Vietnam Veterans and Agent Orange Lawsuits
Were you or a loved one exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange?
Was the person exposed while serving as a U.S. military service member in Vietnam or Thailand, or on a U.S. military base during the Vietnam War (from 1962 – 1975)?
During the Vietnam War, the U.S. Military used the tactical herbicide Agent Orange to destroy the thick vegetation of Southeast Asia for military operations.
Scientific research has established that Agent Orange can cause a long list of extremely serious health problems, including cancers. Many military service members were exposed to Agent Orange, and thousands developed illnesses as a result.
Am I Entitled To Compensation For My Agent Orange Exposure?
If you were exposed to Agent Orange during your military service, and have one of the illnesses related to that exposure, you may be eligible for military benefits and compensation for your medical bills, bodily injury and other losses relating to the injury.
Speak to an Austin personal injury attorney who is experienced with injury cases involving Agent Orange and other dangerous chemicals.
What Is Agent Orange?
Agent Orange is an herbicide (a chemical substance that kills plants) and a defoliant (a chemical that removes the leaves from plants and trees.)
Agent Orange was one of several “Rainbow Herbicides” used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. Other types were called Agent Pink, Blue, Green, etc. These “tactical herbicides” are much more concentrated and dangerous than the commercial herbicides used in most conventional gardens.
Much of Vietnam is covered in dense forests and jungles. The thick foliage makes it difficult to see from a distance, both on the ground and from above.
During America’s war with Vietnam, the U.S. government permitted the military to use herbicides like Agent Orange on the battlefield. The U.S. military used Agent Orange as a “tactical herbicide” to remove vegetation and increase visibility for aircraft and service members on the battlefield.
The U.S. Military sprayed Agent Orange over thousands of miles of Vietnam. More than fifteen-percent of Vietnam’s forests were destroyed, and millions of Vietnamese people were exposed to the herbicide.
In addition, thousands of U.S. military service members deployed in the Vietnam War were exposed to Agent Orange.
What Are The Risks Of Agent Orange Exposure?
Agent Orange contains dioxins. A dioxin is a highly toxic chemical compound. Dioxins are often the byproducts of manufacturing herbicides like Agent Orange.
Dioxins are also persistent. This means that they do not break down and disappear easily. They contaminate an area and pose an ongoing risk of harm.
Dioxins are so persistent that toxic Agent Orange dioxins are still detectable in rural areas of Vietnam.
Anyone who spent time in areas that were sprayed – even after spraying was completed – may have been exposed. In addition, during the Vietnam War, the herbicide Agent Orange was stored and tested in areas of Thailand.
That is why so many U.S. Vietnam Veterans were exposed to Agent Orange.
Dioxins Can Cause A Variety of Health Problems, Including Cancers
While serving in the Vietnam War, U.S. military service members were told that Agent Orange was harmless, and that they should not worry about exposure.
However many Vietnam Vets quickly displayed illnesses linked to the dioxins contained in Agent Orange. These included rashes, nervous system damage, tumors and other cancer. Many died quickly after returning from the Vietnam War. Many had children born with birth defects, including spina bifida and other neural problems.
In 1977, Vietnam vets began filing disability claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for health conditions that seemed connected to their Agent Orange exposure. The VA denied many of them, saying the veterans couldn’t prove they were exposed or injured by Agent Orange.
Some veterans were denied because they had filed disability claims more than a year after their discharge. But many illnesses resulting from Agent Orange exposure can take years to appear.
Fortunately in 1991, Congress acted to protect the many Vietnam veterans that had been misled about the dangers of their exposure to the Agent Orange tactical herbicide.
The Agent Orange Act (1991) and Presumed Exposure to Agent Orange
The Agent Orange Act of 1991 required the Federal government to examine all the scientific studies showing health problems caused by Agent Orange exposure.
Under the Agent Orange Act:
- The VA now admits certain health problems can be caused by exposure to dioxins in its Agent Orange ‘tactical herbicide’
- All U.S. Veterans of the Vietnam War will be presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange if they served in Vietnam, or in a number of locations in the U.S. and Asia where Agent Orange was stored, transported or tested.
U.S. Veterans of the Vietnam War Can Often Recover For Illness and Injury Caused By Their Exposure To Agent Orange
Many veterans of the Vietnam War are now eligible for benefits for a number of health-related injuries relating to Agent Orange exposure.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) works with the independent Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences to review up-to-date scientific evidence on health problems linked to Agent Orange exposure. The VA acknowledges that many many medical conditions are associated with exposure to the ‘tactical herbicide’ Agent Orange.
Health Problems Recognized By The VA As Linked To Agent Orange
There are certain health problems that the VA will presume are caused by a veteran’s exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam war. The veteran does not need to prove this causation in a disability claim.
As long as the veteran served in the U.S. in a list of places where Agent Orange was stored, transported, tested or sprayed, the VA will generally pay compensation for the disability.
