The Hidden Connection: Agent Orange Exposure and Kidney Disease
Decades may have passed since the Vietnam War, but the battle for disability benefits tied to diseases caused by Agent Orange exposure continues for some veterans. Surprisingly, kidney disease has yet to receive presumptive status, leaving many veterans wondering why this is the case.
In this article, we delve into VA documents and epidemiological studies to explore the connection between Agent Orange and kidney disease. We also look at ways veterans can secure disability benefits for kidney disease they suspect is connected to Agent Orange exposure, through secondary service-connection.
Agent Orange Benefits for Vietnam Veterans
During the Vietnam War, millions of individuals were exposed to Agent Orange, a toxic herbicide used to clear jungle foliage. This hazardous chemical contained dioxin, which remains in the blood and causes all kinds of long-term health problems.
Tragically, approximately 300,000 U.S. military personnel and 400,000 Vietnamese people lost their lives due to Agent Orange exposure. Since 2002, the VA estimates that 650,000 surviving American veterans have been granted VA disability benefits due to Agent Orange exposure.
A large body of scientific research has firmly established the connection between Agent Orange and prostate cancer, respiratory cancers, blood-related disorders, and several other chronic conditions. Veterans who served during the Vietnam-era and developed any of these presumptive conditions automatically qualify for monthly disability payments, assisting with healthcare expenses and more.
What Are the Presumptive Conditions Due to Agent Orange?
The government now acknowledges that 18 illnesses are service-connected for Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange. These are:
- AL Amyloidosis
- Bladder cancer
- Chronic B-Cell Leukemia
- Diabetes Mellitus Type II
- Hodgkin’s Disease
- Ischemic Heart Disease (including Coronary Artery Disease, stable and unstable angina, myocardial infarction, and sudden cardiac death)
- 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 (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, and mesothelioma)
The VA didn’t initially recognize the link between Agent Orange and hypertension, bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism. It was only through congressional action in 2021 and 2022, with the implementation of the PACT Act, that the presumptive list for Agent Orange was expanded to include these conditions.
The PACT Act – the biggest veterans bill to address toxic exposures in U.S. history — also expanded coverage to veterans who served in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and other conflict zones beyond Vietnam.
All of this is to say that the VA doesn’t have the final say on Agent Orange exposure benefits – Congress does – and laws regarding these benefits are subject to frequent change.
Now let’s focus on the relationship between kidney disease and Agent Orange exposure.
Does Agent Orange Affect the Kidneys?
Yes, Agent Orange can affect the kidneys. Although kidney cancer does not currently have presumptive status, studies have shown that Agent Orange exposure is a risk factor for kidney disease and renal failure. The toxic chemicals present in Agent Orange, particularly dioxin, can have detrimental effects on various organs, including the kidneys.
Is Kidney Cancer a Presumptive Condition?
Kidney cancer is currently not recognized as a presumptive condition due to Agent Orange exposure. However, veterans who believe their kidney cancer is connected to Agent Orange can still pursue disability benefits. To establish a direct service connection for kidney cancer, veterans will need a current diagnosis of kidney cancer and a nexus letter from a doctor stating that their kidney cancer is at least as likely as not related to Agent Orange exposure.
Case Study: Veteran Wins Agent Orange-Related Kidney Disease Claim on Appeal
There is recent legal precedent linking Agent Orange and kidney disease that could help your claim.
In a 2016 Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) decision, a veteran successfully appealed his denied claim for chronic kidney disease (CKD) related to Agent Orange exposure. The BVA granted the veteran service connection based on the medical opinion of a private doctor that Agent Orange exposure was a risk factor for the veteran’s CKD.
That veteran also received backpay from the time he submitted his initial claim to the day the judge ruled in his favor.
Another Path to Benefits: VA Compensation for Kidney Disease Secondary to Type 2 Diabetes
If you were exposed to Agent Orange and have type 2 diabetes and kidney disease, you can establish a service-connection for the kidney disease by claiming it as a secondary condition.
Diabetes mellitus type 2 is a presumptive condition associated with Agent Orange. Diabetes cranks up the body’s glucose levels to dangerous heights, and this condition can also lead to chronic kidney disease or even kidney cancer.
What is the VA Rating for Kidney Cancer?
During a Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam, a VA doctor will assess and rate the severity of your kidney disease on a scale of 0% to 100%. The ratings are as follows:
· 0% – You’ve been diagnosed but aren’t showing symptoms yet
· 30% – Symptoms include fluid retention, swelling, and high blood pressure
· 60% – In addition to the above symptoms, there is a marked decrease in kidney functioning.
· 80% – In addition to the above symptoms, you experience weakness, loss of appetite, and limited mobility.
· 100% – You require dialysis or your kidney damage has rendered you completely incapacitated.
Each of these ratings is tied to a specific monthly payment amount. As a general guideline, a veteran who is rated at 100% disabled without dependents receives $3,332 a month.
f the veteran supports a spouse or dependent children, the payment amount increases for each dependent. Learn more about 2022 VA Disability Pay Rates here.
Get Professional Help With Your Agent Orange Exposure Claim Today
At The Rep For Vets, our VA-accredited claims agents are dedicated to helping veterans navigate the bureaucratic maze. We refuse to let veterans be pushed around because we recognize and appreciate the sacrifices you have made for our country. Our mission is to assist you in obtaining the benefits you deserve. Rest assured that our claims agents will serve you with the same honor and integrity with which you served your country.
If you wish to have the VA reconsider your Agent Orange claim, act now. There are key deadlines that must be met in order to successfully file an appeal. We are here to guide you through the process.
Give us a call at (888) 573-7838 or fill out the contact form to talk about how Agent Orange exposure has impacted your long-term health. No matter where you are, our claims agents can help you secure the benefits (and backpay) you’ve earned.