In 1960, the Diem government of South Vietnam held arms against the communist-backed North Vietnam forces. At the time, US assistance to the Diem government was in the form of military advisors, financial aid, and logistics support. However, the US soon realized that the Diem government would not be able to hold off the Viet Cong troops for much longer, urging the need for a US intervention.
One of the significant challenges during the Vietnam war was the dense foliage and forestation that the enemy troops would hide behind. Such tactics made it difficult for the South Vietnamese forces to fight. In the meantime, US military experts proposed a defoliation program where they would use toxic herbicides to remove foliage eliminating cover for the enemies, improve visibility in dense canopied jungles, and destroy food crops cutting off the enemy’s food supply. They didn’t anticipate the lingering effects of the defoliation program that would affect millions of veterans and Vietnamese victims.
Ehline Law and our toxic exposure attorneys help veterans exposed to Agent Orange and other harmful substances during the Vietnam War or their service at Camp Lejeune and other military bases under the PACT Act. If you’re a veteran suffering from Agent Orange-related illnesses from your service during the Vietnam war, you may qualify for compensation. Contact our attorneys now for a free consultation on your case.
In November 1961, to combat the advancing Viet Cong forces, the Kennedy administration started Operation Ranch Hand, an aerial spraying herbicide program formally directed by the South Vietnam government.
During the period 1962 and 1971, according to the US Air Force records, the US military sprayed over 45 million liters of Agent Orange and about 28 million liters of other herbicides over 24% of Southern Vietnam. The concentration was more than 20 times what farmers would use for agricultural purposes. Due to its toxicity, Agent Orange destroyed 5 million acres of upland and mangrove forests and about 500,000 acres of crops.
The US used C-123, a large cargo plane, to dump 95% of the herbicides across more than 3,181 villages while they used trucks, helicopters, and their hands to spray the remaining. By 1972, the US and the Vietnamese stopped using Agent Orange, and production halted. They incinerated any remaining Agent Orange stored at Johnston Atoll and other bases, ending the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam.
In 1965 and 1968, the Bionetic Research Laboratories conducted several tests on lab rats to determine the effects of Agent Orange, particularly, Dioxin, on the test animals. The lab animals started showing signs of malformation. The more tests occurred, the similar the results. The test reports were brought to the attention of the White House, resulting in the suspension of the use of toxic herbicides.
When the Vietnam veterans returned from the war, they started to develop symptoms associated with Dioxin contamination. Cases began to arise of wives of military personnel suffering from miscarriages or giving birth to children with birth defects. The veterans were unaware of the potential human health problems from their military operations during the Vietnam war.
The US government promised to compensate and care for their veterans when they returned. However, out of the 39,419 claims filed, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) only paid 489 victims. It was challenging for the victims to prove their service-related illness derived from using Vietnam-era herbicides. In 1991, the United States government passed the Agent Orange Act allowing the VA to declare certain conditions as presumptive, making it easier for claimants to receive compensation for those illnesses.
The effect of the toxic herbicides was far more devastating to the Vietnamese citizens than to the US Vietnam-era veterans. According to the Vietnam Red Cross, more than 3 million people suffer from the deadly herbicide’s effects, while approximately 1 million face disabilities or serious birth defects.
The Aspen Institute started a multi-year project known as the Agent Orange in Vietnam program aimed at addressing the health issues, and the environmental contamination of the herbicides sprayed in Vietnam during the war.
The Agent Orange in Vietnam program promoted discussion within the US policy about using Dioxin during chemical warfare. The Agent Orange in Vietnam program also aimed to strengthen the ties between the United States and Vietnam. The U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group identified ways to combat the effects of the US military’s defoliation campaign.
This initiative is led by the Aspen Institute, comprising researchers, policymakers, business leaders, and other important figures. In May 2011, Charles Bailey became the new Director of the Agent Orange in Vietnam program, conveyed a meeting where the relevant stakeholders discussed the progress made on the program.
Veterans may qualify for compensation if they’re suffering from service-related illnesses. However, the Department of Veterans Affairs assesses the facts of each claim to determine eligibility.
To be eligible for VA benefits, you must meet both of the following requirements:
Although the requirements are not long, proving your Agent Orange-related illness is challenging. The VA has a list of presumptive diseases that they believe result from exposure to Agent Orange, and anyone suffering from those diseases does not have to prove their illness. The VA adds a disease to its list of presumptive diseases when medical and scientific evidence shows that the sickness results from Agent Orange exposure.
The following are the types of cancers in the VA’s list of presumptive diseases that they cover:
Besides cancer, here are some of the other illnesses on the VA’s presumptive disease list:
To get disability benefits for your service-related illness, you must file a claim for disability compensation and submit evidence, including medical records showing you have Agent Orange-related illness and military records showing your time in service and how you came into contact with the toxic herbicide.
In cases where your illness is not on the VA’s list of presumptive diseases, you must submit one of the following types of evidence:
You would also need to submit military records, such as separation papers which show the time and place of your service.
Even if you provide all of the documents, there is no guarantee that the VA will accept your claims. However, with an experienced toxic exposure attorney by your side, you can increase your chances of securing compensation.
In August 2022, Congress passed the PACT Act, expanding the list of presumptive diseases for war veterans, especially those exposed to Agent Orange, making it easier for them to receive benefits. However, even with the PACT Act, you may find it challenging to recover compensation for your service-related illnesses.
If you’re a veteran suffering from a service-related illness from exposure to toxic chemicals during the Vietnam war, contact us at (833) LETS-SUE to learn your rights as a war veteran. Your condition may not be on the VA’s list of presumptive diseases for Agent Orange.
However, our attorneys have the skill and knowledge to prove the connection between your deteriorating health condition and your military service in Vietnam. We will help protect your rights and fight for the compensation you deserve to pay for your health care.
Michael is a managing partner at the nationwide Ehline Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. He’s an inactive Marine and became a lawyer in the California State Bar Law Office Study Program, later receiving his J.D. from UWLA School of Law. Michael has won some of the world’s largest motorcycle accident settlements.