Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange Struggle to Obtain VA Benefits
VA delay and denial frustrates vets suffering from toxic illnesses
Many veterans suffer from silent wounds they received from exposure to environmental toxins, such as depleted uranium, burn pits, tainted anthrax vaccines, anti-malarial medication, the Camp Lejeune water supply and airborne poisons from the Atsugi Naval Air Station incinerator. One particularly deadly and widespread toxin is Agent Orange, the defoliant used to clear the jungle in Vietnam, along the Korean Demilitarized zone and at U.S. military base perimeters in Thailand. A January 2015 report from the Institute of Medicine confirms that flight crews received unacceptable levels of exposure for many years after the Vietnam conflict, a claim previously denied by the VA. Although Agent Orange’s side effects have been known for decades, affected veterans still struggle to get approval for VA benefits to treat cancers and other life-threatening illnesses. At Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban, P.C., we fight aggressively for veterans who’ve been denied a claim for disability benefits.
A brief history of Agent Orange and its use in the U.S. Military
Agent Orange was one of a class of color-coded herbicides that the U.S. military used during the Vietnam War, from 1961 to 1971, to defoliate the jungle and destroy crops that provided cover and food for the Viet Cong. Although most of the chemical degraded quickly, one component TCDD, known as dioxin, did not degrade. Dioxin has been shown to remain in the human body for as long as 20 years, and its estimated survival in the sediment of rivers and ponds is more than 100 years. The chemical companies that produced the herbicide claim not to have known about the long-term effects.
According to the Aspen Institute, Agent Orange use began with a test on August 10, 1961 and became fully operational with a U.S. Air Force aerial spraying program that lasted from January 1962 until February 1971. Ninety-five percent of Agent Orange was dispersed in this manner, mostly using C-123 cargo planes. Areas sprayed include South Vietnam and border regions of Cambodia and Laos. The U.S. Chemical Corps dispersed the remaining five percent from helicopters, trucks and by hand, mostly to clear brush around military bases.
The U.S. military ceased use of Agent Orange in October 1971, and chemical companies stopped producing it. Existing supplies were collected and incinerated. Unfortunately, usage did not stop soon enough for veterans who were exposed and today suffer from debilitating and life-threatening illnesses.
Diseases associated with exposure to Agent Orange
In July 2009, the U.S. Institute of Medicine released a report linking exposure to dioxin to five diseases, and suggesting an association with several more. These are:
Thanks to a series of decisions in the Nehmer class action law suit, veterans diagnosed with Ischemic Heart Disease, Parkinson’s Disease and Chronic B Cell Leukemia may be able to reopen previously denied claims. Because of favorable effective date rules in the Nehmer decision, some Vietnam era veterans have been awarded tens to even hundreds of thousands of dollars in retroactive benefits based on Agent Orange eligibility. This includes Blue Water vets and children of veterans born with disabling birth defects.
In addition, the Vietnamese Red Cross recognizes an association between dioxin exposure and these health problems:
- Liver cancer
- Lipid metabolism disorder
- Birth defects that include cleft lip, cleft palate, club foot, hydrocephalus, neural tube defects, fused digits, muscle malformations and paralysis
If you served in a region or with equipment exposed to Agent Orange and have experienced any of these health effects, you may qualify for veterans benefits. You owe it to yourself and your family to check your Agent Orange eligibility. If you’ve already been denied, our dedicated attorneys can help you pursue a VA benefit appeal.
We stand up for veterans exposed to Agent Orange
If your application for veterans disability benefits has been denied, or you believe your award is insufficient, contact Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban, P.C. Someone is always available to talk to you, even if you cannot come to our offices. Call us today at 866-866-VETS or contact us online. There are no upfront charges. You pay no attorney fees unless we win your claim for benefits.