Agent Orange generally refers to any herbicide that was used during the Vietnam War, but the main ingredient within these herbicides that causes most medical problems is dioxin. Generally to receive presumptive service connection for agent orange exposure you need to have one of the diseases linked with exposure. See 38 U.S.C. § 1116(a); 38 C.F.R. §§ 3.307(a)(6), 3.309(e). Periodically this list is revised since the VA partners with the Institute of Medicine (IOM) who occasionally finds new diseases that are positively linked with agent orange exposure. Generally the IOM will issue new reports every two years and has found new diseases that are closely associated with exposure including hypertension and AL amyloidosis.
Although the Veteran need not show actual exposure to AO they do need to show that they served in Vietnam or to use VA vernacular that they had “boots on the ground”. Unfortunately this requirement leaves out many Veterans who were exposed outside of Vietnam during the same time period and House Bill 2254 (see below) may correct this problem if passed. This includes military service in Vietnam between January 9, 1962, and ending on May 7, 1975. The boots on the ground requirement applies to those Veterans who served just off shore, but you’ll still need to have spent some time (even a minute) in Vietnam itself. Since the requirement includes service “in the waters offshore and service in other locations if the conditions of service involved duty or visitation in the Republic of Vietnam.” 38 C.F.R. § 3.307(a)(6)(iii). Boots on the ground includes service within inland water bodies within Vietnam, but does not include overflights over Vietnam. There have been problems with the so called “blue water” Veterans that were just off shore of Vietnam and has been appealed up to the Federal Circuit where it was held that these Veterans did not meet the requirement since you need to prove that you at least set foot on shore.
Secondly, you need to show that you have one of the diseases located at the cites above that typically includes various types of cancer, hodgkin’s, soft tissue sarcomas, diabetes, and medical problems in the children of exposed Veterans. See the list in the code provisions cited above. Lastly, certain types of diseases must have had an onset within a certain amount of time after the Vet left Vietnam. Its also possible that a Veteran could be compensated for a disease not on the list, but it can be assumed that this will be a tougher task, and would require excellent medical support.