Agent Orange is the name given to a blend of herbicides the U.S. military sprayed throughout the military zones of Vietnam from 1961 to 1971 in order to remove foliage that provided enemy cover. These herbicides were also used, tested, and stored in areas outside of Vietnam. As a result, many veterans were exposed to Agent Orange, both inside and outside of Vietnam. The Agent Orange compound contained traces of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin, also known as TCDD or dioxin. This is a highly toxic substance that has been shown to cause a variety of illnesses.
The United States Department of Veterans Affairs has recognized certain cancers and other health problems, including prostate cancer, peripheral neuropathy, and Parkinson's disease, as being associated with exposure to Agent Orange. In 2001, the VA added type 2 diabetes to the list of diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure. This ruling was based on new findings linking diabetes with herbicide exposure, including the Institute of Medicine's report on Herbicide/Dioxin Exposure and Type 2 Diabetes. More information about the connection between Agent Orange and certain diseases can be found in the IOM's report on Veterans and Agent Orange.
Veterans who served in Vietnam between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975, and who have a disease that the VA recognizes as associated with Agent Orange, such as diabetes, are presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange. Service in Vietnam is defined as any veteran who served, however briefly, on land or in the inland waterways in Vietnam, or who went ashore when a ship docked at Vietnam. These veterans do not have to prove their condition is related to their military service to qualify for VA benefits. Eligible veterans may receive a full range of health care benefits from the VA; a free, comprehensive Agent Orange Registry health examination; monthly disability compensation payments; and other benefits, including home loans, vocation rehabilitation, education, and more.
Veterans who did not serve in Vietnam but were exposed elsewhere to Agent Orange may be eligible for service-connection on a direct basis. They must show that their disease is related to their military service in order to receive disability compensation. The surviving spouses, children, and other dependents of veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange and died as a result of diseases associated with exposure, may be eligible for a monthly payment called Dependency and Indemnity Compensation. They may also be eligible to receive education, home loan, and health care benefits.
Vietnam veterans who are eligible to receive disability compensation can apply online through the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. After receiving your application, the VA will send you a letter explaining what evidence they will need to grant your claim. They will help you find records to support your claim, including records of service or exposure to Agent Orange during your service.
To contact the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, visit their website at http://www.va.gov/ or call their toll-free helpline at 1-800-749-8387. To inquire about compensation or other benefits, call 1-800-827-1000 or visit your nearest VA benefits office. To learn more about health care and the Agent Orange Registry health examination, call 1-877-222-8387 or visit your nearest VA benefits office.
Reviewed by Susan Weiner, RD, MS, CDE, CDN. 05/12.
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