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Support for Veterans

Slowly at first, and then with increasing commitment, the U.S. has recognized its responsibility to veterans exposed to Agent Orange.

 

Medical treatment was first provided with the passage of Public Law 97-72—the “Veterans’ Health Care, Training, and Small Business Loan Act of 1981”; and later, financial compensation with Public Law 98-542—the “Veterans’ Dioxin and Radiation Exposure Compensation Standards Act of 1984.” The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been the primary agency that has administered these benefits to Vietnam veterans affected by Agent Orange.

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A Brief History of U.S. Support for Veterans

It was not until the passing of Public Law 116-23 in 2019 that blue-water Navy veterans, in particular, those who served off the coast of Vietnam, became eligible for VA financial and medical compensation. The 2022 PACT Act expanded presumptive exposure to Agent Orange to veterans who served in Laos, on US or Thai bases in Thailand, in Krek and Mimot, Cambodia, between April 16 and  April 30, 1969, in Guam or Johnston Island.

The Agent Orange Act of 1991 gave the responsibility for reviewing medical research on the impacts of Agent Orange from the VA to the National Academy of Sciences. 

The Academy was charged with reviewing the scientific research on Dioxin and the herbicides used in Vietnam to determine if there was an association with negative health outcomes. They published their review in the Veterans and Agent Orange Updates every two years with the last update published in 2018  The VA’s list of illnesses and disabilities eligible for treatment and compensation, based on recommendations by the Academy, has grown over the years. 

​The following conditions are currently recognized by the VA as associated with exposure to Agent Orange:

  • AL Amyloidosis

  • Bladder Cancer

  • Chloracne (or Similar Acneiform Disease)

  • Chronic B Cell Leukemias

  • Diabetes Mellitus (Type 2)

  • Hodgkin’s Disease

  • Hypertension

  • Hypothyroidism

  • Ischemic Heart Disease

  • Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance

  • Multiple Myeloma

  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

  • Parkinsonism

  • Parkinson’s Disease

  • Peripheral Neuropathy, Early-onset

  • Porphyria Cutanea Tarda

  • Prostate Cancer

  • Respiratory Cancers (e.g., cancers of the lung, larynx, trachea, and bronchus)

  • Soft Tissue Sarcoma (other than Osteosarcoma, Chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, and Mesothelioma)

Additionally, children with spina bifida, but not spina bifida occulta, born to Vietnam veterans, are eligible for compensation and other benefits.

Children of female veterans who served in Vietnam are eligible for VA benefits if they have one of eighteen different birth defects or a condition that has no known cause or family history. The VA states, however, that this is due to women’s service in Vietnam and not exposure to Agent Orange.

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