(132) Orange Clash: The Veteran and Toxic Exposure

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A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

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The Clash

Having trouble deciding between blogging about the VA Agent Orange newsletter weDSCN2398 received this week or the story about the VA evicting thousands of Veterans in the 1970s from property dedicated to them in 1888, I glanced across the living room. I smiled at my Veteran, wearing his favorite outfit of an orange t-shirt, red shorts, and black compression socks. The clash of his orange shirt against the red shorts convinced me that the story to go with today is the Agent Orange newsletter.

What’s the News about Agent Orange?

“Agent Orange” refers to a blend of tactical herbicides the U.S. military sprayed in the jungles of Vietnam and around the Korean demilitarized zone to remove trees and dense tropical foliage that provided enemy cover. Herbicides were also used by the U.S. military to defoliate military facilities in the U.S. and in other countries as far back as the 1950s.

VA.gov website, “Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange”

Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides during their military service may be eligible for VA benefits, including disability compensation for diseases that may have resulted from exposure. Benefits are also available for dependents and survivors. The VA streamlined the normal eligibility process for Agent Orange exposure, which is good news for Veterans.

The presumptive diseases for which Agent Orange is considered causing include the following (click here for descriptions of the diseases):

  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Al Amyloidosis
  • Chronic B-Cell Leukemias
  • Chloracne or related disease
  • Hodgkin’s Disease
  • Ischemic Heart Disease
  • Multiple Myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Peripheral Neuropathy, Early-Onset
  • Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Respiratory Cancers, including Lung Cancer
  • Soft Tissue Sarcomas
  • Spina-bifida (except occulta) in a child born to an exposed Veteran

Agent Orange Eligibility

You may qualify for evaluation for Agent Orange exposure if you served in one of the following ways:

  1. Vietnam and Brown Water Veterans, which were those who served on the inland waterways of Vietnam via the Brown Water Navy and/or Mobile Riverine Force. This includes those who made brief visits ashore or who served on the inland waterways (Brown Water Veterans).
  2. Blue Water Veterans, who set foot in Vietnam for liberal leave or work detail or served aboard ships on Vietnam inland waterways between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975. Serving on these ships does not qualify one for the presumptive diseases and one must show they were on shore to qualify.
  3. US Navy and Coast Guard Ships in Vietnam, which are named specifically at www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/shiplist/index.asp. This covers those ships that operated on Vietnam’s inland waterways, docked to shore or pier in Vietnam, or that delivered supplies or troops ashore.
  4. Korean Demilitarized Zone between April 1, 1968 and August 31, 1971 and who have a disease the VA recognizes as associated with Agent Orange exposure. In these cases, the VA presumes the Veteran has been exposed to herbicides.
  5. Thailand Military Bases for Vietnam-era Veterans, including the US Air Force and Army Veterans, who served on the perimeters of military bases in Thailand between February 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975.
  6. Herbicide Tests and Storage outside Vietnam, where the Department of Defense (DOD) indicated herbicides were tested and stored. The list of these locations is found at www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/locations/tests-storage/index.asp.
  7. Although not listed in the Agent Orange newsletter, the VA website adds Air Force and Air Force Reserve members, who served between 1969 through 1986 and routinely operated, maintained, or served on C-123 aircraft, which were known to be used to spray an herbicide agent during the Vietnam era.

Any Veteran believed to be suffering from Agent Orange or other herbicide exposure not included in the above eligibility categories must prove they were exposed during their military service to be considered for the health exam and benefits.

Agent Orange Registry

The VA offers a no-cost Agent Orange Registry health exam to Veterans meeting one of the above categories. One need not be enrolled in the VA’s health care system to participate. To join the Registry and receive your exam, contact your local VA Environmental Health Coordinator at www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/coordinators.asp or work with your Veterans Service Officer on your claim, which may require special documentation. You can also contact the VA at 1-800-827-1000.

Want More Information on Agent Orange?

To subscribe to the Agent Orange newsletter or to view it online, visit www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/publications/index.asp. The nextoranges on tree newsletter update is planned for 2016.

Contact the VA today if you meet qualifications so Miss Molly can ask, “Orang’ you glad you did?”

Post your Comments:

Do you know someone who might qualify for the Agent Orange Registry? Please reply below.

Photo credits: pculbrethgraft

About the blogger

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her disabled Vietnam Veteran husband, William, and his service dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her granddaughter.