Recently the VA published a new regulation which opens the way for payment of benefits immediately to Air Force veterans and Air Force Reserve personnel who came in regular and repeated contact with airplanes used to spray herbicides during the Vietnam War. The VA estimates that as many as 1,500 to 2,100 personnel who served as flight, medical and ground maintenance crew members on C-123 aircraft were exposed to Agent Orange through contact with contaminated aircraft which had been used to disperse the herbicide during Operation Ranch Hand.
Benefits will be forthcoming for eligible personnel who submit a disability compensation claim for any of the 14 medical conditions that are related to Agent Orange exposure (known as Agent Orange presumptive conditions) as determined by the VA. Surviving dependents are eligible for dependency and indemnity compensation and burial benefits.
The new regulation follows an in-depth study by the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine (IOM). “Opening up eligibility for this deserving group of Air Force veterans and reservists is the right thing to do,” said VA Secretary Bob McDonald. “We thank the IOM for its thorough review that provided the supporting evidence needed to ensure we can now fully compensate any former crew member who develops an Agent Orange-related disability.”
Agent Orange was one of the herbicides and defoliants used by the U.S. military as part of its herbicidal warfare program which attempted to deprive the Viet Cong of food and vegetation cover. Operation Ranch Hand was the name of a U.S. herbicidal warfare operation which lasted from 1962 until 1971. During that period an estimated 20 million gallons of the chemicals were sprayed in Vietnam. The herbicides used were sprayed at up to 50 times the concentration than is used for normal agricultural use.