Cancers Caused By Agent Orange Exposure
Chronic B-cell Leukemias
Leukemia is a cancer of the blood. B-cells are a type of white blood cell that help the body fight infection.
Leukemia is potentially fatal and someone with the following symptoms should consult with a healthcare professional: swollen lymph nodes, frequent infections, common bleeding or bruising, tiny red spots on the skin, pain or tenderness in the bones and unintended weight loss.
A malignant lymphoma (cancer) characterized by progressive enlargement of the lymph nodes, liver, and spleen, and by progressive anemia
Veterans who develop Hodgkin’s disease (also called Hodgkin’s lymphoma) and were exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides during military service do not have to prove a connection between their disease and service to be eligible to receive VA health care and disability compensation.
Hodgkin’s disease is one of two common cancers of the lymphatic system, which is part of the immune system. The other, more common, cancer of the lymphatic system is called non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Signs may include fever, fatigue, night sweats, itching, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Painless swelling in the lymph nodes in neck, armpits, and groin also may occur.
Multiple myeloma is a cancer caused by unregulated protein production by the white blood cells. It often manifests with tumors on multiple bones throughout the body.
There are few symptoms until the later stages, but symptoms include: fatigue, pain and fractures in the bones, ongoing infections, weak or numb limbs.
Tests that show proteins in the urine or blood or elevated calcium in the blood may indicate multiple myeloma.
Hodgkin’s disease is a harmful cancer affecting the lymphatic system, which helps the body fight infection and disease. It is a type of lymphoma (cancer of the lymph nodes), and can lead to enlarged lymph nodes, spleen and liver. Hodgkin’s disease can also cause anemia (low iron count in the blood).
Symptoms of Hodgking’s disease can include fever, fatigue, night sweats, itching, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Painless swelling in the lymph nodes in neck, armpits, and groin also may occur.
Prostate cancer is cancer that forms in the prostate, a gland related to male reproduction.
Prostate cancer is one of the most common among men, especially older men. Prostate cancer can run in families, and African American men are also at a higher risk.
Many men do not have symptoms of prostate early on, but the disease can often be detected with a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test or digital rectal exam.
Lung Cancer and Other Respiratory Cancers
Cancers of the lung, larynx, trachea, and bronchus are collectively known as respiratory cancers.
Symptoms of cancer in the respiratory system can include: shortness of breath, hoarseness, persistent or dry coughing, difficulty swallowing, sore throat or a lump in the throat and coughing blood.
The best way to avoid respiratory cancer is to quit smoking.
Soft Tissue Sarcomas
Soft tissue sarcomas are cancers that form in bodily tissue (fat, muscle, blood, glands and connective tissues). Many of these cancers do not have symptoms in the early stage.
As the tumors grow, they may form a noticeable (but painless) bump. They may eventually begin to be sore. They are rare, but anyone with symptoms is advised to contact a healthcare professional.
However certain soft tissue sarcomas are not found by the VA to be associated with Agent Orange exposure. These are usually not covered by veterans disability, and they include:
- Kaposi’s Sarcoma
Other Health Problems Caused By Agent Orange Exposure
AL Amyloidosis is a disease caused by protein deposits in the heart, liver, lungs, bowels, kidneys, nerves, joints, skin and other bodily tissue. Symptoms can include weight loss, tingling or numbness in the limbs, fatigue and anemia (low blood cells). It is rare, but can be caused by other cancers.
Chloracne / Acneiform Disease
Chloracne is a skin condition resembling the acne that teenagers develop. It can be caused by various types of chemical exposure.
The VA requires that chloracne (or other acneiform disease) be at least 10 percent disabling, no more than one year after exposure to herbicides.
Type 2 Diabetes (Diabetes Mellitus Type 2)
Type 2 Diabetes is a chronic disease involving high blood sugar. The body produces insulin to regulate blood sugar. People whose bodies do not produce or properly process insulin can develop high blood sugar, which leads to a series of health problems.
People may be more at risk of developing Diabetes Type 2 if it runs in their family, and from unhealthy eating habits, obesity or not getting enough exercise.
Symptoms can include: increased hunger or thirst, fatigue, frequent urination, sores that heal slowly, frequent infections and blurred vision.
Ischemic Heart Disease
Ischemic Heart Disease, also known as coronary artery disease or “hardening of the arteries”, reduces the blood supply to the heart. It is caused by a buildup of cholesterol in the arteries, which carry oxygen to the heart. The buildup can grow and block the body’s blood flow, causing a heart attack.
Many heart attacks are linked to unhealthy diet and exercise habits. But veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange do not have to prove their coronary artery disease was directly caused by the herbicide. The VA assumes a relationship between the two.
