Agent Orange (AO) 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. Dioxins are extremely toxic since they persist in the environment and are known to cause cancer and a host of other problems. 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). The presumption generally applies to veterans who served in Vietnam, along the Korean DMZ, and Air Force Veterans who worked on C-123s. If the Veteran can’t prove presumptive exposure, then they must prove actual exposure which is quite difficult. Somewhat easier to do is when youcan prove actual exposure but lacking a listed disease, and different disease is possibly related to AO based on private medical opinion.
Periodically this list is revised since the VA partners with the Institute of Medicine (IOM), who based on research finds new diseases that are positively linked with AO exposure. Currently the Health and Medicine Division makes these assessments.Other new diseases presumed connected are hypertension, bladder cancer, parkinsonism (not to be confused with Parkinson’s Disease) and AL amyloidosis. Most surprising was that a number of years ago a very common problem, diabetes type II was linked to AO. Many other medical problems that are too numerous to list would be secondary to diabetes so this should also be investigated by Vietnam veterans who have diabetes. Also relatively common is peripheral neuropathy, often found in conjuction with diabetes II, where the neuropathy must have an onset of at least 10% compensation within one year after last exposure of AO.
Although the Veteran need not show actual exposure to AO they do need to show that they served in Vietnam or had “boots on the ground”, aboard ships within the inland waterways of Vietnam, or oceans off the coast of Vietnam. Serving within 12 nautical miles within the coast of Vietnam also qualifies somewhat recently based on the Veterans’ Court decision Procopio v. Wilkie. The 12 miles is from a line based on latitude and longitude from common geographical points described here. If you are not sure if your ship was within this 12 mile limit its worth applying and determining the final answer later based on research. The VA has a blue water website with special resources to determine this question.
In terms of veterans who served along the Korean DM,currently and generally, there must be service between April 1968 and August 1971. There is a list of units that are presumed to have had exposure, but other army units may also have. Besides, Korea, Thailand was a major arena of AO usage particularly around Air Force bases. A relatively wide swath of time, between February 1961 and May 1975 for veterans of many Thai Air Force bases, and for security personel that often patrolled the perimeters of those bases. The policy or rules have become liberalized for these veterans who served in Thailand and may be a basis to challenge the effective date either on 3.156c or based on clear and unmistakable error. Veterans who served in Guam also have a strong argument for AO exposure.