There are probably few if any better examples of how poorly the United States government treated the returning veterans of the Vietnam War then the sad history of Agent Orange. Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of veterans were stonewalled and deceived by a government policy which tried to avoid the blame, and resulting enormous financial liability, for the knowing exposure of United States service men to the poisonous herbicides used to defoliate the jungles of Vietnam.
As scientific and medical research was done, often despite the efforts of the United States government, and as the generation of veteran's percolated up and through society including the Congress, the policy was slowly, but firmly changed. What once was a true travesty of justice has become an example of how well government can work to show its appreciation to the warriors who once fought for it. Nowadays, the handling of disability claims based upon exposure to Agent Orange is a benchmark of the substantial change which has transpired at the Veterans Administration. Once one of the chief obstacles to the truth, the Veterans Administration, by and through the express directions of Congress, has become the focus of scientific and medical research on the side effects from exposure to the various herbicides used in Vietnam.
Requirements for Agent Orange Disability Benefits
To qualify for disability compensation a veteran only needs to satisfy two or three simple rules.
1.Did the veteran serve in Vietnam during the Vietnam era?
The veteran does not have to prove actual exposure to any herbicide. He or she need only prove the veteran served as "active military, navy or air service . . . in the Republic of Vietnam at some point between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975." If he or she can prove such service, it is presumed the veteran was exposed to the herbicide. Service includes "in the waters offshore and service in other locations if the conditions of service involved duty or visitation in the Republic of Vietnam." However, unlike Gulf war Syndrome, flying over the air space in an aircraft without landing in Vietnam does not qualify as service in Vietnam.
2.Does the veteran suffer from one of the diseases, or does the veteran have the residuals from one of the diseases, recognized by the VA as linked to Agent Orange, and, if so, is the veteran disabled to at a minimum 10 percent because of it?
The veteran need only show he suffers from a medical condition recognized as related to herbicide exposure. He need not prove it is related to the herbicide exposure. The link or nexus between the current medical condition and the herbicide exposure is presumed because of his service in Vietnam. However, the veteran must prove he suffers from the medical condition by a medical opinion provided by a physician. In the event the veteran can not afford to get a corroborative opinion, the VA will provide the veteran a specific Agent Orange medical examination at no cost. Normally, this examination is triggered by the veteran filling out a claim and questionnaire which provides the veteran's specific symptoms.
3.And, for some, but not all, of the recognized non-cancer diseases, did the disease manifest itself in the time period from the last day of service in Vietnam, as prescribed by the VA?