In the U.S.

U.S. SUPPORT FOR VETERANS

Herbicide mixing machine, C-123 aircraft, 1963. AP photo by Horst Faas.

Slowly at first, and then with increasing commitment, the U.S. has recognized its responsibility to veterans exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam, at the DMZ in Korea and military bases.

It was not until the passing of Public Law 116-23 in 2019 that Blue Water Navy veterans, in particular, who served off the coast of Vietnam, became eligible for VA financial and medical compensation. Veterans who served in Thailand and elsewhere are still ineligible, without proof of exposure, for Agent Orange service-related benefits   

Medical treatment was first provided with the congressional passing of Public Law 97-72, the “Veterans’ Health Care, Training, and Small Business Loan Act of 1981”; and later, financial compensation with Public Law 98-542, the “Veterans’ Dioxin and Radiation Exposure Compensation Standards Act of 1984.” The primary way that assistance has been administered to Vietnam veterans affected by Agent Orange was through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The National Academy of Sciences

The VA went on to conduct medical studies, at first heavily influenced by the chemical industry, on the human health implications of Agent Orange exposure. But with the Agent Orange Act of 1991, Congress transferred the responsibility for reviewing medical research from the VA to the National Academy of Sciences. 

The Academy was charged with reviewing the scientific research on Dioxin and the herbicides used in Vietnam to determine if there was an association with negative health outcomes. The VA’s list of illnesses and disabilities eligible for treatment and compensation, based on recommendations by the Academy, has been growing ever since. 

​The following conditions are currently recognized by the VA as associated with exposure to Agent Orange:

  • Acute and Subacute Peripheral Neuropathy. 
  • AL Amyloidosis
  • B Cell Leukemias
  • Chloracne (or Similar Acneiform Disease)
  • Diabetes Mellitus (Type 2).
  • Hodgkin’s Disease
  • Ischemic Heart Disease
  • Multiple Myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Respiratory Cancers (Cancers of the lung, larynx, trachea, and bronchus)
  • Soft Tissue Sarcoma (other than Osteosarcoma, Chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or Mesothelioma).

Additionally, children with spina bifida, but not spina bifida occulta, born to Vietnam veterans, especially female veterans, are eligible for compensation and other benefits.

In 2018, the National Academy of Sciences found that there was sufficient evidence of association for hypertension and monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS), a condition that can lead to multiple myeloma. Previous reports found that Parkinsonism and Parkinson-like syndromes, stroke, hypothyroidism and bladder cancer also had limited or suggestive associations. These conditions, however, have not yet been recognized by the VA. 

“If I am only for myself, who am I?
And if not now, when?”

– The Prophet Hillel, ca. 10 BC

Veterans and Agent Orange

Veterans and Agent Orange

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 11 (2018). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.