Home → Veterans Guide to VA Benefits → VA Compensation-Service Connected Disability Conditions due to Legal Presumptions → Herbicide-exposed Veterans (including Agent Orange)
For certain veterans exposed in service to a herbicide agent, Congress has established a presumption of service connection for a number of diseases. See 38 U.S.C. § 1116; 38 C.F.R. § 3.309(e). Service connection for diseases listed in 38 C.F.R. § 3.309(e) is presumed if a veteran was exposed to certain herbicides, including Agent Orange, during military service. See 38 U.S.C. § 1116; 38 C.F.R. §§ 3.307(a)(6), 3.309(e). The term "herbicides" is not limited to Agent Orange, but includes any tactical herbicide. Vietnam veterans are rebuttably presumed to have been exposed to herbicides if they served in the Republic of Vietnam. 38 C.F.R. § 3.307(a)(6)(iii). So veterans deemed to have served in the Republic of Vietnam as discussed below, do not have to produce evidence of actual exposure to Agent Orange or any other herbicide.
A veteran who served in the Republic of Vietnam, its offshore waters, or other locations, "if the conditions of service involved duty or visitation in the Republic of Vietnam" between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, is presumed to have been exposed during such service to an herbicide agent. 38 C.F.R. § 3.307(a)(6)(iii). Under VA's interpretation of this regulation, a veteran who set foot on the landmass of the Republic of Vietnam is entitled to a presumption of exposure to Agent Orange. Haas v. Peake, 525 F.3d 1168, 1174 (Fed. Cir. 2008), cert. denied, 129 S. Ct. 1002 (2009). Service on a U.S. Navy vessel may also qualify, as long as the veteran set foot on land at some point. Id. at 1195, 1197.
The presumption of herbicide exposure also applies for Navy veterans who served on vessels that were originally designated as offshore, or "blue water," vessels, but nevertheless conducted operations on the inland "brown water" rivers and delta areas of Vietnam. When a veteran alleges exposure to herbicides during service aboard a Navy or Coast Guard ship that operated on the offshore waters of Vietnam, VA is required to look for:
M21-1MR, part IV, subpt ii, chap 1, sec H.28; see also Haas v. Peake, 525 F.3d 1168 (Fed. Cir. 2008).
"A veteran who contracts a disease not presumed under the regulation to be caused by herbicide exposure" may still seek to establish service connection on a direct basis, pursuant to Combee v. Brown, 34 F.3d 1039 (Fed. Cir. 1994). Ischemic heart disease is now on the list of diseases subject to presumptive service connection secondary to herbicide exposure. 38 C.F.R. § 3.309(e); 75 Fed. Reg. 53,202 (Aug. 31, 2010) (section 3.309(e) is amended "by adding 'Ischemic heart disease (including, but not limited to, acute, subacute, and old myocardial infarction; atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease including coronary artery disease (including coronary spasm) and coronary bypass surgery; and stable, unstable and Prinzmetal's angina)'"), Parkinson's disease, and all chronic B-cell leukemias.). The list of presumptive conditions now includes:
38 C.F.R. § 3.309(e).