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Veterans’ exposure to herbicides can lead to health conditions

Thanks to the Daily Mining Gazette we will once again be providing you with veterans news. If there is something you would like us to address in these articles, or something you would like to have information about please call us at the Houghton/Keweenaw Veteran Affairs Office at 482-0102.

Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange

Veterans who were exposed during military service may be eligible for a variety of VA benefits, including disability compensation for diseases associated with exposure.

“Agent Orange” refers to a blend of tactical herbicides the U.S. military sprayed in the jungles of Vietnam and around the Korean demilitarized zone to remove trees and dense tropical foliage. Herbicides were also used by the U.S. military to defoliate military facilities in the U.S. and in other countries as far back as the 1950s.

VA and federal law presumes certain diseases are a result of exposure to these herbicides. This “presumptive policy” simplifies the process for receiving compensation for these diseases, since VA foregoes the normal requirements of proving that an illness began during or was worsened by your military service.

A veteran who believes he or she has a disease caused by Agent Orange exposure that is not one of the conditions listed below must show an actual connection between the disease and herbicide exposure during military service.

With service in Vietnam or Korea, VA presumes veterans were exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides if they served:

In Vietnam anytime between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, including brief visits ashore or service aboard a ship that operated on the inland waterways of Vietnam;

In or near the Korean demilitarized zone anytime between April 1, 1968, and Aug. 31, 1971.

Even if you did not serve in Vietnam or the Korean demilitarized zone during the specified time periods, you can still apply for disability compensation if you were exposed to an herbicide while in the military and believe it led to the onset of a disease. This includes:

Veterans who served on or near the perimeters of military bases in Thailand during the Vietnam Era

Veterans who served where herbicides were tested and stored outside of Vietnam

Veterans who were crew members on C-123 planes flown after the Vietnam War

Veterans associated with Department of Defense (DOD) projects to test, dispose of, or store herbicides in the U.S.

You must prove you were exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides during your military service to be eligible for service-connection for disease VA presumes are related to Agent Orange exposure.

An exception: Blue-water veterans with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma may be granted service-connection without showing inland waterway service, or that they set foot in Vietnam. This is because VA also recognizes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma as related to service in Vietnam or the waters offshore of Vietnam during the Vietnam Era.

Veterans’ Diseases Associated with Agent Orange

VA assumes certain diseases can be related to qualifying military service – “presumptive diseases.”

AL amyloidosis: a rare disease caused when an abnormal protein, amyloid, enters tissues or organs

Chronic B-cell leukemia: a type of cancer, which affects white blood cells

Chloracne: a skin condition that occurs soon after exposure to chemicals and looks like common forms of acne seen in teenagers. Under VA’s rating regulations, it must be at least 10 percent disabling within one year of exposure.

Diabetes mellitus Type 2: characterized by high blood-sugar levels resulting from the body’s inability to respond properly to the hormone insulin.

Hodgkin’s disease: malignant lymphoma (cancer) characterized by progressive enlargement of the lymph nodes, liver, and spleen, and by progressive anemia.

Ischemic heart disease: characterized by a reduced supply of blood to the heart, that leads to chest pain.

Multiple myeloma: cancer of plasma cells, a type of white blood cell in bone marrow.

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma: A group of cancers affecting the lymph glands and other lymphatic tissue.

Parkinson’s disease: progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects muscle movement.

Peripheral neuropathy, early-onset: nervous system condition that causes numbness, tingling and motor weakness. It must be at least 10 percent disabling within one year of herbicide exposure.

Porphyria cutanea tarda: disorder characterized by liver dysfunction and by thinning and blistering of the skin in sun-exposed areas. It must be at least 10 percent disabling within one year of exposure to herbicides.

Prostate cancer: one of the most common cancers among men.

Respiratory cancers, including lung cancer: cancer of the lung, larynx, trachea, and bronchus

Soft-tissue sarcomas (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or mesothelioma): group of different types of cancers in body tissues, such as muscle, fat, blood and lymph vessels, and connective tissues.

James A. Klutts is the service officer for the Houghton-Keweenaw County Veteran Affairs Office.

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