Certain medical conditions are presumed to be related to exposure to Agent Orange in service. Depending upon the condition, the presumption might apply only if the condition manifested within a certain period of time after service. If a presumption applies, then the claimant does not need a medical opinion to state that there is a relationship between the condition and Agent Orange. However, the claim will still need to be supported by an adequate medical diagnosis of the condition and proof that the veteran was exposed to Agent Orange. Generally, veterans who served on land in Vietnam are presumed to have been exposed, but other types of exposure may require direct proof. If a condition were not recognized by VA as being presumptively caused by Agent Orange, benefits may still be granted if there were persuasive medical evidence that the condition is related to Agent Orange.
There have been lawsuits filed in the federal courts of general jurisdiction relating to Agent Orange, but most have no bearing on the VA claims system.
VA has posted online a list of U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships operating on the waters of Vietnam between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, associated with presumptive Agent Orange exposure. [link to the general page] [link to the alphabetized ship list]
Most specific provisions relating to Agent Orange are found in 38 U.S.C. § 1116 [available here]. In particular:
- Subsection (a)(2) specifies certain conditions presumed to be related to Agent Orange.
- Subsections (b) and (c) describe how VA can add additional conditions to the list of those that are related to Agent Orange.
- Subsection (f) describes some veterans who are presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange.
- Subsection 3.307(a)(6) specifies certain "chronic" conditions presumed to be related to Agent Orange.
- Subsection 3.309(e) specifies all the other conditions presumed to be related to Agent Orange.
Federal Register Notices
When VA proposes or finalizes a regulation relating to Agent Orange conditions or when it withdraws such a proposed regulation — including the list of conditions that are presumed to be related to Agent Orange — it publishes a public notice in the Federal Register (which all government agencies use to announce proposed and final rule changes).
- Final Rules:
- Presumption of Herbicide Exposure and Presumption of Disability During Service for Reservists Presumed Exposed to Herbicides, 83 Fed. Reg. 53,179 (Oct. 22, 2018) [download .pdf]
- Disease Associated With Exposure to Certain Herbicide Agents: Peripheral Neuropathy, 78 Fed. Reg. 54763 (Sept. 6, 2013) [download .pdf]
- Herbicide Exposure and Veterans With Covered Service in Korea, 76 Fed. Reg. 4345 (Jan. 25, 2011) [download .pdf]
- Proposed Rules:
- Withdrawals of Proposed Rules:
- Definition of Service in the Republic of Vietnam, 74 Fed. Reg. 48689 (Sept. 24, 2009) [download .pdf]
- Determinations Concerning Illnesses Discussed in National Academy of Sciences Report: Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 2010, 77 Fed. Reg. 47924 (Aug. 10, 2012) [download .pdf]
A few cases relating to Agent Orange claims:
- Federal Circuit:
- Haas v. Peake, 544 F.3d 1306 (Fed. Cir. 2008) (regarding whether Navy veterans can be presumed to be exposed to Agent Orange) [download .pdf]
- LeFevre v. Secretary, Dept. of Veterans Affairs, 66 F.3d 1191 (Fed. Cir. 1995) (regarding the relationship between VA's rulemaking and the National Academy of Sciences' findings)
- Polovick v. Shinseki, 23 Vet. App. 48 (2009) (analyzing whether medical evidence showed a relationship between a condition and Agent Orange) [download .pdf]
- Douglas v. Shinseki, 23 Vet. App. 19 (2009) (discussing when VA may seek evidence that a condition is not related to Agent Orange) [download .pdf]
- Stefl v. Nicholson, 21 Vet. App. 120 (2007) (analyzing whether medical evidence showed a relationship between a condition and Agent Orange) [download .pdf]
- Williams v. Principi, 15 Vet. App. 189 (2001) (en banc) (discussing the relationship between VA claims based on Agent Orange exposure and the Nehmer law suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California)
Law Review Articles
- Meagan E. Fassinger, Note, Striking a Better Compromise: Suggested Revisions to the Agent Orange Act of 1991, 21 Fed. Circuit B.J. 193 (2011).
- Kristi A. Estrada, Note, Welcome Home: Our Nation's Shameful History of Caring for Combat Veterans and How Expanding Presumptions for Service Connection Can Help, 26 T.M. Cooley L. Rev. 113 (2009) [download Word copy here]
- The National Academies Press released a new report — Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 2012 (2014) [download a free .pdf copy from the NAP website]
- The National Academies, Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 2010 [download .pdf here]
- The National Academies, Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans and Agent Orange Exposure (2011) [download .pdf here]
- Gerald Nicosia, Home to War: A History of the Vietnam Veterans' Movement (2001). In particular, see Chapter 9.
- The Alvin L. Young collection of materials related to Agent Orange [link to USDA website]