Agent Orange and the Korean DMZ

Agent Orange is a highly toxic herbicide, which uses dioxin, that was used in massive quantities throughout the Vietnam War. During the Vietnam era , the United States military used Agent Orange to destroy enemy crops. However, there were a wide variety of unforeseen effects of the herbicide exposure on the health of soldiers who fought in Vietnam and veterans exposed to agent orange.

Agent Orange exposure has been linked to a variety of serious illnesses and environmental health, including several neurological and physical degenerative diseases. Below are a few of the diseases that are linked to Agent Orange exposure. If you are a Vietnam Veteran who was deployed to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos or Thailand and are suffering from one of these diseases, you are highly likely to be eligible for disability benefits from the VA.

  • Dementia and Alzheimer’s: These degenerative diseases cause a person’s memory and ability to form coherent thoughts to fade over time. A Veteran who has severe dementia or Alzheimer’s is likely to qualify for high disability benefits. Since these conditions have symptoms that progressively worsen, a Veteran’s disability status can often be subject to change if they have Alzheimer’s or Dementia. 
  • Type II Diabetes has also been linked to Agent Orange exposure, as have specific types of Heart Disease. 
  • Parkinson’s disease: This condition causes frequent tremors and inhibited motor functioning. If you are a Vietnam Veteran who has Parkinson’s, you are likely to receive a presumptive service connection. This presumed link between Parkinson’s and your military service is due to the widespread exposure to Agent Orange and the herbicide’s link to the development of the disease.
     
  • Several cancers are also linked with the effects of Agent Orange exposure, such as prostate cancer . If you are a Vietnam Veteran suffering from any type of cancer, make sure to file a disability claim with the VA.

Health effects related to Agent Orange, such as birth defects, soft tissue sarcomas and including the conditions listed above, allow a Veteran to receive presumptive service connection for their condition from congress and the U.S. government. This means that it is presumed that your disability is related to your time in service. Therefore, any claim with a presumptive service connection will be automatically granted to the Veteran. If you receive a presumptive service connection, the VA will grant you a specific disability rating that corresponds with a specific amount of monthly compensation. These benefits are tax-free and can help you stay financially stable, even if your condition makes it impossible for you to work.

However, not all Agent Orange claims are initially granted. The VA can deny these claims for various reasons, including the location served and the time the Veteran was there. Nevertheless, Veterans who served in Korea during a specific timeframe are eligible for service connection for Agent Orange-related conditions. This exception to the rules of presumptive exposure is one that not all Korean War Veterans are aware of. Below are the eligibility requirements for Korean War Veterans to qualify for presumptive service connection for Agent Orange exposure.

Eligibility Requirements For Agent Orange Service Connection

In order to be eligible for Agent Orange disability benefits, a Veteran who served in Korea must meet the service requirements put forth by the VA through the agent orange registry from the agent orange act. They must be able to show that they served in Korea between April 1, 1968, and August 31, 1971. These are the dates that the VA recognizes the use of Agent Orange in Korea. They will also need to show that their unit was at or near the Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ) because this is where the VA recognizes the use of Agent Orange. While the majority of Vietnam War Veterans can qualify for presumptive service connection, many Korean War Veterans cannot receive the same presumed connection. This is because Agent Orange was not used as prominently during the Korean War as it was in Vietnam.

A Veteran must also present an adequate medical opinion that diagnoses them with a medical condition that is presumptively related to Agent Orange, such as type II diabetes mellitus, ischemic heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, or various forms of cancer. When you apply for these benefits, the VA and Department of Defense will determine whether or not you had qualifying service on or near the DMZ.

When you file a claim for disability benefits for Agent Orange exposure, you will need to provide the VA with your military medical records, personnel records, and any other relevant documentation that the VA may need to review when assessing your claim. Make sure to frequently check the status of your claim to see if the VA has requested any further documentation from you – you’ll need to submit anything they have requested before they can move forward with evaluating your claim. 

In addition, any Veteran who applies to receive disability benefits from the VA will need to undergo a VA Compensation & Pension Exam. This examination allows the VA to assess your condition and verify that you have a diagnosable medical or psychological disability. The results of your C&P exam can play an important role in the disability rating that the VA grants you if your claim is approved.

Denied Agent Orange Claims For Those in Korea

It is important to realize that the VA often denies these Agent Orange claims initially. Veterans who served just before or just after the eligibility period, those who were not officially assigned to one of the units known to have been exposed to Agent Orange, those who were temporarily assigned without official orders, or those who have been diagnosed with a condition not considered presumptive, will have a harder fight on their hands.

However, just because a Veteran is not entitled to presumptive service connection does not mean that they cannot get service connected for their disability. A Veteran may establish direct exposure to Agent Orange with lay statements, buddy statements from fellow service members or other family members, or nexus statements from doctors

  • Lay statements are testimonials from trusted friends or family members who can verify to the VA that you are suffering from a service-connected condition. The VA recognizes lay statements as a form of evidence that can have an influence on the outcome of a Veteran’s claim. However, these statements will need to be backed by evidence. 
  • Buddy statements are testimonials from fellow soldiers who served with you in the military. Statements from the men and women who you served with can indicate to the VA that eyewitnesses have seen the link between your disability and your military service. 
  • An independent medical examination (IME) administered by your doctor can also have an influence on the outcome of your claim. If the VA has denied your claim based on a lack of sufficient medical evidence, you can get a second opinion from a private doctor. 
  • Any documentation – letters, maps, photos, etc. – that can link your condition to Agent Orange exposure can be extremely helpful in making a case for service connection.

Although these forms of evidence may seem unusual, they have proven to be very important in helping a Veteran receive disability compensation. For example, if a Veteran wrote a letter home talking about his time on the DMZ and was there on temporary orders, he may be able to get service-connected for Agent Orange-related conditions because of the evidence provided in the letter. Maps and unit records can also help establish exposure, as can pictures. Likewise, if you have a trusted friend who has seen the impact your condition has had on your life, they may be able to make a lay statement supporting your claims regarding the severity of your disability. 

If you are unsure about how to effectively compile evidence that will make a strong case to the VA that your claim should be approved, make sure to talk to your attorney. An experienced legal professional can help you determine what the VA needs in order to approve your claim and get you the compensation you deserve. This compensation can be anything from healthcare to help with health problems or other health issues.

Veterans Law Attorneys

Berry Law Firm was founded by a Vietnam Veteran and currently features attorneys from all four branches (Air Force, Navy, Army and Marine Corps.) of the military. We understand what is needed for the VA to grant service connection, and we know how to help you get your claim approved. If you have been denied disability benefits from the VA or received a rating that was too low, please contact our skilled Veterans disability attorneys today to schedule a free case evaluation.

We can help you appeal any U.S. department of Veterans Affairs decision, whether your claim has been denied or you have received a disability rating that is lower than you deserve. One of our experienced attorneys can represent you starting at your local VA facility and supporting you in higher courts if necessary.

 

Sources:

https://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/

https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/parkinsons-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20376055