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AGENT ORANGE REVIEW NEWSLETTER

April 2005

 

Illnesses Presumptively Recognized for Service Connection Due TO Agent Orange

The following health conditions are presumptively recognized for service connection. (For more information, go to www.VA.gov/AgentOrange.) Vietnam era veterans who served in Vietnam who now suffer with one or more of these conditions do not have to show that their illnesses are related to their military service to get disability compensation. VA presumes that their condition is service-connected.

Conditions Recognized in Veterans
Conditions Recognized in Children of Vietnam Veterans
Conditions Briefly Described:
    In Vietnam Veterans
    In Children of Vietnam Veterans
Questions and answers from readers
    Question 1: eligiblity for disability compensation from VA
    Question 2: disability compensation for type 2 diabetes

Conditions Recognized in Veterans

  1. Chloracne (must occur within 1 year of exposure to Agent Orange)
  2. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
  3. Soft tissue sarcoma (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi's sarcoma, or mesothe- lioma)
  4. Hodgkin's disease
  5. Porphyria cutanea tarda (must occur within 1 year of exposure)
  6. Multiple myeloma
  7. Respiratory cancers, including cancers of the lung, larynx, trachea, and bronchus
  8. Prostate cancer
  9. Acute and subacute transient peripheral neuropathy (must appear within 1 year of exposure and resolve within 2 years of date of onset)
  10. Type 2 diabetes
  11. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
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Conditions Recognized in Children of Vietnam Veterans

  1. Spina bifida (except spina bifida occulta)
  2. Certain other birth defects in the children of women Vietnam veterans (these defects are linked to military service rather than to exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides)
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Conditions Briefly Described:
In Vietnam Veterans

Chloracne: A skin condition that looks like common forms of acne seen in teenagers. The first sign of chloracne may be excessive oiliness of the skin. This is accompanied or followed by numerous blackheads. In mild cases, the blackheads may be limited to the areas around the eyes extending to the temples. In more severe cases, blackheads may appear in many places, especially over the cheek bone and other facial areas, behind the ears, and along the arms.
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Non-Hodgkin s lymphoma: A group of malignant tumors (cancers) that affect the lymph glands and other lymphatic tissue. These tumors are relatively rare compared to other types of cancer, and although survival rates have improved during the past 2 decades, these diseases tend to be fatal. The common factor is the absence of the certain cells (known as giant Reed-Sternberg cells) that distinguish this cancer from Hodgkin's disease.
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Soft tissue sarcoma: A group of different types of malignant tumors (cancers) that arise from body tissues such as muscle, fat, blood and lymph vessels, and connective tissues (not in hard tissue such as bone or cartilage). These cancers are in the soft tissue that occurs within and between organs.
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Hodgkin s disease: A malignant lymphoma (cancer) characterized by progressive enlargement of the lymph nodes, liver, and spleen, and by progressive anemia.
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Porphyria cutanea tarda: A disorder characterized by liver dysfunction and by thinning and blistering of the skin in sun-exposed areas.
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Multiple myeloma: A cancer of specific bone marrow cells that is characterized by bone marrow tumors in various bones of the body.
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Respiratory cancers: Cancers of the lung, larynx, trachea, and bronchus.
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Prostate cancer: Cancer of the prostate; one of the most common cancers among men.
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Peripheral neuropathy (transient acute or subacute): A nervous system condition that causes numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness. This condition affects only the peripheral nervous system, that is, only the nervous system outside the brain and spinal cord. Only the transient (short-term) acute and subacute forms of this condition, not the chronic persistent forms, have been associated with herbicide exposure.
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Diabetes mellitus: Often referred to as Type 2 diabetes; it is characterized by high blood sugar levels resulting from the body's inability to respond properly to the hormone insulin.
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Chronic lymphocytic leukemia: A disease that progresses slowly with increasing production of excessive numbers of white blood cells.
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In Children of Vietnam Veterans

Spina bifida: A neural tube birth defect that results from the failure of the bony portion of the spine to close properly in the developing fetus during early pregnancy.
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Disabilities other than spinal bifida in the children of women Vietnam veterans:
Covered birth defects include a wide range of conditions. Eighteen defects are specifically included and others not specifically excluded are covered. For more information, contact a veteran services representative at 1-800-827-1000, or see page 10, "Agent Orange Review," July 2003. These diseases are not tied to herbicides, including Agent Orange, or dioxin exposure, but rather to service in Vietnam itself.
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Q's and A's from Readers

The "Review" occasionally includes a questions-and-answers feature in response to questions sent by readers. Vietnam veterans and their families and friends often have questions and concerns regarding the possible long-term health consequences of exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides used in Vietnam. They want answers and knowledge about what VA and other Federal departments and agencies are doing to help these veterans.

Q. The first question was received from a navy veteran with prostate cancer. He served in the so-called "blue waters" off-shore from near Vietnam, and wanted to know if he would be eligible for disability compensation from VA.
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A. We asked a Deputy Assistant General Counsel, an attorney in the VA Office of the General Counsel, for clarification. He explained that under current law, VA will not automatically presume service connection for prostate cancer in "blue-water" veterans. However such veterans can establish service connection in one of three ways: (1) by showing that they actually set foot in the Republic of Vietnam at some point or traveled the inland waterways ("brown water") of Vietnam; (2) by showing that they were exposed to herbicides during their service; or (3) by presenting other evidence (such as a physician's opinion) that their prostate cancer is linked to some aspect of service, which may include some circumstance of service other than herbicide exposure.
He added that the presumptions of service connection for prostate cancer and other diseases are intended to ease the veteran's burden of producing scientific evidence directly showing that their illnesses or injuries were caused by military service. Even if a veteran does not qualify for a presumption, he or she is free to submit a compensation claim and to seek to show by evidence that the injury or disease was caused by some aspect of military service. He noted that this can be a difficult burden, but that VA is required to assist claimants in developing the evidence necessary to support their claims. VA will assist in obtaining service records and any relevant post-service records that a claimant adequately identifies, and, if needed, providing a medical examination or obtaining a medical opinion.
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Q. Our second question concerned disability compensation for type 2 diabetes. The writer asked why he was getting so little while another Vietnam veteran with type 2 diabetes was receiving so much more every month. He asked if there are "different kinds of service-connected diabetes type 2."
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A. A consultant in Compensation and Pension Service, Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), VA Central Office, provided our response. She indicated that a veteran is either service connected for the condition or he or she is not. If service connected for diabetes type 2, VBA assigns a disability percentage ranging from 10 to 100 percent based on an objective criteria, which deals with the severity of the condition. Of course, the amount of disability compensation is closely related to the degree of disability. (See the article, "How to Get Disability Compensation" on page 6 and 7 of this newsletter for additional information.) For diabetes, the ratings are based on the frequency of injections of insulin, hospitalizations, dietary restrictions, and other factors. That means that two veterans with type 2 diabetes could accurately receive very different amounts of disability payments from VA. For additional information contact the nearest VA Regional Office at 1-800-827-1000. The call is toll-free.
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