United States veterans are still suffering and dying from the effects Agent Orange.

Agent Orange is the code name for the defoliant used by the United States military in its Herbicidal Warfare program during the Vietnam War.  The code name came from the orange-striped 55 gallon barrels in which the herbicide was shipped.  Agent Orange was an even combination of 2 herbicides that when combined worked as an aggressive defoliant.  This 50/50 mixture was then combined with a fuel such as kerosene or diesel fuel and then dispersed and spread by a plane, military vehicle, or hand sprayer. 

Approximately 1.5 million Vietnam veterans were exposed to Agent Orange.  This accounts for half of the 3 million soldiers that served in Vietnam.  A soldier's exposure to the defoliant was attributed to three main sources: 1) breathing in the chemicals,  2) ingestion from contaminated food, and/or 3) skin absorption. 

The U.S. military's objective in using Agent Orange, was to reduce the amount of over-grown jungles the enemy used as cover, and also to reduce the amount of usable crops the enemy could harvest.  Its use was a government initiative, and as a result, the U.S. military utilized approximately 20 million gallons of Agent Orange on more than 20% of the terrain in South Vietnam. From 1961 to 1971, Agent Orange would become the most widely used herbicidal weapon in the Vietnam war.    

In 1963, shortly after it's first use, the U.S. government funded a study that highlighted the concern over possible health risks associated with Agent Orange exposure.  The study confirmed that Agent Orange contained a chemical, (a dioxin called tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (TCDD)) within the mixture which has the potential to cause cancer, birth defects, and several other severe health problems.  Unfortunately, the use of Agent Orange continued despite these findings.

Veterans can recall being told not to worry about the toxic chemical, and were further told that it was not harmful despite their continual exposure to a harmful and carcinogenic toxin.  Disabled veterans with direct exposure to Agent Orange now know different. 

What diseases are associated with exposure to Agent Orange?

-Acute and Subacute Transient Peripheral Neuropathy.  (VA's rating regulations require it must be at least 10% disabling within 1 year of exposure to Agent Orange and resolve within 2 years after the date it began.)
-AL Amyloidosis
-B Cell Leukemia
-Chloracne.  (VA's rating regulations require at least 10% disabling within 1 year of exposure to Agent Orange.)
-Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
-Diabetes Mellitus (Type 2)
-Hodgkin’s Disease
-Ischemic Heart Disease
-Multiple Myeloma
-Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
-Parkinson’s Disease
-Porphyria Cutanea Tarda.  (This problem involves liver dysfunction, thinning and blistering of the skin in sun-exposed areas. VA's rating regulations, require at least 10% disabling within 1 year of exposure to Agent Orange.)
-Prostate Cancer
-Respiratory Cancers that affect the lungs, larynx, trachea and bronchus. 
-Soft Tissue Sarcoma (other than Osteosarcoma, Chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or Mesothelioma)

What should a veteran do if they were exposed to Agent Orange?

First, if you believe you were exposed to Agent Orange, and that you sustained a disabling disease or permanent health problem as a result, you should immediately seek attention from a VA clinic for a proper diagnosis by the Agent Orange Registry, a health program exam started in 1978 for war veterans. 

Secondly, you should apply for veteran disability benefits and compensation payments.  The amount of payments will be determined by the extent of the Agent Orange's damage sustained. 

Third, you should check to see if you qualify for medical care related to Agent Orange exposure.  A VA physician would be the one to make this determination. 

Unfortunately, there is no single "cure-all" for exposure to Agent Orange, as the disabling health problems are wide-spread and severe.  The most beneficial course of treatment a veteran can pursue is to get regular check-ups and strictly follow their doctor's orders. 

James R. Keller
Connect with me
Partner at Keller & Keller