A History of Agent Orange

During the Vietnam War, U.S. Forces used powerful herbicides in an attempt to remove ground cover and crops which could aid Viet Cong and North Vietnamese soldiers. More than 20 million gallons of various herbicides were spread over Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia between 1961 and 1971 during an ongoing military mission codenamed Operation Ranch Hand.

The herbicides were nicknamed by the colored marks on the 55-gallon drums that held the herbicides. There was Agent Pink, Agent Green, Agent Purple and other colors, but the most widely used chemical compound was Agent Orange. Agent Orange contained a dangerous chemical called Dioxin and accounted for almost two-thirds of the herbicides used in the Vietnam War. In 1971 the U.S. banned Agent Orange and the remaining barrels of the toxic mixture were taken to a remote Pacific island and destroyed.

Questions about the long term effects of contact with Agent Orange arose in the United States when returning Vietnam veterans and their families began to report a wide ranging list of ailments including diabetes, ischemic heart disease, miscarriages, birth defects, and cancers among many other disabilities. For a long time the federal government maintained that there was no link between these illnesses and exposure to Agent Orange. It took veterans who served in Vietnam 25 years to get a law that acknowledged their Agent Orange exposure and opened a path for them to get VA disability benefits.

There are certain diseases that the VA labels as presumptive conditions. It means that the VA presumes that specific disabilities diagnosed in certain veterans were caused by their military service. Vets with these illnesses don’t need the usual amount of evidence to file a claim.

Currently, VA recognizes 14 presumptive conditions associated with exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides.

The controversy over Agent Orange and its effects have been around for more than four decades and the debates surrounding the toxic chemical mixture continue even today.  For example the VA has not granted a presumptive disability to the more than 90,000 “Blue Water” Navy veterans who served offshore in Vietnam. Many of those sailors say they were exposed to herbicides because their ships pumped in potentially contaminated water which was used for showers and laundry and even distilled for drinking. And, unfortunately, there many other veterans who are suffering due to exposure to Agent Orange, but have been denied VA disability benefits.

If you have been turned down by the VA for a service-connected disability including those disabilities related to Agent Orange exposure and you believe the denial was unfair, you have the right to appeal and you have the right to have an attorney represent you. At Cuddigan Law you have a dedicated team of professionals in your corner who understand the system and who will fight for your rights.

 

 

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