The Ongoing Impact of Agent Orange on Veterans and Their Families: The Fight for Recognition and Support

agent orange

During the Vietnam War, the US military used a toxic herbicide called Agent Orange to clear trees and vegetation from the countryside. Exposure to Agent Orange has been linked to a range of health problems, including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease (Mayo Clinic, 2023). For decades, veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange struggled to receive support for the impact it had on their lives and the lives of their families. However, in recent years, there have been significant strides in supporting those affected by Agent Orange exposure.

Health Effects of Agent Orange Exposure:

Exposure to Agent Orange has been linked to a wide range of health issues. According to the VA (2023), veterans exposed to Agent Orange may have an increased risk of several types of cancer, including lymphoma, prostate cancer, and lung cancer. They may also be at greater risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and Parkinson’s disease. Additionally, exposure to Agent Orange has been linked to birth defects in the children of Vietnam veterans (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022).

Compensation and Support for Veterans and Their Families:

In recent years, there have been significant developments in the support available to veterans and their families affected by Agent Orange exposure. In 2022, the VA added three new presumptive conditions to its list of disabilities associated with Agent Orange exposure, including bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism (VA, 2022). In 2023, the VA expanded its list again to include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis (VA, 2023). This means that veterans who suffer from these conditions and were exposed to Agent Orange during their service are now presumed to be eligible for disability compensation and health care benefits.

Impact on Families:

The impact of Agent Orange exposure extends beyond the health effects on individual veterans. Families of veterans exposed to Agent Orange may also experience the impact of the toxic herbicide. For example, birth defects and developmental issues have been reported in the children of Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange (National Academies Press, 2018). Additionally, the mental health of family members can be affected by the challenges of caring for a loved one with a service-related disability (U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2020).

Ongoing Advocacy and Support:

Despite the progress in supporting those affected by Agent Orange exposure, many veterans and their families continue to struggle to receive the benefits and support they need. In recent years, advocacy groups have pushed for greater awareness and support for the children and grandchildren of Vietnam veterans affected by Agent Orange (Disabled American Veterans, n.d.). The VA has also faced criticism in the past for denying claims without proper consideration (National Veterans Legal Services Program, 2022), highlighting the need for continued advocacy and support.

Conclusion:

The impact of Agent Orange on veterans and their families has been significant and long-lasting. Exposure to Agent Orange has been linked to a wide range of health issues, and families of veterans may also experience the impact of the toxic herbicide. While there have been significant developments in supporting those affected by Agent Orange exposure, many veterans and their families continue to struggle to receive the benefits and support they need. It is crucial for lawmakers and the public to continue to support these efforts and ensure that veterans and their families receive the recognition and support they deserve.

References:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, January 19). Vietnam Veterans and Agent Orange Exposure. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/veterans/agentorange/index.html

Disabled American Veterans. (n.d.). Agent Orange: VA Benefits for Vietnam Veterans. Retrieved from https://www.dav.org/veterans/resources/veterans-issues/agent-orange/

Mayo Clinic. (2023, January 26). Agent Orange exposure: Information for veterans and their families. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/agent-orange/symptoms-causes/syc-20351765

National Academies Press. (2018). Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 2018. Retrieved from https://www.nap.edu/catalog/25137/veterans-and-agent-orange-update-2018

National Veterans Legal Services Program. (2022, January 3). Agent Orange. Retrieved from https://www.nvlsp.org/what-we-do/lawyers-serving-warriors-/agent-orange

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2022, September 1). VA adds three conditions to the list of presumptive illnesses related to Agent Orange exposure. Retrieved from https://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=5918

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2023, February 21). List of Presumptive Conditions. Retrieved from https://www.va.gov/disability/eligibility/hazardous-materials-exposure/agent-orange/


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