Agent Orange is a herbicide used by the US government in the 1960s, 1970s, and during the Vietnam War. It contains dioxin, a toxic chemical that can cause a variety of serious health problems, including cancer, birth defects, and neurological disorders.
One of the most concerning effects of Agent Orange exposure has been the occurrence of birth defects in the children of veterans who were exposed to the chemical. In this article, we will take a closer look at the connection between Agent Orange and birth defects, specifically focusing on the effects of the chemical on children, also known as “Agent Orange babies.”
We will discuss the different types of birth defects that have been linked to Agent Orange exposure, and explore the benefits and support that are available to families affected by Agent Orange.
What is Agent Orange?
Agent Orange is a herbicide that the U.S. military widely used during the Vietnam War. It contained toxic chemicals that cause serious health problems like cancer, birth defects, and neuro disorders.
Vietnam Veterans are eligible for VA benefits for diseases that are caused by Agent Orange. They must first prove a service connection or, in other words, prove that their condition is related to their military service.
Veterans Affairs can assist veterans in collecting the documents and medical tests required to prove a service connection to their ailments. There are three ways to prove a service connection:
● Direct Service Connection
● Presumptive Service Connection
● Secondary Service Connection
● Medical Opinion
Many veterans will likely prove their ailments were caused by exposure to Agent Orange through Direct Service Connection or Presumptive Service Connection.
What are the effects of Agent Orange?
Some of the major health problems caused by Agent Orange include:
● Cancer – studies have found that Agent Orange can cause cancer in some such as lymphoma, leukemia, and prostate cancer.
● Birth Defects – children born to veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange are at a higher risk of developing birth defects such as a cleft palate and spine bifida.
● Neurological disorders – Parkinson’s disease and peripheral neuropathy are common ailments that result from exposure to the toxic chemicals in Agent Orange.
● Immune system disorders.
● Reproductive disorders – Infertility and spontaneous abortion are commonly caused by exposure to Agent Orange.
● Respiratory disorders – veterans who inhaled the chemicals in Agent Orange on a regular basis may experience chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and other respiratory disorders.
Common Birth Defects Caused by Agent Orange
The chemical in Agent Orange, Dioxin, can cause developmental abnormalities in a developing fetus. The Dixion is stored in the fatty cells and can be passed to the mother and unborn fetus through the sperm.
Common birth defects include Spina bifida, Cleft lip, Congenital heart defects, limb defects such as missing or malformed fingers or toes, neural tube defects that cause problems to the brain or spinal cord, hernias, down syndrome, and other chromosomal disorders.
Spina Bifida occurs when the spinal cord does not form properly causing neve damage and mobility issues. Spina Bifida is caused by a neural tube defect and there are tree types of Spina Bifida
● Spina bifida occulta – The spinal cord and surrounding bones are not fully formed, and many suffering from this type of condition may not have symptoms.
● Meningocele – The protective covering of the spine protrudes, leaving an opening in the back.
● Myelomeningocele – This is the most severe type of spina bifida. The spinal cord is exposed leaving it vulnerable to damage and causing serious health problems, including paralysis, bladder and bowel problems, and hydrocephalus.
Cleft Lip/Palate occurs when the tissue of the lip and/or palate do not fuse properly during fetus development. The Cleft Palate is the separation of the roof of the mouth and can present a small opening or complete split.
Cleft Lip/Palate can be corrected via surgery, speech therapy, and specialized dental care.
Acute Myeloid Leukemia
Acute Myeloid Leukemia, otherwise known as AML, affects the blood and bone marrow. It is a rapidly progressing cancer. Symptoms can include fatigue, fever, infections, easy bruising or bleeding, weight loss, and weakness.
AML is treated with chemotherapy and radiation or stem cell transplant. The treatments aim to destroy cancer cells and allow the body to produce healthy blood cells.
Adrenal Gland Cancer
This type of cancer develops in the adrenal glands located above the kidneys. The adrenal glands produce hormones like cortisol and aldosterone. There are two types of adrenal gland cancer:
● Functional – In functional tumors, the glands overproduce hormones causing symptoms such as abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss, unexplained fever, low blood pressure, high blood sugar, changes in skin color, and more.
● Non-functional – In non-functional tumors, the glands do not produce excessive hormones making it harder to catch symptoms.
Early diagnosis is important, if you think you were exposed to Agent Orange and are planning to have a child ask your doctor to check for all possible birth defects.
Is my child eligible for benefits from the VA?
For Spina Bifida
For a child to receive benefits from Veteran Affairs due to their Spina Bifida, they must meet the following requirements:
One of these must be true:
● The child’s biological mother or father served in the Republic of Vietnam or in Thailand for any length of time between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, or
● The child’s biological mother or father served in a unit in or near the DMZ for any length of time between September 1, 1967, and August 31, 1971.
And both of these must be true:
● The child was diagnosed with a form of spina bifida other than spina bifida occulta, and
● The child was conceived after the parent first entered the Republic of Vietnam, Thailand, or the DMZ during the qualifying time periods listed above.
For Other Birth Defects,
If your child is diagnosed with one of the other birth defects we mentioned above, they may still be eligible for VA benefits. Both of these must be true:
● The child’s biological mother served in Vietnam any time from January 9, 1962, through May 7, 1975, and
● The child was conceived after the mother first entered the Republic of Vietnam during the time period listed above
You can also check out the list of covered birth defects, here.
What benefits can my child get and how do we get them?
Health Care Benefits
Children with birth defects connected to exposure to Agent Orange can receive health care benefits such as treatment for the birth defect and related medical conditions throughout their life.
Disability compensation can include monthly payments, as well as educational assistance and vocational training throughout their life.
Rehabilitation and Prosthetic Service
Rehabilitation and prosthetic services can include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and other services to help the child manage their disability.
Home-Based Primary Care
Home-based primary care can provide medical care and support services to the child and their family in the home.
Home Improvements and Structural Alterations
Home improvements and structural alterations can include modifications to the home to make it more accessible for the child, such as wheelchair ramps, stairlifts, and other equipment.
If a child has a severe birth defect and the family needs caregiving the VA may provide support to the caregiver.
In conclusion, the toxic chemicals in Agent Orange used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War, and has been linked to a variety of serious health problems, including cancer, birth defects in Agent Orange babies, and neurological disorders.
These children may be at an increased risk of birth defects such as cleft lip and palate, spina bifida, and other neural tube defects. The effects of Agent Orange exposure can be life-long and severe, impacting not only the affected child but also their families.
It’s important to note that the VA recognizes certain birth defects as “presumptive” service-connected conditions of the children of veterans exposed to Agent Orange, making them eligible for benefits.
These benefits include health care, disability compensation, life insurance, educational assistance, rehabilitation, and prosthetic services, home-based primary care, home improvements, and structural alterations, and caregiver support, among others. However, the availability and eligibility of these benefits can vary depending on individual circumstances.
Have Questions About Appealing Your Claim or Understanding How the Claims Process Works?
The attorneys at Hill & Ponton are here to support you with appealing a claim to get Agent Orange exposure benefits for you and your children.
If you are intending to appeal a denied claim, you can contact us for an evaluation and we can help you with this process.
However, if you are considering filing an initial claim, or even if you are interested in learning about the appeals process, we offer a free ebook to get you started on the right foot!
The Road to VA Compensation Benefits will help break down the claims process from start to finish. Click the link below to learn more.
We are sorry that this post was not as useful for you!
Help us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?