Parkinson’s Disease is a nervous system disorder affecting muscle movement. The disease affects the brain, causing bodily stiffening and shaking, and challenges with motor functions like walking, balance and coordination.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease can include: trembling or stiff hands, limbs and face, difficulty with balance and coordination.
The disease is degenerative, meaning it gets worse over time.
But there are many effective treatments for Parkinson’s Disease, especially if treated early. Anyone with symptoms should consult a healthcare professional.
Peripheral Neuropathy, Early-Onset
Peripheral Neuropathy is a disorder in the peripheral nervous system, which extends from the brain and spinal cord to control the body. Symptoms can include tingling or numbness that starts in the fingers and toes and spreads to the feet or hands. This sensation may grow worse, causing intense shooting pain, sensitivity to touch, weak muscles and loss of balance or coordination. The pain is often worse at night.
Neural disorders were among the first recognized as being related to Agent Orange Exposure. The VA recognizes this, and veterans with peripheral neuropathy do not have to prove it was caused by their exposure to Agent Orange. Anyone with symptoms should consult a medical professional.
Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
Porphyria Cutanea Tarda is a liver dysfunction that causes exposed skin to grow thin and blister. Symptoms can include skin blisters on areas exposed to the sun. The blisters can crust, scar and change pigmentation. The dysfunction can also cause excessive hair growth on sun-exposed areas of the skin.
Veterans with a porphyria cutanea tarda condition that is at least 10 percent disabling one year after herbicide exposure do not have to prove it was caused by Agent Orange exposure to recover benefits.
Areas Presumed To Have Been Exposed to Agent Orange Spraying
Under VA regulations, Vietnam Veterans are presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange if they served in the U.S. military between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975:
- In the Vietnam Republic, or
- In the Korean DMZ, including the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division area; 2nd and 4th Brigades, 2nd Division area; and 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division area, or
- Aboard a U.S. military vessel operating in Vietnam’s water ways, no more than 12 nautical miles from Vietnam and Cambodia, or
- On a regular perimeter duty near a U.S. Army Base in Vietnam or a Thai military base, including U-Tapao, Ubon, Nakhon Phanom, Udorn, Takhli, Korat and Don Muang, or
- On active duty in the Air Force and had contact with C-123 aircraft used for Agent Orange.
- Transporting, testing, storing or otherwise using Agent Orange, or
- As a Reservist in a location where Agent Orange was stored, transported or tested, including:
- Lockbourne/Rickenbacker Air Force Base in Ohio (1969 to 1986), including:
- 906th and 907th Tactical Air Groups
- 355th and 356th Tactical Airlift Squadrons
- Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts (1972 to 1982), including:
- 731st Tactical Air Squadron and 74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron
- 901st Organizational Maintenance Squadron
- Pittsburgh International Airport in Pennsylvania, 1972 to 1982, including:
- 758th Airlift Squadron)
- Lockbourne/Rickenbacker Air Force Base in Ohio (1969 to 1986), including:
Qualified Legal Representation in A Disability Claim For Agent Orange Exposure
The VA has recognized that dozens of scientific studies demonstrate clear links between Agent Orange exposure and a host of health problems, including potentially fatal cancers and other diseases.
But proving a health condition brought on by Agent Orange exposure can be complex, involving evidence to prove that the veteran has a recognized condition and was exposed to Agent Orange during military service.
Often the veteran has enough worries maintaining employment, family and continuing with everyday life, all while living with a health condition. Some people are reluctant to file a lawsuit at all. Others have misgivings about making a claim against the government.
The medical bills alone can be daunting, let alone the reality of facing an uncertain future. Vets and families who have been injured and affected by Agent Orange associate health problems need attorneys experienced in handling these complexities.
Warriors For The Injured
The Austin-based injury law firm of Justinian & Associates has represented many military veterans, including those injured by Agent Orange exposure.
We also understand the complex feelings and challenges involved in these cases. Our managing partner Dustin Fox lost his own father to cancer, likely linked to his father’s work for the U.S. Forest Service while serving in the Vietnam War.
We have battled bullies of all kinds, taking on large multinational corporations, and earning compensation for hundreds of our injured clients. Our attorneys have extensive knowledge and experience with disability claims and cases involving health problems caused by hazardous chemicals like Agent Orange.
We know the law, and are able to navigate the bureaucratic maze of the Veterans Affairs Department and the judicial system. Each of our attorneys, investigators and support staff is committed to getting you the help and compensation you are entitled to under the law.
If you or a loved one was exposed to Agent Orange during military service, you need experienced personal injury and dangerous product attorneys on your side.
Call, text or email us for a free consultation with a seasoned Austin personal injury attorney. Tell us your story, and we will explain your options. And unless we get you money for your injuries, you owe us nothing.
Don’t Wait to Seek Legal Assistance For Your Agent Orange Injury
Your rights can be lost if you wait.
The experienced attorneys at Justinian and Associates are standing by ready to help you get the compensation and justice you deserve. Contact us today.