Agent Orange and Kidney Disease VA Disability Rates

Agent Orange and Kidney Disease VA Disability Rates

agent orange kidney
Agent Orange is a chemical defoliant that was used widely in the Vietnam War and has been linked to several serious medical conditions to those exposed to it. Chronic kidney disease is one such disease that has been linked to the presence of a highly toxic dioxin in Agent Orange.

Dioxins refer to a “group of toxic chemical compounds,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and which are also frequently called persistent organic pollutants (POPs) because they take a very long time to break down. Exposure to dioxins can greatly increase the risk of cancer, cause reproductive and developmental problems, do harm to the immune system, and interfere with hormones.

Due to the serious, widespread effects of Agent Orange on veterans of the Vietnam War, VA has created a presumptive list of medical conditions which are determined to have a direct link to Agent Orange. Eligible veterans who suffer from any of the recognized conditions are able to expedite the disability claim process and receive benefits without having to prove a direct service connection as you would for other conditions.

Unfortunately—and despite strong evidence linked Agent Orange to veterans’ diagnoses—chronic kidney disease is not currently listed as a presumptive condition. This does not mean that you can’t apply for, or even earn, disability benefits from VA. It simply means you must go through the normal disability claims process, which means providing evidence establishing a medical nexus between their current condition and their military service history.

Agent Orange Presumptive Conditions

Veterans must meet a certain set of eligibility requirements to qualify for presumption of connection, mostly based on duration and location of active duty. As of 2023, VA presumes the following conditions to be directly linked to Agent Orange exposure. Additions to the list are never out of the question, as new research continues to collect more evidence of the detrimental effects of Agent Orange.

  • Bladder cancer
  • Chronic B-cell leukemia
  • Hodgkin’s disease
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Prostate cancer
  • Respiratory cancers (including lung cancer)
  • Some soft tissue sarcomas
  • AL amyloidosis Chloracne (or other types of acneiform disease like it)
  • Diabetes mellitus type 2
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Ischemic heart disease
  • Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS)
  • Parkinsonism
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Porphyria cutanea tarda

What is Kidney Disease?

Kidneys exist to filter extra water and waste out of blood to create urine. When kidneys are damaged, they are unable to perform this function, letting waste build up in your bloodstream, resulting in serious symptoms and possibly even death.

There are different kinds of kidney disease, including chronic and acute, which may have different causes:

  • Chronic kidney disease: this condition involves a gradual loss of kidney function, causing a buildup of waste, water, and electrolytes in the body. There may be none or few symptoms at first, and it’s possible it won’t be detected until a later stage. Symptoms may vary, but can include chest pain, shortness of breath, swelling in the feet and ankles. Complications are varied and can have serious repercussions for your heart, circulatory system, immune system, and other parts of your body.
  • Acute kidney disease: his condition occurs when kidney function suddenly fails in a short window of time, usually a few days, leading to a rapid increase in waste in the body. It may be reversible. Symptoms are similar to chronic kidney disease, and complications include fluid buildup, acidic blood, muscle weakness, permanent kidney damage, and even death.
  • Acute kidney failure (end-stage renal disease): this condition occurs when acute kidney disease reaches an advanced stage and one or both kidneys fail to function. Treatment options at this point are likely dialysis or a kidney transplant.
  • Diabetic nephropathy: this condition is a serious complication of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, which cause the delicate filtering system in your kidneys to degrade. Over time this can progress into chronic kidney disease and failure. Symptoms include worsening blood pressure control, swelling in the feet, ankle, hands, or eyes, nausea, fatigue, itching, and a reduced need for insulin or diabetes medication, among others.

VA Disability Ratings for Kidney Conditions

VA rates kidney conditions under 38 CFR § 4.115a, Ratings of the Genitourinary System – Dysfunctions of the Federal Register, categorizing all conditions under ‘Renal Dysfunction.’ Generally speaking, veterans with acute kidney failure (end-stage renal disease) are granted 100%, veterans with stage 4 chronic kidney disease will be assigned 80%, and veterans with stage 3 chronic kidney disease will be assigned between 30-60%, while veterans with stage 1 chronic kidney disease will be assigned a 0% rating.

  • 100%: Chronic kidney disease with glomerular filtration rate (GFR) less than 15 mL/min/1.73 m 2 for at least 3 consecutive months during the past 12 months; or requiring regular routine dialysis; or eligible kidney transplant recipient
  • 80%: Chronic kidney disease with GFR from 15 to 29 mL/min/1.73 m 2 for at least 3 consecutive months during the past 12 months
  • 60%: Chronic kidney disease with GFR from 30 to 44 mL/min/1.73 m 2 for at least 3 consecutive months during the past 12 months
  • 30%: Chronic kidney disease with GFR from 45 to 59 mL/min/1.73 m 2 for at least 3 consecutive months during the past 12 months
  • 0%: GFR from 60 to 89 mL/min/1.73 m 2 and either recurrent red blood cell (RBC) casts, white blood cell (WBC) casts, or granular casts for at least 3 consecutive months during the past 12 months; or GFR from 60 to 89 mL/min/1.73 m 2 and structural kidney abnormalities (cystic, obstructive, or glomerular) for at least 3 consecutive months during the past 12 months; or GFR from 60 to 89 mL/min/1.73 m 2 and albumin/creatinine ratio (ACR) ≥30 mg/g for at least 3 consecutive months during the past 12 months

How to Apply for Disability Compensation

Since kidney disease is not on the Agent Orange Presumptive List, veterans are not able to take advantage of the expedited claims process. Instead, veterans must prove a direct service connection for their condition by getting a current diagnosis, and providing a medical nexus linking their current condition to an incident or illness from their military service history.

It may be possible to get kidney disease disability benefits based on it being a secondary service related condition to another directly-connected condition, such as diabetes. Having another condition with a direct service connection can help establish a connection between your kidney disease and your service history.

Assistance with Your Claim

Kidney disease, in its many forms and stages, can be burdensome, painful, and dangerous to live with. Despite its exclusion from the Agent Orange Presumptive List, it’s still possible to apply for and receive disability benefits, however. Don’t hesitate to start your claim or file an appeal for a rejected claim. Call VA Disability Group at 844-VET-LAWS or contact us online to work on your claim and get you the disability benefits you deserve.