Between the years of 1962-1971, American troops dumped more than 19 million gallons of herbicide on vegetation in lands around Vietnam, Laos, and nearby areas, in order to remove forest cover and to destroy crops. The herbicide most commonly used was Agent Orange, named for the orange-striped barrels containing the poison. Agent Orange was a compound of two phenoxy herbicides: 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacid (2,4-D), and 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T). While other types of herbicides were used, such as cacadylic acid and picloram, Agent Orange refers generally to all the phenoxy herbicides sprayed at the time.
When a study in 1970 found that 2,4,5-T caused birth defects in lab rats, the military ceased to use 2,4,5-T on Vietnam. A year later, all use of herbicide in Vietnam ended. But the damage was already done. As veterans began coming home from Vietnam in the mid-1970’s, numerous health complaints arose. Among those health issues was—and is—cancer.
The National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer have both identified 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin, or TCDD, as “known to be a human carcinogen”. The main dioxin in Agent Orange is TCDD.
Federal Regulations have been put into effect in order to facilitate the identification of veterans as service connected for cancers caused by Agent Orange. The following regulations, 38 CFR 3.309 and 38 CFR 3.307, are explained the subsequent paragraphs.
Code of Federal Regulations, Title 38, Section 3.309 (e)
If a veteran was exposed to an herbicide agent during active military service, naval, or air service, the following diseases shall be considered service-connected if the requirements of 3.307 (a)(6) are met even though there is no record of such disease during service, provided further that the rebuttable presumption provisions of 3.307(d) are also satisfied. (The following list reflects only cancerous diseases.)
- AL amyloidosis
- Chloracne or other acneform disease consistent with chloracne
- Type 2 diabetes
- Hodgkins disease
- Ischemic heart disease
- B-cell leukemias
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Parkinson’s disease
- Acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy
- Porphyria cutanea tarda
- Prostate cancer
- Respiratory cancers
- Soft-tissue sarcoma
Code of Federal Regulations, Title 38, Section 3.307 (e)
This section dictates the conditions under which veterans can be presumed to be service-connected for chronic, tropical or prisoner-of-war related, or disease associated with exposure to certain herbicide agent (wartime and service on or after January 1, 1947). In this case, the disease in question is Agent Orange. The following points provide a brief overview of conditions referenced earlier:
- A chronic, tropical, prisoner of war related disease, or a disease associated with exposure to certain herbicide agents will be considered to have been incurred in or aggravated by service even though there is no evidence of such disease during the period of service.
- In order to be considered as having service-connected diseases, veterans must have served for 90 days or more during a war period or after December 31, 1946.
- Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975 in the active military, naval, or air force, is presumed to have been exposed to an herbicide agent, unless there is affirmative evidence that the veteran was not exposed to any such agent during said service.
- The term “herbicide agent” means a chemical in an herbicide used in support of the United States and allied military operations in the Republic of Vietnam during the period beginning on January 9, 1962, and ending on May 7, 1975, specifically: 2,4-D; 2,4,5-T and its contaminant TCDD; cacodylic acid; and picloram.
- Service in the Republic of Vietnam includes waters offshore.
- Diseases (listed in 3.309e) incurred during service shall have become manifest to a degree of 10 percent or more at any time after service, with the exception of chloracne and acneform-related diseases.
- Diseases (listed in 3.309e) contracted during service are considered chronic, even though diagnosed as acute because of insidious inception and chronic development. The exceptions are diseases that were the result of intercurrent causes, drug ingestion , or a complication of some other condition not related to service.
- Evidence that the disease was not incurred in service is any evidence that sufficiently supports that the disease was contracted outside of service, and medical judgment will be exercised in making the determination of whether or not the disease is the effect of intercurrent disease or injury.
- Evidence that the disease was not aggravated by service is any affirmative evidence that the preexisting condition was aggravated by an intercurrent disease or by injury unrelated to service, or that the increase of disability was due to natural progression of the preexisting condition.