Claims Related To Agent Orange Exposure
Legal Representation in Columbia, SC
From 1962-1971 the U.S. military sprayed millions of gallons of Agent Orange and other herbicides over the vegetation of Vietnam during “Operation Ranch Hand.” The purpose behind the use of Agent Orange and other herbicides was to defoliate the vast vegetative cover that enemy troops relied upon to mask their location and movements. Many soldiers displayed chronic disabilities upon returning home that have since been linked to Agent Orange. For a long time, the VA and the U.S. Government did not recognize the alarming nexus between Agent Orange and the widespread ailments. Congress finally passed the Agent Orange Act in 1991.
At Congress’s direction, the VA has determined that veterans who can show that they served in areas which were exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides are allowed presumptive service connection for a list of specific health problems. Under a presumptive service connection, a veteran simply has to show that they have specific diseases which the VA has already determined are caused by exposure to Agent Orange; and that he was exposed to Agent Orange. The VA has also determined that service in certain places during specific time periods will automatically prove exposure to Agent Orange.
Health Problems Presumptively Caused by Agent Orange
At this time, the VA has determined the following list of health problems are presumptively service connected for veterans exposed to Agent Orange:
- AL Amyloidosis
- Chronic B-cell Leukemias
- Diabetes Mellitus Type 2
- Early-onset Peripheral Neuropathy
- Hodgkin’s Disease
- Ischemic Heart Disease
- Multiple Myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
- Prostate Cancer
- Respiratory Cancers (including lung cancer)
- Soft Tissue Sarcomas (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or mesothelioma)
- Lou Gehrig’s Disease – the presumption for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease, extends to all veterans who had 90+ days of continuous active duty service.
Nehmer Class Members
Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange, or other herbicides, are called Nehmer class members. This name comes from a class action lawsuit filed against the VA by the NVLSP on behalf of Beverly Nehmer and other exposed veterans. Nehmer class members have special rules for issuing an effective date, proving exposure, and proving nexus. Additionally, benefits due to Nehmer class members have special rules for who can collect benefits that are due upon the death of the veteran.
Veterans can prove exposure to Agent Orange a number of ways. The first way is to actually show, through competent evidence, that the veteran was exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides. The Agent Orange Act directed that certain veterans can prove exposure by showing service in specific locations. The most common is service in Vietnam, but other places also qualify.
The “service in Vietnam” condition is met if the veteran can show that he set foot on land in Vietnam during the applicable time period. This could include short-term trips ashore or long-term tours in-country. In addition, veterans who served on ships in inland waterways in Vietnam, or “Brown Water” Navy veterans, qualify for the presumption. Veterans who served on ships off the coast of Vietnam, or “Blue Water” Navy veterans, do not qualify for the presumption. They must show that they set foot on land in Vietnam or served in an inland waterway in order to benefit from the presumption. The VA maintains an ever growing list of Blue and Brown Water Navy ships at http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/shiplist/list.asp. Blue Water veterans who do not qualify for the presumption can still claim service connection related to Agent Orange exposure, but they must show evidence that they were exposed to a herbicide.
Veterans who served near the Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ) at any time between April 1, 1968, and August 31, 1971, may benefit from the Agent Orange/herbicide exposure presumption.
The military used herbicides around military bases in Thailand during the Vietnam conflict. For veterans who served on or near the perimeters of military bases in Thailand between February 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975, the VA has granted special consideration for exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides. For U.S. Air Force veterans who performed specific duties at a list of various Thai Air Force bases, herbicide exposure is presumed. This also applies to U.S. Army veterans who served on a Thai air base who were involved with perimeter security duty, although Army veterans require additional credible evidence to prove they served in this duty capacity.
Agent Orange and other herbicides were tested or stored in many locations, many within the United States. The VA website has a list of dates and locations of herbicides tests and locations provided by the Department of Defense.
C-123 Provider aircraft were used to spray Agent Orange and other chemicals during Operation Ranch Hand. Some veterans who served on such aircraft after they were used for this purpose have raised concerns about possible herbicide exposure. The VA has concluded that the potential for exposure and thus long-term health effects is minimal.
Nehmer Effective Date Rules
The VA also has special rules for assigning the effective dates for Agent Orange conditions. These rules are very generous, and are the result of a very long and protracted lawsuit between the VA and veteran organizations. Generally, these rules are applied when a new condition is added to the list, or a veteran is finally able to prove exposure to Agent Orange.
In addition, there are special rules for deceased Nehmer class member. These special rules allow any unpaid benefits to pass to the surviving spouse, any child of the veteran, the veteran’s parents, or to the veteran’s estate. The normal rules on unpaid benefits at death limit payment to a surviving spouse or dependent child or dependent parent.
Children With Birth Defects
Children of veterans who served in the Vietnam or Korean conflicts with spina bifida or other birth defects may be eligible for VA benefits. More information can be found on the VA website.
Were You Exposed to Agent Orange? Bluestein Attorneys is Here to Help.
If you or a loved one was exposed to Agent Orange while serving in the United States Military, you may be entitled to benefits. Bluestein Attorneys’ SC Veterans’ Advocates team would be happy to sit down with you and discuss your unique situation, your time in service, and help you to make the decision on what steps to take next. Reach us by phone at (803) 779-7599 or contact us online at any time to request your FREE consultation today!