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Agent Orange & Birth Defects: What’s The Connection?

Agent Orange & Birth Defects: What’s The Connection?

Certain substances and situations that you encounter while serving in the military can cause disabilities in other people. One such substance that is a topic of much discussion is whether or not Agent Orange causes birth defects. Some research points to Agent Orange as a cause of birth defects in the children of some Veterans, while other things say it does not cause birth defects.

This article will go over Agent Orange and whether it is connected to birth defects in the children of Veterans.

What Is Agent Orange?

If you are a Veteran who served in the Vietnam War, you probably know what Agent Orange is. Agent Orange was an herbicide mixture used during the Vietnam War to kill plants and vegetation. The mixture included 2,4-D (2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid) and 2,4,5-t (2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid). More than 12 million gallons were used across South Vietnam. 

However, Agent Orange was extremely toxic, and the lives of many were affected by inhaling the fumes. The toxic element found in Agent Orange is called dioxin—specifically 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (TCDD). Dioxin exposure is linked to various forms of cancer, birth defects, and more.

Due to the number of people exposed to Agent Orange, it has indirectly affected many in the United States, including the children of Veterans. Whether or not Agent Orange is the direct cause of birth defects remains controversial, but some studies indicate it is.

Service Connection to Agent Orange

It can be challenging to link a disability to Agent Orange exposure. Some who try to make a direct service connection are not successful. Because of this, many make a presumptive service connection. With this, you do not have to provide direct evidence of exposure to Agent Orange causing your disability. All you have to show is that you were exposed to it and presume that it caused your disability, given that no other evidence says otherwise.

To qualify for a presumptive service connection, you have to have the following:

  • Proof that you served in the military in Vietnam between January 9, 1962, to May 7, 1975, or that you were near the DMZ in Korea between September 1, 1967, to August 31, 1967. 
  • A disease linked to the exposure of Agent Orange.
  • The disease is at least a rating of 10% or higher.
  • The disease developed within a certain time frame after the last day of your service in Vietnam.

What Are the Effects of Agent Orange?

Exposure to Agent Orange can cause numerous effects. One main effect that concerns many people is the likelihood of birth defects for a child of a Veteran who served in Vietnam or the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and was exposed to Agent Orange.

As of today, no definitive evidence states that someone whose father was a Veteran and exposed to Agent Orange would suffer from birth defects. There are some cases of birth defects due to exposure to Agent Orange, but nothing concludes this is the case for everyone exposed.

Exposure and Birth Defects

You might be a Veteran whose son or daughter has certain birth defects. If you were exposed to Agent Orange, you could connect the birth defect to exposure, even without a definite study.

The most intensive study done on this issue is by ProPublica, which goes over the effects of Agent Orange. After Veterans returned, they noticed that some of their children were born after their exposure had birth defects. Whether missing limbs, extra limbs, or diseases, Veterans noticed abnormal conditions not attributed to anything genetically. They also noticed instances of cleft lip and cleft palate, hypospadias, and congenital heart disease.  

Because Veterans noticed these conditions in their children, the VA began making payments for compensation. However, the only compensation that they provide for children with birth defects is those who have spina bifida, in which the spinal cord does not develop properly, or children of a handful of female Vietnam Veterans who have birth defects. This leaves out many Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange and have children with birth defects.

Though there is no study directly linking Agent Orange and birth defects for children of Veterans, recent studies have shown that exposure to chemicals does affect ongoing generations. When certain genes change in parents due to exposure, they are passed down. 

Veteran compensation costs billions of dollars a year, which is why many believe that cases of birth defects with children of Vietnam Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange go overlooked. If the VA covered them, it would cost billions of dollars more. 

Studies show that Veterans exposed to Agent Orange who had children after the war had a 13.1% chance of having a child with birth defects, whereas it was only about 2.8% before the exposure.

Exposure to Agent Orange

Not only does Agent Orange affect the children of Veterans, but it affects Veterans too. At Berry Law, we have an experienced team of attorneys that will fight to get you the compensation you deserve.

Due to the nature of Agent Orange, some things are easier to get recognized by the VA since they presume an in-service injury or a link between exposure and the disability. 

However, sometimes the VA does not recognize presumptive illnesses, which leads them to deny some claims. Here is a list of illnesses that the VA does presume was caused by Agent Orange exposure if you served in Vietnam: 

  • Lung Cancer
  • Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  • Leukemia
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Bladder Cancer
  • Ischemic Heart Disease
  • Certain Soft Tissue Sarcomas
  • And more

Appealing a Denial

Sometimes, the VA will deny your claim, even for disabilities connected to Agent Orange exposure. When this happens, you can appeal the denial. The best thing for you to do is not go at it alone. At Berry Law, we have a team of experienced attorneys to help.

When you appeal the denial, you want to make sure that you appeal to the correct problem. The VA will likely overlook your appeal if you do not appeal to the root problem.

Usually, the VA will deny your claim for a few reasons. Perhaps you did not supply enough evidence to make your claim firm. If you did not provide the necessary medical documents needed for the VA to review your claim, this is likely why they denied it. 

Another reason why the VA might have denied your claim is that you did not link it to your time in the service. Service records will ensure that the VA can see how the service directly or indirectly caused your disability. It could even be that your time in the service worsened a pre-service disability, which would qualify as a service-connected disability. 

Finally, sometimes that medical opinion given by the VA doctor lacks the necessary legal language that the VA is looking for when giving a Veteran a rating. If so, you can review it with our attorneys to ensure that the documents you give to the VA contain the necessary language.

Knowing why the VA denies certain claims will always help you craft an appeal. Look over these possibilities so you can prepare your appeal and get the compensation you deserve.

Conclusion

Agent Orange has caused many issues and controversies since it was first used in Vietnam. Even though it is no longer used for war, Agent Orange still affects many people who were born from Veterans who served in Vietnam and Korea.

Though no study makes a definite claim as to whether Agent Orange causes birth defects in Veteran’s children, it has a likelihood of doing so. Though it may be challenging to receive disability compensation for these birth defects, there are still ways that those directly exposed to it can receive VA benefits.

For any more information, or if you require help in the process of making a claim, please visit our website.

Sources:

What is Agent Orange? | The Aspen Institute

The Children of Agent Orange — ProPublica

Learn about Dioxin | US EPA 

Dioxins, Furans and Dioxin-Like Polychlorinated Biphenyls Factsheet | National Biomonitoring Program | Center for Disease Control (CDC) 

Paternal military service in Vietnam and the risk of late adverse pregnancy outcomes | American Journal of Public Health

Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law Firm are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

This material is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this blog are not a substitute for legal counsel.

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