Exposure to Agent Orange and Other Herbicides
If you were exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam, you have undoubtedly had a long hard fight trying to get the benefits you deserve. There is no firm data on how many U.S. service members were exposed to Agent Orange but the backlog of Agent Orange veterans disability cases at the VA is estimated to be about half a million.(1) We’ve talked to many Vietnam and Korea veterans who firmly believe VA is prolonging the disability claims process in the hopes the Veteran will die before they get benefits. We’ll do everything in our power to make sure they don’t do that.
If the VA or Board of Veterans Appeals has denied your claim for a disease related to Agent Orange exposure, call our office at 1-888-878-9350 to learn more about how we can help you.
How to qualify for VA benefits for Agent Orange exposure?
VA presumes service-connection if you have any of 14 specific diseases related to Agent Orange exposure. To establish a service connection and get disability benefits a service connection for any of these diseases you need to provide:
- A medical diagnosis of a disease which VA considers a result of Agent Orange exposure
- Proof of service in Vietnam or the Korean DMZ or exposure to Agent Orange in another location
- Medical evidence that the disease began within the deadline (if any). (1)
If a veteran has a disease that is not on the list, he can still make a claim for disability benefits. However, he must actually prove that Agent Orange caused his disease. For example, if the veteran has a form of cancer that is not on the list, but his oncologist says the cancer was a unique type of cancer that could only come from exposure to Agent Orange, then the veteran would have a basis for a claim. In deciding claims for disability benefits due to Agent Orange exposure, the VA cannot simply disregard a claim because it is not on the list of Agent Orange diseases. The VA must take the further step of analyzing whether the disease in fact came from exposure to Agent Orange.
Additionally, there may be other diseases not on the list that might be associated with Agent Orange exposure. Just because your disease is not on the list of Agent Orange diseases, it doesn’t mean you can’t prove a service-connection. A case like this would be analyzed under the normal criteria for service-connection. For instance, if the service medical records have a treatment note describing the early symptoms of the current diagnosed disability, then you may be able to make out the benefits claim on a direct basis.
Why Did the Board or Regional Office Deny My Disability Benefits Claim for Agent Orange Exposure?
The VA usually sides with their doctor over a private doctor or any doctor that writes a medical report in favor of a veteran. Over the years, we have seen a litany of standard reasons why the VA denies disability claims such as:
- “The Board finds the VA examiner's report to be more probative. He reviewed the claims file and provided a detailed rational for his decision. The private doctor did not review the claims file and thus his report is less probative."
- "The medical evidence of record indicates that 24 years have elapsed since discharge and the first documentation of a claimed disability."
- "The Board has carefully considered the veteran's statements and his opinion that his disability was caused by service. While the veteran may sincerely believe there is a connection, he is not a doctor and therefore not competent to offer opinions on questions of medical causation or diagnosis."
- "The service medical records reveal no treatment for or complaint of the claimed condition during service. The condition was not shown during service or for many years thereafter. Thus, in the absence of any evidence of a nexus to service, service connection must be denied."
- "The veterans' separation physical exam showed normal findings on clinical examination."
What should I do if my claim for Agent Orange exposure is denied by the VA?
Hopefully, if you’ve read this far you’re beginning to realize that you have options if your claim for disability benefits due to Agent Orange exposure has been denied.
VA claims, “This ‘presumptive policy’ simplifies the process for receiving compensation for these diseases since VA foregoes the normal requirements of proving that an illness began during or was worsened by your military service.” What they don’t tell you is that if your disease is not “on the list” of approved presumptive diseases then VA will deny you. Also, if you cannot establish “boots on the ground” in Vietnam or at the DMZ then the VA will deny you on the grounds that you were not actually exposed to Agent Orange. Sometimes the VA will grant you benefits for Agent Orange or herbicide diseases but assign a rating that is too low.
If your claim has been denied for any of these reasons, you should hire a qualified veterans disability benefits lawyer who can help you appeal the decision and make the case for why deserve disability benefits.
How Can Gang & Associates Help Me?
There is one legal theory VA likes to avoid when your Agent Orange condition is not on the ‘list’ of presumed service-connected diseases. Often, VA will deny you solely on the presumptive theory and neglect to consider a direct theory. This means that although your disease may not be on the list, the unique facts of your case might indicate that your disability was due to herbicide exposure.
Our lawyers regularly receive emails from prospective clients asking point blank what we can do for them. Our response is generally as follows: We will represent your claim on appeal the regional office, the Board of Veterans Appeals or at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC). We will shepherd the claim through the VA disability benefits system for you and through the federal court, if necessary.
If you see value in having your own attorney represent you against the government, then we invite you to call us. We can help you by handling your case at this very complex stage. If you’re tired of going it alone and want an attorney who has represented more than 500 appeals in front of the CAVC, then you should contact my offices today.