Agent Orange is synonymous with the Vietnam War. The chemical defoliant was widely used in Vietnam to expose enemy pathways, deter ambushes, and destroy crops, and its health effects upon those exposed to it have been widely publicized. Because of the breadth and severity of conditions linked to Agent Orange, a presumptive list of conditions was established to expedite the process by which afflicted veterans could prove a service connection to their health problems and collect on disability compensation.
What is less known about Agent Orange is that it was stored and used in places outside of Vietnam, where it did just as much damage to the people who came into contact with it. Included in these other places is Korea, where veterans serving around the demilitarized zone were exposed. Because its use there isn’t such common knowledge, veterans have had more trouble proving a service connection and collecting disability for their conditions than their counterparts who served in Vietnam.
How does a Korean veteran prove eligibility?
Thankfully, Korean veterans are no less eligible than Vietnam veterans to receive a presumptive connection and receive disability compensation due to Agent Orange. The greatest obstacle is quite frankly the fact that many, including those working on the VA adjudication staff, whose primary work is to determine the credibility of disability claims, aren’t all that aware that Korean veterans could have been exposed to Agent Orange.
So, armed with that knowledge, what do you need to do? Submitting a claim for an Agent Orange-presumptive condition is a little different than other claims. For one, if you’re presuming exposure to Agent Orange, you don’t need to prove an in-service incident to connect to your condition. The exposure itself is the incident.
For a Korean veteran to qualify for Agent Orange presumptive benefits, you must be able to prove two important facts: that you served within a specified timeframe, and had been assigned to certain units. Be prepared to provide VA with medical records, service records, and any other supporting documentation to prove your current condition and the facts of your service in Korea.
Eligible Timeframe and Units
The timeframe for Korean veterans who served in a unit in or around the Korean demilitarized zone is anytime between September 1, 1967 and August 31, 1971.
Units recognized by VA as having a presumptive exposure to herbicide include the following:
- Combat Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division
- 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry
- 2nd Battalion, 38th Infantry
- 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry
- 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry
- 3rd Battalion, 23rd Infantry
- 2nd Battalion, 31st Infantry (service records may show assignments to either the 2nd or the 7th Infantry Division)
- 3rd Battalion, 32nd Infantry (service records may show assignments to either the 2nd or the 7th Infantry Division)
- 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry
- 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry
- 1st Battalion, 72nd Armor
- 2nd Battalion, 72nd Armor
- 1st Battalion, 12th Artillery
- 1st Battalion, 15th Artillery
- 7th Battalion, 17th Artillery
- 5th Battalion, 38th Artillery
- 6th Battalion, 37th Artillery
- Division Reaction Force
- 4th Squadron, 7th Cavalry, Counter Agent Company
- 3rd Brigade of the 7th Infantry Division
- 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry
- 1st Battalion, 31st Infantry
- 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry
- 2nd Squadron, 10th Cavalry
- 2nd Battalion, 17th Infantry
- 2nd Battalion, 31st Infantry (service records may show assignment to either the 2nd or the 7th Infantry Division)
- 2nd Battalion, 32nd Infantry
- 3rd Battalion, 32nd Infantry (service records may show assignment to either the 2nd or the 7th Infantry Division)
- 1st Battalion, 73rd Armor
- Other Qualifying Assignments
- 2nd Military Police Company, 2nd Infantry Division
- 13th Engineer Combat Battalion
- United Nations Command Security Battalion-Joint Security Area (UNCSB-JSA)
- Crew of the USS Pueblo
What problems may arise?
Korean veterans may have trouble establishing a presumption of exposure simply because their service records indicate they were not stationed in Vietnam at any time to be eligible for Agent Orange presumptive benefits. Although this seems like a glaring oversight, due to the fact that Korean veterans are specifically covered by 38 CFR § 3.307, it can happen.
Accidents like this are one reason you need to prepare the strongest claim the first time around. However, be prepared with a strong appeal should the need arise. In some cases, your claim may one denied because you don’t meet the criteria established above. If you were not serving in the area during that timeframe or were not officially assigned to any of the units listed above, you may need more evidence to prove that you do meet the criteria, or you may need to file a new claim without making the case for a presumption of exposure.
The VA includes a list of 14 conditions, including various forms of cancer like chronic B-cell leukemia and other illnesses that are believed to be caused by exposure to Agent Orange. BWN veterans suffering from those conditions may make a claim for service connection. Also eligible for compensation are children with spina bifida whose BWN veteran parent may have been exposed during their service.
What are some conditions caused by Agent Orange?
The Agent Orange Presumptive List is extensive, and should be reviewed in full for any veteran concerned they may be suffering from conditions caused by herbicide exposure. Here are a number of notable conditions:
- Amyloid light-chain (AL) amyloidosis
- Chloracne, or other acneform disease consistent with chloracne
- All Chronic B-cell leukemias (including, but not limited to, hairy-cell leukemia and chronic lymphocytic leukemia)
- Diabetes mellitus, Type 2
- Lymphoma, Hodgkin’s, formerly known as Hodgkin’s disease
- Multiple myeloma
- Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin’s
- Peripheral neuropathy, early-onset
- Porphyria cutanea tarda
- Prostate Cancer
- Respiratory cancers (cancer of the lung, bronchus, larynx, or trachea)
- Soft-tissue sarcoma (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or mesothelioma)
- Ischemic heart disease
- Parkinson’s disease
Assistance with your claim
Exposure to Agent Orange can have grave consequences for your health, and no veteran who fears prior exposure should be discouraged from seeking the compensation and medical assistance they deserve. Korean veterans are as justified as any Vietnam veteran to seek a presumption of exposure if they meet the criteria above.
If your claim has been denied, or you want to ensure that your first claim is strong, you can contact VA Disability Group at 844-VET-LAWS to get started and get the compensation you need.