Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) is a cancer that starts in your lymphatic system—part of your body’s immune system that fights diseases. Tumors develop from a type of white blood cell called lymphocytes. As the sixth most common cancer, it is estimated that in 2015, over 70,000 patients will be diagnosed with NHL, and over 19,000 will die from this disease.

Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange and other herbicides during Vietnam are at risk of developing NHL. But because it has never been easy to provide evidence that proves a condition is linked to this exposure, veterans were often denied compensation for what they believed were diseases related to Agent Orange. However, this changed with the Agent Orange Act in 1991. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) now recognizes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma as a disease related to Agent Orange, and veterans are likely to receive disability benefits under “presumptive service connection.”

Understanding Presumptive Service Connection for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

The VA “presumes” that specific diseases were caused by circumstances during your military service. Qualifying for VA disability under presumptive service connection for NHL is easier than filing under a direct service connection because:

  • You don’t have to provide proof that Agent Orange caused your disease.
  • You don’t have to prove that you were involved in an incident that exposed you to this herbicide.
  • As long as there is no medical evidence that shows your disease was caused by something else, the VA recognizes that your exposure caused your non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

How Presumptive Service Connection Helps “Blue Water Veterans”

To receive VA disability benefits for some diseases connected to exposure to Agent Orange, you must prove that you physically set foot in Vietnam or served on the inland waterways. However, there is a special rule for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. You do not have to show that you were physically in Vietnam. You’re only required to prove that you served there to be eligible for benefits for presumptive service connection for this disease. This allows “blue water veterans” who served on offshore waters of Vietnam but not inland waters eligibility also.

If you’re a veteran who was exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides during your military service, and you now have non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, you may qualify for disability benefits from the VA. Contact us at 402-933-5405 to discuss your situation. We can help determine if you’re eligible for VA Disability benefits.


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