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The Effects of Agent Orange: Half a Century Later

by Jon Perrone / August 7, 2019

If you’re reading this article, you probably already know that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Benefits Administration presumes that Vietnam veterans have been exposed to herbicides containing high levels of dioxins, like Agent Orange. 38 C.F.R. § 3.307 (a) (6) (i), an applicable government regulation, states as follows:

“A veteran who, during active military, naval, or air service, served in the Republic of Vietnam during the period beginning on January 9, 1962, and ending on May 7, 1975, shall be presumed to have been exposed during such service to an herbicide agent.”

Service connected medical conditions

You probably already know that certain medical conditions, regardless of when they manifest in a veteran’s lifetime, and even though there is no record of such conditions during service, are considered service-connected once properly diagnosed and submitted to the VA for compensation. 38 C.F.R. § 3.309 (e), another applicable government regulation, states as follows, in pertinent part:

"For veterans exposed to agent orange, the following conditions shall be service-connected, if manifested to a degree of 10 percent or more at any time after service:

    • AL amyloidosis

    • Type 2 diabetes (also known as Type II diabetes mellitus or adult-onset diabetes)

    • Hodgkin's disease

    • Ischemic heart disease (including, but not limited to, acute, subacute, and old myocardial infarction; atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease including coronary artery disease (including coronary spasm) and coronary bypass surgery; and stable, unstable and Prinzmetal's angina)

    • All chronic B–cell leukemias (including, but not limited to, hairy-cell leukemia and chronic lymphocytic leukemia)

    • Multiple myeloma

    • Non–Hodgkin's lymphoma

    • Parkinson's disease

    • Prostate cancer

    • Respiratory cancers (cancer of the lung, bronchus, larynx, or trachea)

    • Soft-tissue sarcoma (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi's sarcoma, or mesothelioma)"

List continues to grow

The list is expansive, as it has grown and continues to grow over the years to include new conditions as medical science advances our understanding of dioxin’s effect on the human body over a lifetime. The list, moreover, contains several extremely serious conditions, including three types of cancers.

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Non-Presumptive cancers not automatically included 

You might not know, however, that there are other cancers that the VA does not consider “presumptive” but have been shown by medical researchers to bear relation to dioxin exposure. Just because your cancer is “non-presumptive” does not mean that your cancer is not related to your exposure to Agent Orange. For example, a study1 at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center found correlation between Agent Orange exposure and squamous cell carcinoma. Similar comparisons have been drawn with other non-melanotic skin cancers.

But not impossible to get covered 

Obtaining service connection for non-presumptive cancers is difficult and requires a detailed evaluation by a medical expert. But such claims are not impossible. The Board of Veterans Appeals has granted service connection for basal and squamous cell cancers resulting from Agent Orange exposure in cases 16403682 and 15484123 along with many others.

Conventionally, cancers such as these have a multitude of causes, the most common of which include sun exposure, genetic predisposition, and viruses like HPV. Only a medical expert can examine situations where these factors are present along with dioxin exposure and make a careful evaluation of whether Agent Orange played a role in a veteran’s cancer. From there, a VA-accredited attorney can appeal your denied claim for compensation or survivor benefits.

Consider contacting legal counsel at Whitcomb, Selinsky, P.C. for assistance with your VA disability or survivorship claim. Our attorneys have been successful in helping a number of clients successfully handle these kinds of matters. Call our Denver office at (303) 534-1958 or complete our online form today.


1 Mark Clemens et al, Association between Agent Orange Exposure and Nonmelanotic Invasive Skin Cancer: A Pilot Study, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. 133-2-432 (2014) https://insights.ovid.com/crossref?an=00006534-201402000-00040; Annette Boyle, Agent Orange Exposure Appears to Double Risk of Invasive Skin Cancer, US Medicine (2014) http://www.usmedicine.com/agencies/department-of-defense-dod/agent-orange-exposure-appears-to-double-risk-of-invasive-skin-cancer/

2 https://www.va.gov/vetapp16/Files5/1640368.txt

3 https://www.va.gov/vetapp15/Files6/1548412.txt

Tags: Vietnam War Veteran Agent Orange Exposure

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