Agent Orange Compensation Back Pay: What To Know

Agent Orange Compensation Back Pay: What To Know

Agent Orange disability compensation has become an important topic for disabled Veterans in recent years. If you or a loved one have one or more health conditions presumably caused or aggravated by Agent Orange exposure, you may be entitled to disability benefits from the VA.

In many cases, Veterans only start to receive disability benefits after waiting several years, during which time medical debts and other financial difficulties mount. You may be entitled to compensation back for your Agent Orange compensation to stabilize your finances. 

Read on for more information about this topic and how to acquire retroactive pay for your Agent Orange benefits.

What Is Agent Orange?

Agent Orange was a formerly used tactical herbicide largely deployed in the Vietnam War and several related conflicts. The US military leveraged it to remove hostile or blockading vegetation, allowing military operations to occur more easily.

Unfortunately, Agent Orange also resulted in many health conditions and chronic illnesses in exposed Veterans. 

Because of this, the VA began a presumptive condition list of chronic health conditions assumed to be caused or aggravated by Agent Orange exposure. Veterans who have any of these conditions may automatically qualify for disability benefits as a result.

Agent Orange Complications and Health Issues

Agent Orange is known to cause or aggravate various health issues and diseases, including several cancers. These cancers include bladder cancer, prostate cancer, Hodgkin’s disease, and certain respiratory cancers like lung cancer.

Other presumptive conditions assumed to be caused or aggravated by exposure to Agent Orange include:

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Ischemic heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes mellitus type 2

Veterans with one or more of these conditions and who worked in an area where they may have been exposed to the Agent Orange herbicide should qualify for automatic VA disability benefits. However, the VA is always updating its list of presumptive conditions and scenarios in which a Veteran may reasonably have been exposed to the herbicide.

Because of this, some Veterans may now qualify for presumptive Agent Orange exposure compensation where they didn’t before. As a result, they could be entitled to back pay benefits.

What Are Retroactive Pay Benefits?

Retroactive pay benefits are extra VA disability compensation you receive to make up for when you were disabled or affected by a service-connected condition but did not receive monthly benefits.

For example, say you develop a chronic health condition after serving in the US military. You develop that condition in May 2018. You file a claim for disability benefits in August 2018.

However, because of bureaucratic slowness and other issues, your claim is approved in May 2020. Since you received a legitimate service connection, you should receive back pay to compensate you for your monthly disability benefits between August 2018 and May 2020. That will help you pay for any medical debts or other financial difficulties you may have encountered in the interim.

The VA considers several factors when calculating back pay, including:

  • Whether you have a previous VA rating already
  • Whether your dependents, if any, have changed statuses
  • How far back your effective date is
  • Cost of living adjustments 

How Far Back Does Retroactive Pay Reach?

Retroactive pay and benefits are awarded based on an “effective date.” Note that the effective date is not when your disability or illness began. 

Instead, the effective date is typically when the Department of Veterans Affairs originally received your VA disability claim (although there are a few exceptions to this rule).

If you’re filing for disability benefits for the first time, the effective date is usually when you file your VA claim or submit your intent to file a disability claim. The only exception to this is if you file within one year of being discharged from the military.

If you file within one year of being discharged and have a service-connected disability, your effective date could go back to the date of your discharge, not to the date at which you submitted your claim.

What if you already have a VA rating and want to refile for a worsening condition? Your effective date will be either:

  • The date that you filed for an increased rating
  • When medical evidence indicated that your condition worsened noticeably within one year of filing for an increased rating

So, how do these effective date rules work for Veterans seeking Agent Orange compensation back pay? Let’s take a closer look.

For General Agent Orange Claims

Any back pay compensation for Veterans exposed to Agent Orange works differently than typical back pay claims and payouts. That’s because any disabilities or illnesses caused or aggravated by exposure to Agent Orange are presumptive conditions.

The VA naturally assumes service connections if you develop an illness or condition classified as “likely caused by” Agent Orange exposure. So, for example, if you served in the Vietnam War and developed bladder cancer after, your bladder cancer will be a presumptive condition.

When you file for Agent Orange exposure benefits, your effective date goes back to when the government passed the latest presumptive condition law in 2019 if you are reopening a claim. The 2020 PACT Act, added high blood pressure and monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) to the presumptive condition list. The PACT Act has allowed many more US Veterans to receive disability benefits for their Agent Orange exposure than before.

So, if you wish to acquire disability back pay for either of those conditions, your effective date can only go back as far as 2020. That’s when the VA began giving out disability benefits to Veterans for those conditions.

If you previously claimed Agent Orange exposure disability benefits, your effective date may be when the VA received your original claim, if you qualify. So if you made a claim for disability benefits in 1980 for your diabetes , you could receive back pay for all of those years stretching back to the original date of your filing.

For Blue Water Navy Veterans

Thanks to the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, Blue Water Navy Veterans now receive expanded disability benefits for Agent Orange exposure. This covers Navy Veterans who served on ships in the Vietnam War but did not set foot on land during the conflict. The Act encompasses approximately 560,000 Veterans.

The Act was accompanied by a 2020 court order that said that Blue Water Veterans had been wrongly denied benefits since 2002. If you are a Blue Water Navy Veteran and submitted a claim as far back as 2002, you could receive retroactive benefits dating back to that time. 

How Can You Get Agent Orange Compensation Back Pay?

You can only get Agent Orange compensation back pay if you appeal a previously denied disability benefits claim. This requires filing a new form and providing the VA with additional information showing that you should receive a service connection for your disability or condition.

This is much easier with knowledgeable, experienced Veterans law attorneys. The right legal representatives can help you by:

  • Ensuring you understand the appeals process from start to finish, including breaking down what to expect and when you should receive a response.
  • Helping you gather effective evidence for your appeal, including medical evidence, lay statements, and old service records. This can be invaluable if you were denied benefits several years ago and can’t remember the details of your original claim.
  • Ensuring that you file your appeal paperwork properly without any errors. This way, the VA can make a new decision rapidly, and your back pay benefits will be in your bank account as quickly as possible.

Contact Berry Law Today

Agent Orange disability compensation can help Veterans keep their homes, pay their bills, and pay medical debt. It’s important for Veterans to seek out and acquire Agent Orange compensation back pay if they had to wait several months or years to receive their benefits after filing an initial claim.

Fortunately, you can ensure that you receive the disability back pay compensation you deserve with Berry Law’s help. 

Our knowledgeable, experienced lawyers know the disability application process inside and out and can help you both file a claim or appeal an initial VA benefits decision depending on your needs. Contact us today to learn more.


Agent Orange Exposure And VA Disability Compensation | Veterans Affairs

The PACT Act And Your VA Benefits | Veterans Affairs

Text – H.R.299 – 116th Congress (2019-2020): Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 | 

Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law 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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