Serving your country in any war means risking your life. But Vietnam veterans may suffer lasting harmful effects thanks to a tactical herbicide known as Agent Orange. Planes sprayed this deadly chemical blend all over Vietnam to remove any foliage providing cover for the enemy. But the herbicide, which destroyed tropical foliage, is now known to cause side effects in humans caught in its wake. In fact, Agent Orange affected many more people than just the soldiers fighting in that war.
Thanks to Agent Orange’s liberal use in the field from 1962-1971, all Vietnam vets can file VA disability claims. Serious diseases can result from this dangerous herbicide, so claims are virtually guaranteed approval. (And historically, Agent Orange-affected veterans are more likely to get paid faster, too!) Below, we’ll explain what Vietnam vets with Agent Orange-related disabilities need to know about filing for VA benefits.
Which Service Members Can File Agent Orange VA Disability Claims?
Regardless of which military branch you served in during the Vietnam conflict, the VA presumes you suffered Agent Orange exposure. The chemical reached many service members deployed throughout the region. So even if you didn’t serve in Vietnam, you may still develop exposure-related illnesses. If you served in any places or ways shown below, then the VA believes you experienced some Agent Orange exposure:
- On C-123 airplanes (between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975)
- On Thailand’s military bases (between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975)
- In Vietnam or Korea (between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975)
- Outside of Vietnam or Korea (between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975)
- In testing and storage areas outside Vietnam (between 1944 and a yet-to-be-determined date)
- On U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships in Vietnam (between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975)
- In waters in or near Vietnam (between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975)
Serious Agent Orange-Related Health Conditions and Diseases
The VA tracks several Agent Orange-related conditions and illnesses. If you served in Vietnam and developed any of the following, you likely qualify for VA benefits:
- AL amyloidosis
- Chronic B-cell leukemia
- Hodgkin’s disease
- Ischemic heart disease
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Parkinson’s disease
- Early onset peripheral neuropathy (common in diabetics as well as cancer survivors)
- Porphyria cutanea tarda
- Prostate cancer
- Respiratory cancers (including lung cancer)
- Soft-tissue sarcomas
- Type 2 diabetes
For veterans diagnosed with any condition shown above, it may be due to Agent Orange exposure. If you developed other cancers or diseases after serving in Vietnam, they may also qualify for benefits.
Agent Orange Exposure Also Affects Some Vietnam Veteran Survivors, Offspring
Sadly, this deadly herbicide goes beyond affecting veterans and often extends to their children. The VA can pinpoint several birth defects among veterans’ children. They are often linked to those who served in both Vietnam and Korea.
Birth Defects Associated With Agent Orange Exposure
Spina bifida is the most common birth defect associated with Agent Orange exposure. This defect occurs when the developing fetus’ spine fails to close completely. Biological children with a parent who served in Vietnam from 1962-1975 may qualify for benefits. Benefits include VA compensation, health care, and vocational training. Other birth defects may affect women who served in Vietnam. They’re often associated with military service, but not Agent Orange exposure. To qualify for benefits, you must have conceived the affected child after entering Vietnam or Korea during the eligible timeframes shown above. Because Agent Orange’s reach extends beyond affected veterans, the VA established a health exam registry. It’s crucial to sign up for this health exam, since you may have children or even grandchildren born with birth defects. This registry helps link those conditions to the origin or source. It also helps the VA learn more about lasting effects inherited from Agent Orange exposure.
How to Get Tested for Agent Orange Exposure-Related Conditions
To sign up for a health exam, contact your VA Environmental Health Coordinator. This exam is both free and easy to set up. To find the closest Health Coordinator in your state, click here. During the health exam, you will be asked questions about your service in Vietnam, including where you were stationed. You’ll also be asked about your health history since then — including surgeries and major illnesses. The VA will also do a physical exam. If necessary, you’ll also undergo some medical tests (blood tests, imaging, etc.). Important: You don’t need this exam in order to qualify for VA disability benefits. This exam is solely for the VA’s research purposes. However, entering your info into the Agent Orange registry can help your indirectly affected survivors.
How Vietnam Vets Can Apply for Agent Orange-Related VA Benefits
There are two requirements in order for veterans to qualify for Agent Orange-related disability benefits:
- You must have an illness linked to Agent Orange exposure (see list above), and
- You must have had contact with the herbicide during active military service (at any location or way listed above).
Veterans and qualified dependents (including children born with birth defects) are eligible. And if your illness isn’t listed among Agent Orange-related conditions shown above, you may still qualify. You’ll just need to show that the condition started during (or got worse because of) your military service. Once you determine whether or not you’re qualified, you’re ready to file a VA disability claim. You can do this in 3 different ways:
1. Filing Your VA Claim By Mail
File your claim using VA Form 21-526EZ. Print it, fill it out, and mail it to the following address:
Department of Veterans Affairs Claims Intake Center PO Box 4444 Janesville, WI 53547-4444
2. Filing Your VA Claim In Person
Bring your application to your local VA office. (Find a VA benefit office near you using this link.)
3. Get a Legal Professional to File Your VA Claim
VA-accredited attorneys in your area can help you complete your Agent Orange claim. It’s free and easy to get answers to your claim questions before you file. A VA advocate will help you gather the necessary documentation and evidence required to prove your case. That way, you’ll get benefits faster than you would applying on your own! If the VA doesn’t pay you a cash settlement, then you owe $0 in legal fees. And if you do win, then you’ll only pay a small, one-time fee.
Ready to see if you may qualify? Click the button below to start your free benefits evaluation now!
Mandy Voisin is a freelance writer, blogger, and author of Girls of the Ocean and Star of Deliverance. As an accomplished content marketing consultant, mom of four and doctor's wife, Mandy has written hundreds of articles about dangerous drugs and medical devices, medical issues that impact disabled Americans, veterans' healthcare and workers' compensation issues since 2016.