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VA Proposed New Rule for Agent Orange Exposure

Rep for Vets > Agent Orange  > VA Proposed New Rule for Agent Orange Exposure

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VA Proposed New Rule for Agent Orange Exposure

The benefit of presumptive designations is the burden of proof to receive VA disability benefits is
lowered. The VA has outlined plans to include more locations where herbicides were stored, tested, and
used.  In the proposal, locations would be added in the United States, Canada, and India for Agent
Orange. This expansion would be in addition to the existing eligibility requirements for Agent Orange
Exposure and disability compensation
.

2022 Presumptive Service Connection

In 2022, the VA expanded presumptive service connection for several health conditions related to toxic
exposures under the PACT Act. If this latest proposed rule change is finalized, it would afford more
veterans from more eras the benefits they deserve.

If you need a refresher on Agent Orange basics, check out our up to date Agent Orange exposure page.
We’ve also written about recent additions to the presumptive benefits list, including bladder cancer,
hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonsim. (See the Appendix for the current list of presumptive conditions.)
We wrap things up with a discussion on steps you can take to secure these benefits, and increase your
disability rating where appropriate.

Presumption of Exposure Expanded to Entire Theater of Conflict

Below is a table of the countries and waterways where the PACT Act extends presumptive benefits,
along with the important eligibility dates.

Geography/Veteran GroupPresumption of Service-ConnectionEligibility Start DateEligibility End Date
Vietnam and WatersYesJan 9, 1962May 7, 1975
Blue Water Navy VeteransYesJan 9, 1962May 7, 1975
Korean Demilitarized ZonesYesApr 1, 1968Aug 31, 1971
Thailand Military BasesYesJan 9, 1962Jun 30, 1976
LaosYesDec 1, 1965Sep 30, 1969
CambodiaYesApr 16, 1969Apr 30, 1969
Guam & American SamoaYesJan 9, 1962Jul 31, 1980
Johnston Atoll and WatersYesJan 1, 1972Sep 30, 1977

Exploring Agent Orange Exposure Across Different Regions

Agent Orange in Thailand: For a considerable time, veterans and their advocates have asserted that herbicides were extensively sprayed around Thailand’s Royal Air Force bases. However, the VA previously relied on a technicality, categorizing the herbicides used there as “commercial” rather than “tactical,” leading to denial letters for benefits.

Thankfully, that frustrating chapter is now behind us. Vietnam-era veterans who served on or around Thailand’s military bases are now eligible for presumptive benefits. Regardless of the specific base or job held, if exposed to Agent Orange and developed serious illnesses, veterans are entitled to presumptive benefits.

No longer do veterans need to provide intricate details to the VA about their proximity to the base. Simply serving on the base is sufficient for coverage. The sole requirements include a diagnosis of one or more of the presumptive conditions and service records indicating service on or around a Thai base between January 9, 1962, and June 30, 1976.

Agent Orange Exposure in Laos and Cambodia: The bill now makes exposure to Agent Orange in Laos presumptive between December 1965 and September 30, 1969. While this period doesn’t encompass the entirety of the Vietnam War, it addresses the time when herbicides were heavily sprayed in Laos, particularly along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

For veterans who believe they were exposed to Agent Orange in Laos after 1969, benefits claims are still possible but require proving service connection on a case-by-case basis.

Similarly, veterans deployed to Cambodia are now presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange, but only within a limited timeframe from April 16, 1969, to April 30, 1969.

Agent Orange in Guam, American Samoa, and Johnston Atoll: Challenges have been highlighted for Guam veterans in the past, but they are now eligible for presumptive benefits for Agent Orange exposure. Despite previous VA positions, the PACT Act acknowledges that Agent Orange exposure, regardless of its use, resulted in illness among veterans.

Spraying of herbicides continued around the perimeters of bases in Guam and American Samoa after their cessation in Vietnam. The PACT Act presumes exposure to Agent Orange in Guam, American Samoa, and their surrounding waters between January 9, 1962, and July 31, 1980.

The evidence of illness among Guam veterans mirrors that of their counterparts elsewhere, further affirming Agent Orange exposure.

Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Eligible for Presumptive Benefits: The passage of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act in 2019 expanded the circle of exposure beyond the “boots on the ground requirement,” granting presumptive benefits to over 62,000 veterans who served in the waters off Vietnam.

Agent Orange and Hypertension: Congress’s action has resulted in granting benefits to Vietnam-era veterans suffering from Agent Orange-connected hypertension, despite previous demands for additional evidence by VA officials. Hypertension is now presumed to be linked to Agent Orange exposure.

Additionally, hypertension can serve as a basis for “secondary service connection” for other serious conditions like heart disease. This avenue underscores the importance of experienced claims agents in assisting veterans to obtain the benefits they rightfully deserve.

Do you need help or advice? Contact us now.

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