What is Agent Orange and Why Does it Affect Veterans?

Agent Orange is a powerful mix of chemicals used as a herbicide. It was the most potent of various herbicides used in the Vietnam war to clear forests for military operations and destroy crops used by forces in opposition to the United States’ military. 

Its tactical use during the water has left lasting environmental effects in Vietnam because of lingering chemicals, but its use has also had severe health consequences for many because of the ways the defoliant chemical mix Agent Orange affects the human body. 

Effects of Exposure

Over 2.5 million U.S. soldiers were exposed to Agent Orange, and many more Vietnamese people also came into contact with it. While it was not fully known at the time what health effects there would be, if any, on people that were contaminated by the herbicide, the U.S. government has faced intense legal and political consequences in the United States and the international arena for the implications of the chemical on individuals’ lives both in Vietnam and the United States. 

The Department of Veteran Affairs has officially recognized many toxic potential effects of exposure to Agent Orange and dioxin, a primary toxic chemical that makes up the herbicide. U.S. and Vietnamese soldiers exposed to the chemical when first sprayed or afterward in the soil have been more likely to develop a number of different cancers, nervous system disorder, and other conditions. Here are a few of the illnesses that have been linked to Agent Orange exposure:    

  • Chloracne, a skin condition that appears similar to severe acne
  • Ischemic heart disease
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • AL Amyloidosis
  • Cancer in the blood, lymphatic system, respiratory system, prostate or soft tissues

Seeking Compensation 

If you are a U.S. military veteran possibly facing health effects because of exposure to Agent Orange, you deserve and should apply for compensation. The U.S. government sprayed you and your compatriots without consulting you and without contemplating or being fully aware of the possible consequences. 

If you can show that you were exposed to this chemical in the course of your service and that it has affected your health, you will qualify for benefits. To prove this, you have to establish that you have been diagnosed with one of the conditions acknowledged by the VA to be linked with Agent Orange or dioxin exposure. 

If your condition is not listed, you will need to provide further evidence to show a connection with Agent Orange, including testimony from your doctor and any other research you can find that supports your case.  

Once you’ve established your health claim, you can prove your likely exposure to Agent Orange by just showing that you served in Vietnam at any time between January 1962 and May 1975. Service around the DMZ in Korea between April 1968 and July 1969 will also be accepted as proof that your health condition is linked to exposure. If your military service falls outside of these timeframes or countries, there are other ways you could have been exposed to Agent Orange, but you will need to provide more evidence for the VA to accept it.   

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