During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military used more than 19 million gallons of Agent Orange and other herbicides to clear trees and brush in Korea, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, and South Vietnam. It is estimated that more than 2.4 million American were exposed to the herbicides.
Soldiers were told that these herbicides were harmless; however, veterans returning from Vietnam began to suffer from rare cancers and other diseases. Their children were often stillborn or born with birth defects.
In 1991, Congress recognized that Agent Orange caused serious health problems in Vietnam-era veterans and enacted the Agent Orange Act. This act allows the Department of Veteran’s Affairs to offer benefits to Vietnam veterans who have certain disabilities associated with exposure to Agent Orange and other tactical herbicides.
Benefits Available Under the Agent Orange Act
If you served in Vietnam, Korea, or Thailand during certain years in the 1960s and 1970s, you may be eligible for:
- Agent Orange Registry health exam. A free, comprehensive health exam to screen for health problems associated with exposure to Agent Orange. Veterans who served in Vietnam (1962-1975), the Korean Demilitarized Zone (1968-1971), and Thailand (1961-1975) are eligible for health screenings.
- Health care benefits. A full range of health care benefits, including treatment at War Related Illness and Injury Study Centers in California, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., are available.
- Disability compensation. A monthly payment given in compensation for illnesses or disabilities related to military service—the amount of benefits is based on disability rating and number of dependents.
- Other VA programs and services
Dependents of veterans exposed to Agent Orange may also be eligible for benefits. Children who are born with birth defects may be eligible for VA compensation, health care, and vocational training. Surviving spouses of military members who die as a result of exposure to Agent Orange or a disease associated with Agent Orange may also receive VA compensation.
How to Get the Benefits You Deserve
In order to receive VA benefits, you must:
- Not have a dishonorable discharge
- Have a diagnosis of a medical condition associated with exposure to Agent Orange
- File a VA benefits claim
It is important to take action in order to get the benefits you deserve, but you do not have to take action alone. Instead, we encourage you to contact our veterans’ disability attorneys to schedule an initial consultation about your rights and the potential benefits that we may help you receive.
by Paul B. Burkhalter Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law.