Last Chance for Vets’ Children With Birth Defects From Agent Orange?
Everyone knows Agent Orange is bad, and exposed veterans know that it causes certain cancers and other diseases after exposure. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recognizes this, and for all of these cancers and diseases, disability compensation is practically automatic. These are called “presumptive” conditions that are presumed to be caused by the military purely because of time and date in service.
Veterans’ children have long been recognized to have birth defects and diseases resulting from their parents’ exposure to Agent Orange. Currently, the VA recognizes many such conditions in the children of women veterans, but the list for male veterans’ children is significantly shorter. It includes only spina bifida (with the exception of spina bifida occulta).
What a lot of veterans don’t know, though, is that Agent Orange exposure has also caused numerous, serious birth defects in exposed male veterans’ children, besides spina bifida, says Children of Vietnam Veterans Health Alliance (COVVHA). These can include:
- Crohn’s disease
- thyroid disease
- chronic kidney disease
- missing parts of limbs
- webbed toes
The list is much, much larger than this, according to COVVHA. For a complete list of diseases and birth defects known to have occurred in children of vets exposed to Agent Orange, please visit the COVVHA website.
The Agent Orange Act of 1991 went into effect for the purpose of researching the diseases and birth defects found in exposed veterans’ children, to find out what they were, and to add them to the list of VA covered conditions.
The Act began a review of conditions in 1994 and was originally scheduled to run until 2001, but later was extended until Oct. 1, 2014. Every few years, more conditions have been added to the VA’s list. On Oct. 1, 2014, the last review will take place, so any conditions not included in this last report will probably be left out of the VA’s list for good, unless more legislation comes into play.
It is likely we will see this last report, which covers the data from 2012, 2013, and 2014, sometime in 2015.
If you are a child of an exposed veteran, COVVHA encourages you to file a claim with the VA so that your voices can start being heard.
The instructions for doing so are found at the COVVHA website and are reproduced below:
You will need to provide years your father was in Vietnam and his social security number. If your father has passed away, and his death was linked to Agent Orange exposure, state that.
1. Application for Benefits (Be sure to keep copies for your records)
Send these forms in as soon as possible!
2. Receiving Your Denial
Please be advised your claim will be denied. It will state, “There is no record of your mother serving in Vietnam or Korea. There is no proof of spina bifida.” This is the standard answer to all of the children of male Vietnam Veterans (unless you have Spina Bifida, then you are eligible for benefits).
3. Filing an Appeal
A. Your next step is to file an appeal
1. Complete: Appeal Form VA9
2. Complete: Release of Medical Information Form 21-4142
a. The VA most likely will not attempt to acquire your records
4. Prepare for the hearing
B. Wait for your hearing Date
C. Gather all your medical records that support your claim
4. The Hearing
A. Take any witnesses that can support your claim
B. Contact your senator and congressman, and ask them to attend the hearing or to send a representative.
*Image of “Vietnam veterans statue” via Shutterstock