VA Updates Agent Orange Information


Part of the U.S. military strategy during the Vietnam War was to remove the heavy foliage that provided cover for the enemy through the use of herbicides.

“Agent Orange” is the name given to a blend of herbicides the U.S. military sprayed from 1962 to 1971 in Vietnam to remove such foliage.

The name “Agent Orange” comes from the orange identifying stripe used on the 55-gallon drums in which it was stored.

The military sprayed other herbicide combinations in the so-called Rainbow Herbicides program, identified by the color of their storage drums, including Agent White and Agent Blue. Agent Orange was the blend used most widely.

The Veterans Administration (VA) has recognized several cancers and other health problems as “presumptive diseases” related to military service and specifically to exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides and has published a list of approximately 15 diseases related to exposure to such herbicides, including Chronic B-cell Leukemias, Hodgkin’s Disease, Multiple Myeloma, Parkinson’s Disease and Prostate Cancer.

Veterans suffering from such diseases may be eligible for disability compensation and health care benefits. Surviving spouses, dependent children and dependent parents of Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange and died as the result of diseases related to Agent Orange exposure may be eligible for survivors’ benefits.

The VA states that for the purposes of VA compensation benefits, Veterans who served in Vietnam anytime between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975 are presumed to have been exposed to herbicides and that these Veterans “do not need to show that they were exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides in order to get disability compensation for diseases related to Agent Orange exposure.”

“Service in Vietnam” means service on land in Vietnam or on the inland waterways of Vietnam, including veterans who “set foot in Vietnam” and served on a ship “while it operated on the inland waterways of Vietnam.”

“Blue Water Veterans (veterans who served on open sea ships off the shore of Vietnam during the Vietnam War) were not presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides unless they set foot in Vietnam or served aboard ships that operated on the inland waterways of Vietnam anytime between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975.”

The VA recognizes that some offshore vessels docked to the shore of Vietnam, operated in Vietnam’s close coastal waters and sent smaller vessels ashore, or conducted operations on the inland waterways of Vietnam and has published a list of U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships that operated in Vietnam.

However, veterans must confirm through military records that the Veteran was aboard one of these ships.

And, Blue Water Veterans who did not set foot in Vietnam or serve aboard ships that operated on the inland waterways of Vietnam anytime between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975 must show on a factual basis that they were exposed to herbicides during military service in order to receive disability compensation for diseases related to Agent Orange exposure. These claims are decided on a case-by-case basis.

There is one exception: Blue Water Veterans with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma may be granted service-connection without showing inland waterway service or that they set foot in Vietnam. This is because VA also recognizes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma as related to service in Vietnam or the waters offshore of Vietnam during the Vietnam Era.

A comprehensive, updated list of U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships confirmed to have operated on Vietnam’s inland waterways, docked on shore, or had crewmembers sent ashore, has been posted here to assist Vietnam Veterans in determining potential eligibility for compensation benefits.

Currently there are 167 ships on this list and ships will be regularly added to the list based on information confirmed in official records of ship operations.

The Veterans Administration has recently issued a comprehensive press release with the most recent information on eligibility of Veterans who served aboard U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships operating on the waters of Vietnam between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, to receive Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation for 14 medical conditions associated with presumptive exposure to Agent Orange.

The release has links to the updated lists of ships, to Agent Orange information; to sites that assist Vietnam Veterans in determining potential eligibility for compensation benefits; to deck logs, ship histories, and cruise book entries and to sites that will answer many other questions and issues Veterans may have.

For questions about Agent Orange and the on-line list of ships, Veterans may call VA’s Special Issues Helpline at 1-800-749-8387 and press 3.

If you know of a Veteran who may have been exposed to Agent Orange or related herbicides and needs advice or assistance, please do him or her a favor and pass this information on.

Sources: VA Reports and Press Releases on Agent Orange

Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist