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MO Agent Orange exposure victims can obtain VA benefits -- Part I

During its operations in Vietnam and the Korean Demilitarized Zone, the United States military used a chemical called Agent Orange. Agent Orange is a defoliating agent used to clear vegetation that provided cover to enemy forces. As many Missouri residents may be aware, in addition to Vietnam and Korea, the military also used Agent Orange in the United States and other countries for non-military purposes. Unfortunately, the military was unaware that Agent Orange exposure could cause severe health complications.

However, after several years, the Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA) recognized and acknowledged the consequences of Agent Orange exposure. As a result, the VA announced that service members who had been affected by Agent Orange could collect benefits.

According to the eligibility criteria set by the VA, all veterans deployed in Vietnam between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, including those who visited the shore for short time periods or entered Vietnam's inland waterways, were most likely affected by Agent Orange. Similarly, veterans who served in Korea between April 1, 1968, and Aug. 31, 1971, were probably also affected.

Veterans who want to obtain disability benefits from the VA for Agent Orange must show that they either served in Vietnam or Korea during the specified period. Those veterans do not need to furnish additional evidence because of the VA's presumption about service in Vietnam and Korea and Agent Orange exposure. But, those veterans who do not fall into either category must provide adequate evidence supporting their claim, if they wish to receive disability benefits from the VA for Agent Orange.

Nonetheless, granting benefits to Vietnam and Korea veterans was not sufficient as Agent Orange also affected many service members during peace time missions. Initially, those veterans' issues were ignored, and they were not covered by the VA for Agent Orange benefits. After some recent policy changes though, those veterans' issues seem to have been addressed. The eligibility criteria and the claim process for those veterans will be discussed in the next blog post.

Source: Benefits.VA.gov, "Compensation - Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange," accessed on July 28, 2015

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Alan E. DeWoskin, P.C.
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