Unique Benefits for Vietnam Veterans

Ailments ADDED - Parkinson’s Disease, Two Other Illnesses Recognized

Relying on an independent study by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki decided to establish a service-connection for Vietnam Veterans with three specific illnesses based on the latest evidence of an association with the herbicides referred to Agent Orange.

The illnesses affected by the recent decision are B cell leukemias, such as hairy cell leukemia; Parkinson’s disease; and ischemic heart disease.

Used in Vietnam to defoliate trees and remove concealment for the enemy, Agent Orange left a legacy of suffering and disability that continues to the present. Between January 1965 and April 1970, an estimated 2.6 million military personnel who served in Vietnam were potentially exposed to sprayed Agent Orange.

In practical terms, Veterans who served in Vietnam during the war and who have a "presumed" illness don’t have to prove an association between their illnesses and their military service. This "presumption" simplifies and speeds up the application process for benefits. Current law dictates that three conditions must manifest within one year of leaving Vietnam in order to be considered as related to Agent Orange exposure: chloracne, porphyria cutanea tarda acute or subacute peripheral neuropathy

Other illnesses previously recognized under VA’s "presumption" rule as being caused by exposure to herbicides during the Vietnam War are:

  • Acute and Subacute Transient Peripheral Neuropathy
  • Chloracne
  • Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
  • Diabetes Mellitus (Type 2)
  • Hodgkin’s Disease
  • Multiple Myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  • Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Respiratory Cancers
  • Soft Tissue Sarcoma (other than Osteosarcoma, Chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or Mesothelioma)

Additional information about Agent Orange and VA’s services and programs for Veterans exposed to the chemical are available at the Agent Orange page.

Presumptive service connection means that compensation is automatically granted without having to prove exposure, the extent of the exposure or that the illness is absolutely caused by that exposure. V.A. payments are also made to the surviving spouse and dependent children of the veteran if one of these illnesses contributed to the cause of death.

In addition to compensation payments, the V.A. provides free medical care for Vietnam veterans who have illnesses presumed to be related to Agent Orange. They also offer a special protocol physical exam on a one-time basis to those who served in Vietnam whether or not they have any current health concerns.

Children of any Vietnam veteran born with spina bifida (other than spina bifids occulta) are eligible for monthly allowances, health care and education benefits. Children of female Vietnam veterans both with certain other birth defects are also eligible for these benefits.

A newsletter called the Agent Orange Review is mailed to all Vietnam veterans upon request. Call 1-800-749-8387 to subscribe. All issues and additional information is also available on the VA website.

Many of you reading this article may not have served in Vietnam, but you know someone who did. Please make this information available to them so that as many Vietnam veterans as possible receive this vital information. County Veterans Service Officers (CVSO) are able to assist all veterans with their disability claims, requests for medical care, etc.