Thanks to the media, we’ve been hearing for over forty years about the devastating effects of Agent Orange. The chemical associated with every thing from neurological problems to burns to cancer was intended when created to be a defoliant and an herbicide. As a defoliant, its job was to clear away the dense jungle undergrowth, making it easier and safer for U.S. troops to move through it, and to spot enemy soldiers from the air. As a herbicide, it had a more nefarious purpose. As part of the classified “Operation Ranch Hand”, troops were instructed to spray Agent Orange on cultivated fields, pastures, and orchards near military perimeters, with the hope that devastated crops would cause the morale (and guerrilla inclinations) of local villagers to plummet.
But this chemical affected those that came into contact with it in ways that not even the architects of “Operation Ranch Hand” could have imagined. As the years after the Vietnam War revealed, exposure to this pesticide may have resulted in a host of health problems, ranging from stomach problems, to kidney stones, to migraines, to organ damage, birth defects, and myeloma, leukemia, and several other types of cancer in American troops that came into contact with the herbicide in a variety of ways. Some of these illnesses manifested themselves immediately, while other symptoms and problems didn’t show up for years and even decades after exposure. There was even speculation that some children were being born with birth defects as a result of their fathers’ chemical exposure during Vietnam tours of duty. It was speculated that the toxic nature of the agent encouraged the accelerated growth of certain types of cancer cells as well.
Studies linking this herbicide to veterans’ health issues has been going on for decades. While no direct links have been established between any of these diseases and Agent Orange, the Department Of Veterans Affairs has concluded that these are “presumptive” conditions, meaning that enough evidence exists that a probable link exists. As a result, all veterans serving in the Korean and Vietnam Wars who were exposed to this chemical and are now experiencing health issues like myeloma are eligible for veterans benefits. These benefits apply to veterans who may have been exposed to the chemical in non-combat situations as well.Those who feel that they may qualify for veterans benefits should contact the VA to see about health registry exams, health benefits, and financial compensation for veterans and survivors. As qualifying for these benefits also entails the collection of service records, evidence, and document filing, they also should not hesitate to consult with an attorney to make sure that they have access to all compensation that they are entitled to.