When soldiers returned home from Vietnam, many of them had been exposed to Agent Orange, a toxic herbicide the U.S. military used as a tactical defoliant. Agent Orange contained a deadly chemical called dioxin that's lethal to humans, and many veterans of the war now suffer serious health problems due to that exposure.

What Is Agent Orange?

The U.S. military sprayed over 20 million gallons of herbicides on the jungles, foliage, vegetation, and rice paddies in Vietnam to kill the dense growth that provided protective cover to the Viet Cong troops and Vietnamese soldiers. Agent Orange was the herbicide most commonly used for this purpose.

The deadly chemical “2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin”—also known as TCDD or dioxin—was a primary ingredient in Agent Orange. Although there are other dioxins, TCDD is considered the most deadly.

Diseases Linked With Agent Orange

diseases linked to Agent OrangeWhen Vietnam veterans began suffering serious medical conditions, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recognized that some of these health problems were due to Agent Orange exposure.

Eventually, these diseases were placed on a list for “presumptive diseases associated with exposure to Agent Orange.”

This means the VA realizes that certain medical conditions are linked to chemical exposure, and veterans are eligible for benefits if they suffer from them. These diseases include:

  • Diabetes Mellitus Type 2. High blood sugar levels characterize this disease, and the body is unable to respond appropriately to the insulin hormone made by the pancreas.
  • Hodgkin’s Disease. This is a malignant cancer where the patient experiences progressive enlargement of the liver, spleen, and lymph nodes, along with progressive anemia.
  • AL Amyloidosis. This is a rare condition that occurs when amyloid, an abnormal protein, enters the body’s organs or tissues.
  • Ischemic Heart Disease. Also referred to as coronary heart disease, ischemic heart disease is caused by a narrowing of the heart arteries. This makes it hard for oxygen and blood to reach the heart. The VA officially linked this disease to Agent Orange in 2010.
  • Chronic B-cell Leukemias. These are cancers that affect white blood cells.
  • Chloracne. This skin condition appears like common types of acne. The rating regulations for chloracne require that it be at least 10 percent disabling within one year of exposure to Agent Orange.
  • Parkinson’s Disease. This is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects the body’s muscle movement and often includes tremors.
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. This condition is a group of cancers that originates in the lymphatic system—the body’s disease-fighting network.
  • Multiple Myeloma. This cancer affects the plasma cells, which are certain kinds of white blood cells found in bone marrow.
  • Early-Onset Peripheral Neuropathy. Numbness, tingling, or prickling in the toes or fingers characterize this condition. The symptoms can spread to your hands or feet and cause a burning or throbbing sensation. The rating regulations for early-onset peripheral neuropathy require that it be at least 10 percent disabling within one year of exposure to Agent Orange.
  • Porphyria Cutanea Tarda. A patient with this disease experiences liver dysfunction and a thinning and blistering of skin that is exposed to sun. The rating regulations for porphyria cutanea tarda require that it be at least 10 percent disabling within one year of exposure to Agent Orange.
  • Prostate Cancer. A common cancer in men, this condition usually develops quite slowly.
  • Respiratory Cancers. These include cancers of the bronchus, larynx, trachea, and lungs.
  • Soft Tissue Sarcomas. This is a group of different kinds of cancers in body tissues, including the muscles, fat, blood and lymph vessels, and connective tissues. This does not include osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or mesothelioma.

Qualifying for Agent Orange Presumptive Service Connection

If you’re a veteran seeking disability benefits for a disease associated with Agent Orange, you must show:

  • You served in Vietnam between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975.
  • You have a current diagnosis of a disease the VA links to Agent Orange exposure.
  • Your disease is rated at least 10 percent or higher.

Cuddigan Law Firm Can Help

If you’re a Vietnam vet and believe your medical condition is associated with exposure to Agent Orange, contact Cuddigan Law. Our attorneys understand how the VA evaluates medical claims related to this toxic, and can help prove that your condition is a presumptive disease that will qualify for disability compensation. Call Cuddigan Law today for help with your VA disability claim. 


Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska