If a veteran has one of these conditions, and that veteran was exposed to Agent Orange
in service, the VA presumes the illness was caused by the exposure and a link is established.
Agent Orange Illness And VA Evaluations
The VA evaluates this evidence in different ways. So, as far as this agency is concerned, there is
a definitive link between Agent Orange and some kinds of cancer. If the evidence is even a little
bit weaker, as far as the VA is concerned, no connection exists. Hence, disability benefits are
available for both presumptive and non-presumptive conditions, as outlined below.
In either case, a seasoned VA disability attorney is an essential partner in a maximum disability
benefits claim. These benefits often include several thousand dollars a month in cash. Generally,
these veterans are also entitled to substantial back pay. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, disabled veterans are entitled to free medical care at any VA facility. For veterans dealing with cancer and other severe, chronic illnesses, the medical benefits are often more valuable than the cash benefits.
Veterans with a current diagnosis of a presumptive illness may be automatically entitled to
benefits. The recent PACT Act expanded the presumptive condition list. It now includes the
- Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS)
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Bladder cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Respiratory cancers (including lung cancer)
- Chronic B-cell leukemia
- Hodgkin’s disease
- Some soft tissue sarcomas
New evidence for and against an Agent Orange connection surfaces almost every month. So,
bureaucrats could change this list by adding or subtracting conditions at any time.
Additionally, veterans must prove they were deployed in a particular area at a particular time.
Before the PACT Act, these areas were limited to Vietnam and the waters surrounding Vietnam
at certain times. Now, the list includes parts of Southeast Asia; the Korean demilitarized zone;
and bases in Guam, American Samoa, and other areas.
A presumptive condition with an accompanying deployment establishes service connection, but
not necessarily at 100%. A VA disability attorney must still work to obtain as high a rating as
possible, which depends on the veteran’s level of impairment due to their illness. The resulting
rating could be between 10% and 100%.
Other Agent Orange-related conditions include various kinds of heart disease and cancer.
Benefits may be available, but the claims are more complex.
Initially, the veteran must have a current diagnosis. Unless the doctor includes certain magic
words and excludes others, these reports have little value.
Then, the veteran must establish a service-related connection. The medical report must lay out
this connection. Moreover, the veteran must prove that they were exposed to Agent Orange.
Service in Vietnam between 1962 and 1957 may not be enough. Usually, in non-presumptive
conditions, Veterans must prove they actually handled Agent Orange or otherwise came into
contact with it.
Frequently, a service record does not include such specific information, but evidence may still be
available. First, if several veterans from the same unit develop the same or similar illnesses
(known as a “unit spike”), the VA may consider that convincing evidence such that the service
connection can be established. Buddy statements — statements from veterans who served
alongside the claimant — can establish the activities of the claimant if the record fails to do so.
Buddy statements can establish daily duties, training exercises, or leisure activities that brought
the claimant into contact with Agent Orange.
A different kind of buddy statement often raises disability ratings. Friends and family cannot
give medical testimony or testify about a service-related connection. However, these individuals
can testify about everyday disability effects. Frequently, attorneys use vocational experts or other
reports to bolster these claims even further.
Count on Dedicated Attorneys
An attorney is a valuable partner in all phases of a disability claim. For this purpose, get a free consultation with an experienced veterans disability lawyer, contact Cameron Firm, P.C. at 800-861-7262 or fill out the contact box on our website. We are here to represent veterans nationwide.
This article is for educational and marketing purposes only. Therefore, it does not create an attorney-client relationship.