New Conditions added to the Agent Orange Presumptive List

| Heidi H.

Herbicides were used during the Vietnam War to destroy enemy crops.  Many different “colored” agents were used, but the most commonly known is “Agent Orange.”  The United States interrupted the food supply and destroyed foliage in the jungle to increase visibility for soldiers.  However, due to highly toxic dioxin contaminant, many veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange have developed serious health conditions, often years after exposure. 

The Agent Orange Act of 1991 was passed as a response to the high number of Vietnam veterans that developed serious health problems.  The Act created a “presumption” that the VA must assume that veterans who served during specific time periods in established locations were exposed to herbicides.  The VA now presumes in service herbicide exposure to veterans who served in the following instances:

  1. “Boots on the ground” in Vietnam, veterans who served aboard a ship that operated in the inland waterways of Vietnam (often referred to as Brown Water veterans), or service in Vietnam’s territorial seas (Blue Water Navy veterans) between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975. (To learn more about Blue Water Navy veterans, click here)
  2. Active duty and reserve personnel with regular contact with C-123 aircrafts between 1969 and 1986. (To learn more, click here)
  3. Service on or near the Korean demilitarized zone between September 1, 1967 and August 31.

So long as a veteran can establish the criteria above and they have one of the “presumptive conditions,” the VA will grant service connection.  The list of VA presumptive conditions is as follows:

  • AL Amyloidosis
  • Chronic B-Cell Leukemias
  • Chloracne, or similar acneform disease
  • Diabetes Mellitus Type II
  • Hodgkin’s Disease
  • Ischemic Heart Disease
  • Multiple Myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Early-onset peripheral neuropathy
  • Porphyria cutanea tarda
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Respiratory Cancers, including cancer of the lungs, trachea, bronchus, and larynx,
  • Soft Tissue Sarcomas

The National Defense Authorization Act of 2021 (NDAA):

With the Agent Orange Act of 1991, the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs was granted the power to add conditions to the list over time.  In this instance, however, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2021 was passed to add the three new presumptive conditions.  Secretary Wilkie refused to propose a regulation that would include the three new conditions to the presumptive list, so Congress included a provision to the NDAA that would approve benefits for three additional conditions thought to be caused by exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides.

The New Conditions:

With the passing of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, three new conditions will be included as part of the presumptive list.  The new conditions are:

  • Bladder Cancer
  • Hypothyroidism: A condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce sufficient levels of thyroid hormones.
  • Parkinsonsism or Parkinson’s like symptoms: Parkinson’s Disease was already one of the presumptive conditions, but this new addition will include those veterans who have symptoms associated with Parkinson’s Disease, such as tremors; slow movement; impaired speech; and muscle stiffness, but no formal diagnosis.

Roughly 34,000 veterans will benefit from the addition of these three new conditions.

Hypertension Still Left Out:

Hypertension was a fourth condition that was originally proposed with bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinson’s-like symptoms, but was left off the 2021 NDAA.  Cost appears to have been a leading factor in leaving hypertension out of the 2021 NDAA, despite findings by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine in 2018 that there was sufficient evidence to link hypertension to herbicide exposure.

Contact us Today:

If you or a loved one need assistance navigating this process and determining eligibility, contact Lawyers for American Vets at (614) 781-1400 for a free evaluation.

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