Veterans Benefits – Vietnam Veterans’ Presumptive Exposure to Agent Orange

Two veterans told me of their frustrating experiences with VA.  They had these frustration trying to prove to the VA that Agent Orange exposure caused their medical conditions.  After listening to these experiences, my questions to them were:

  • “Why is the VA making you prove you actually came into contact with Agent Orange?”; and
  • “Why is the VA making you prove your disease was not caused by something other than Agent Orange?”

If the VA required either of these to establish certain service-connected disabilities, they probably have not followed their own rules.  I intend for this article to make you better informed about “presumptive exposure” to Agent Orange and “presumptive diseases” associated with that exposure.  This will help you know what you must demonstrate to establish service-connection for a Vietnam veteran.

Vietnam veterans need to understand VA's rules regarding Agent Orange

At the beginning, it is also important to note that it is not only Vietnam veterans who may be eligible to receive benefits for Agent Orange exposure.  Certain Korean War veterans, “Blue Water” veterans and C-123 crew members may also have Agent Orange claims.

Who is presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange?

In Agent Orange claims, “presumptive exposure” simply means that VA’s own regulations require the VA to treat all veterans who served in Vietnam the same.  VA must presume all Vietnam veterans were exposed to Agent Orange if they served in Vietnam sometime between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975.  This means the VA does not need to determine whether the veteran was actually exposed or came into contact with Agent Orange during his service.

Also, it does not matter how long the veteran served in Vietnam – one day or one year is treated the same.  The VA is required to assume that all Vietnam veterans were exposed to Agent Orange.  It does not need to look into the specific facts of each veteran’s service there.

That is important because it is usually pretty easy to know whether or not someone served in Vietnam.  Veterans find it difficult to prove the type and amount of their chemical exposure during service.

Those issues would be hard for the veteran to establish and hard for the VA to decide.  Because of that, VA adopted regulations that streamlined Agent Orange claims to make them less burdensome for veterans and faster for the VA to process.

What Medical Conditions are presumed to be caused by Agent Orange?

However, even after a veteran establishes exposure to Agent Orange during service, the veteran must still establish a nexus between the exposure and the veteran’s disability. This means that the veteran must show that  Agent Orange caused the veteran’s particular diseases or medical conditions.

Female doctor listening to heart beat of elderly man Fortunately, a similar presumption applies here.  A “presumptive disease” is one VA must presume was caused by Agent Orange exposure.  There are several presumptive diseases that affect millions of veterans.  These disease including prostate cancer, lung cancer, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Type 2 Diabetes, among others.

Can VA defeat the Agent Orange presumptions?

Unlike the presumption for Agent Orange exposure, the presumption that Agent Orange caused a veteran’s disease is a little more complicated.  VA can defeat it in several ways.

  1. If the VA has evidence that the disease was not caused by Agent Orange but is instead the result of some other factor, the VA can still deny service-connection for the disease.  An example would be medical records suggesting that the veteran’s Type 2 diabetes was caused by steroids prescribed for a non-service-connected medical condition.  However, it is important to understand that this does not mean that the veteran has the burden of proving there is no other cause.  It merely means that if evidence of another cause is submitted or obtained by the VA, then the VA can consider it and may use it to rebut the presumption that the veteran’s disease was caused by Agent Orange.
  2. If the disease is one of the covered cancers, the VA may still deny the claim if they determine that the listed cancer (lung cancer, for example) developed after a non-covered cancer elsewhere in the body spread to the lungs.

Because VA can rebut the Agent Orange presumptions, you need to have proper documentation from your doctor.  Having this document will reduce the possibility of having VA wrongfully deny your claim.


Many Vietnam veterans have developed diseases covered by the Agent Orange presumption.  If you think you are one of them, consider filing a claim if you have not already.  Then, make sure the VA applies the correct legal standard in deciding your claim.

You may have questions along the way.  Many veterans find it helpful to discuss their questions with one of our accredited veterans benefits attorneys.  The best way to do that is to set up a consultation with them.

If you want to set up a free consultation, just read this article that explains how a consultation works.  To set up a free consultation, just call us at (770) 214-8885 or complete and submit this short consultation request form.

Travis Studdard is an attorney who focuses on representing veterans in VA disability compensation claims.  He regularly writes about issues that are important to veterans and their families.

You can subscribe to his Veterans Disability channel on YouTube.

Rita BarnesRita Barnes
00:03 20 Jan 22
This is a great group of people who really care about your well being. They all treated me as though I was family and helped me with my work comp case in more ways than the average would have.Thank you Jason and Thank you Tina! For doing an awesome job.
Cortex ButlerCortex Butler
18:09 29 Dec 21
I am a Veteran of United States Air Force and was awarded my first 30% in 1996 and have been fighting for my rating for 26 years I came to Perkins and Studdard in 2019 while my mom was in a terrible incident and was given to much anesthesia and through GODS Grace she was spared her life, She is disabled since 2018 and I have been struggling with my life and issues and yet I didn’t call the law firm every 10 minutes or call being rude anytime, I mentioned this as I got to know Jessica more than just a phone call and Mr Studdard was always available when not working on other cases or in court, They always called back and Never had to do a call back, My Review is Simple in Life there peaks and valleys and it doesn’t stop because you have issues, Perkins & Studdard took my case in 2019 in 2021 I received my 100% from VA, I Was Never Rude, I was Never Promised Success, I Was Never Lied too and I was Always Treated with Respect, Friendliness, and Kindness the Real Stuff not a (Money Thing) If You want a firm that Cares about the Client and will work on your case even through a pandemic, Will not lie, will not promise anything will communicate your case and will Give you their Best ALWAYS THIS IS THE Best Law Firm for VETS HANDS DOWN Perkins and Studdard THERE IS NO OTHER 100% we had 5 calls Total Case That’s Taking Care Of Business
annetteMomma nokesannetteMomma nokes
14:29 12 Sep 16
Jason and his paralegal Lisa were on point and on top of their game when it came to handling my worker's comp. injury case. I tried going it alone and the insurance carrier pushed me around. They denied extra physical therapy. They denied injections the doctor recommended to ease my pain. When I turned my case over to Jason things turned around, QUICK. They were at all times attentive and on top of my case. I cannot recommend Jason and his staff enough. If you are hurt at work, this is the firm you want on YOUR side.
Sheila KirklinSheila Kirklin
23:11 12 May 16
Jason Perkins, was my lawyer in a workers comp. case, my case has settled now, and I am very happy for all Jason and his office hard work on my case, he was always there to help me out with any questions that I had or help I needed. Jason is a excellent lawyer and if I ever need another one I would only go to Perkins,Because I believe they would be able to help me in any situation I am in need of..
Anna PabonAnna Pabon
23:16 13 Sep 15
I recommend Perkins Law Firm. Everyone I came in contact with there was very nice. Kim was very helpful and any time I had a question she made sure I got an answer. Ann Margaret really took the time to explain things to me.

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