Veterans Disability Info Blog

Agent Orange Exposure: Eligibility and Compensation Explained

If you are experiencing a health condition that is a result of exposure to the herbicide called Agent Orange during your active service in the US military, the VA notes that you could be eligible for VA disability compensation. When it comes to connecting particular conditions to exposure to Agent Orange, as we’ll discuss the VA has presumptive conditions, certain cancers or other illnesses caused by Agent Orange, that the VA presumes are connected to Agent Orange. 

Presumptive conditions are a central aspect of applying for coverage for your Agent Orange exposure, and it can help to have informed advocacy by your side throughout the process. If you have yet to apply, a VA-accredited representative or your local VA center can help. When you’ve already applied for VA disability benefits and been denied, you may want to consider lawyer representation, such as an agent orange attorney from our firm. 

Basic Eligibility Requirements for VA Disability Compensation for Agent Orange 

There are some basic requirements that must be met in order to qualify for compensation for Agent Orange. The following two statements must be true in relation to your situation: 

  • You have a current diagnosis for a health condition that was caused by your having been exposed to Agent Orange, and 
  • You were in active service in a place that exposed you to Agent Orange (such as Vietnam, the DMZ, Royal Thai Air Base, Fort Drum, etc.)

When you receive a VA disability rating, you can also be eligible to receive VA health care, as well as other benefits such as funding for furthering your education, housing allowances, and other forms of support. 

Presumptive Conditions and Agent Orange Exposure

For veterans who served on active duty during particular times and places where Agent Orange was known to be present, certain conditions are presumed to be caused by Agent Orange. What this means is that the general required nexus between the condition and the exposure of the active-service event or injury is not required. The link or nexus is usually proven by a nexus letter or a medical opinion that your current diagnosis is linked to your active service is not necessary. This removes a step from the application process, and with new presumptive conditions added recently, could also support the approval of a previously denied application. 

Presumptive conditions that Agent Orange are presumed to have caused include: 

  • Bladder cancer
  • Hodgkin’s disease 
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Chronic B-cell leukemia
  • non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Respiratory cancers, including lung cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Some soft tissue sarcomas 

Recently the PACT Act added 2 new Agent Orange presumptive conditions: 

  • High blood pressure or hypertension 
  • Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) 

Locations presumed to have a sufficient nexus or link to Agent Orange for a presumed connection, for service of any length of time between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975 in any of the following locations are: 

  • In the Republic of Vietnam, or
  • Aboard any U.S. military vessel that operated in the inland waterways of Vietnam, or
  • On a vessel that operated no greater than 12 nautical miles seaward from the demarcation line of the waters of Vietnam and Cambodia

The PACT Act recently added additional locations, as follows: 

  •  Any U.S. or Royal Thai military base in Thailand from January 9, 1962 through June 30, 1976, or
  • Laos from December 1, 1965, through September 30, 1969, or
  • Cambodia at Mimot or Krek, Kampong Cham Province from April 16, 1969 through April 30, 1969, or
  • Guam or American Samoa or in the territorial waters off Guam or American Samoa from January 9, 1962 through September 30, 1977, or
  • Johnston Atoll or on a ship that was called at Johnston Atoll from January 1, 1972 through September 30, 1977

Alternatively, to collect disability benefits for Agent Orange exposure from the VA, at least one of the following must be true in your situation: 

  • You served in or around the Korean DMZ for any length of time between September 1, 1967 and August 31, 1971, or
  • You served on active duty in a regular Air Force unit location where a C-123 aircraft with traces of Agent Orange was assigned, and you had repeated contact with this aircraft during your flight, ground, or medical duties, or
  • You were involved in the transporting, testing, storing, or other uses of Agent Orange during your military service, or
  • You were assigned in the Reserves to certain flight, ground, and medical crew duties at one of the eligible reserve locations, time period, and units listed below

Eligible Reserve locations, time periods, and units include:

  • Lockbourne/Rickenbacker Air Force base in Ohio from 1969 to 1986, in the 906th and 907th Tactical Air Groups or the 355th and 356th Tactical Airlift Squadrons 
  • Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts from 1972 to 1982, in the 731st Tactical Air Squadron and 74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, or the 901st Organizational Maintenance Squadron 
  • Pittsburgh International Airport in Pennsylvania from 1972 to 1982 in the 758th Airlift Squadron 

Determining whether you are eligible requires a careful assessment of your service records and history in addition to your current conditions and diagnoses. When your records meet one of the above requirements and you have a related condition, the link between Agent Orange exposure and your active service is presumed, and your additional benefits should be approved. 

Children with Birth Defects 

If you served in one of the qualifying locations at the appropriate time and your children have experienced birth defects, the VA may also presume their connection to Agent Orange. The VA recognizes that the children of veterans who engaged in qualifying service in Korea or Vietnam with the following conditions are presumed to be caused by the veteran’s exposure during active service: 

  • Spina bifida
  • Birth defects of children of women veterans 

Children who have these conditions may be eligible for compensation, health care, as well as vocational training. But keep in mind that with birth defects certain requirements pertaining to whether the veteran was a woman may be applicable.

Agent Orange VA Disability Ratings 

The way in which Agent Orange exposure is rated by the VA is somewhat different than other conditions. As Agent Orange and the listed conditions are presumed to be connected to qualifying active service, not all of the presumptive conditions for Agent Orange are in the VA schedule for Rating Disabilities. In those cases, the disability due to Agent Orange is rated analogously or in comparison to the closest condition that has similar symptoms. 

This means that your VA disability rating will depend upon the effectiveness of the evidence that you provide with your application. You must prove that you have analogous conditions that match the VA diagnostic code that could pay the highest rating. Submitting statements in support of your claim from medical experts to substantiate your condition, and statements from family members that can describe your symptoms can be helpful.

An Agent Orange Attorney Can Help with Appeals and Special Claims 

For your initial VA disability application, you’ll generally file on your own, although there are free VA-accredited representatives available to help. Gathering medical evidence in support of your claim, and referring the VA to available sources of information concerning your condition, will help with your approval. If your initial claim was denied, an agent orange attorney from our firm can appeal the VA’s decision on your behalf. While the appeals process can take months or even years, your benefits kick in from the date of your initial application–so long as the claim remained on appeal continuously without any lapses.

When you already have a VA disability rating but you develop additional conditions that are service-connected, a VA disability lawyer can advise you on filing claims for secondary claims if the new conditions are caused by an existing service-connected condition. When the VA recognizes an increase in your disability rating, you may be eligible to collect additional compensation. 

Your Initial Consultation is Risk-Free and Cost-Free

While many veterans considering using the assistance of an agent orange attorney worry that they cannot afford legal services from an attorney, that is not necessarily the case. While VA disability lawyers cannot help with initial applications, their assistance can be extremely valuable during the appeals process or with supplemental claims. Your initial consultation to determine if we can help is free, and if we take your case we only get paid if we win, as we’ll explain before getting started on your case. 
Agent Orange exposure has led to a great many health issues for veterans and in some instances their offspring. The VA has established presumptive conditions to make the process smoother and easier for affected veterans to collect the benefits that they deserve. Changes through the PACT Act and other shifts however require informed advocacy, and an agent orange attorney can help. Call us now at 1-888-878-9350.

We are Here to Help

If you are having trouble obtaining benefits, contact us online or at 888.878.9350 to discuss your case.