Agent Orange Claims Grow Rapidly, Costs Follow Suit


More than 40 years have passed since the U.S. military used Agent Orange in Vietnam, but only in recent years have health care costs escalated rapidly.

In a report by The Institute of Medicine, an association between exposure to Agent Orange and illnesses including soft-tissue sarcoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, Hodgkin lymphoma and chloracne has been found.

The report requests further research to determine whether there could be a link to other illnesses such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, tonsil cancer, melanoma and Alzheimer’s disease.

Federal officials estimate that 10,000 more veterans have sought medical compensation for diseases related to Agent Orange over the last two years than projected. Over the next decade, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is expected to pay $50 billion for health care compensation for only one of the 14 diseases the VA says is associated with Agent Orange exposure.

Last year, ischemic heart disease, Parkinson’s disease and B-cell leukemia were added to the list of diseases the VA associates with Agent Orange exposure. According to a VA report, ischemic heart disease alone added $236 million in 2010 and $165 million this year in compensation costs.

Alan Simpson, former chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, is among those questioning how the VA will afford the compensation claims without increasing the strain on the national budget. He maintains that today’s veterans could become subject to longer delays for disability-compensation claims, primarily because of the backlog created by veterans from previous generations.

Here is a list taken directly from the Department of Veterans Affairs of diseases that are currently recognized as being linked to Agent Orange:

Acute and Subacute Peripheral Neuropathy

A nervous system condition that causes numbness, tingling, and motor weakness. Under VA’s rating regulations, it must be at least 10% disabling within 1 year of exposure to herbicides and resolve within 2 years after the date it began.

AL Amyloidosis

A rare disease caused when an abnormal protein, amyloid, enters tissues or organs.

Chloracne (or Similar Acneform Disease)

A skin condition that occurs soon after exposure to chemicals and looks like common forms of acne seen in teenagers. Under VA’s rating regulations, chloracne (or other acneform disease similar to chloracne) must be at least 10% disabling within 1 year of exposure to herbicides.

Chronic B-cell Leukemias

A type of cancer which affects white blood cells.

Diabetes Mellitus (Type 2)

A disease characterized by high blood sugar levels resulting from the body’s inability to respond properly to the hormone insulin.

Hodgkin’s Disease

A malignant lymphoma (cancer) characterized by progressive enlargement of the lymph nodes, liver, and spleen, and by progressive anemia.

Ischemic Heart Disease

A disease characterized by a reduced supply of blood to the heart, that leads to chest pain.

Multiple Myeloma

A cancer of plasma cells, a type of white blood cell in bone marrow.

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

A group of cancers that affect the lymph glands and other lymphatic tissue.

Parkinson’s Disease

A progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects muscle movement.

Porphyria Cutanea Tarda

A disorder characterized by liver dysfunction and by thinning and blistering of the skin in sun-exposed areas. Under VA’s rating regulations, it must be at least 10% disabling within 1 year of exposure to herbicides.

Prostate Cancer

Cancer of the prostate; one of the most common cancers among men.

Respiratory Cancers

Cancers of the lung, larynx, trachea, and bronchus.

Soft Tissue Sarcoma (other than Osteosarcoma, Chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or Mesothelioma)

A group of different types of cancers in body tissues such as muscle, fat, blood and lymph vessels, and connective tissues.


Photo thanks to vsai under creative commons license on Flickr. 


45 thoughts on “Agent Orange Claims Grow Rapidly, Costs Follow Suit”

  1. Forty-five years after exposure I was diagnosed with Liposarcoma . I’m being told that the processing of my claim will take up to 18 months. The reason given is that the lawsuits have taken president. I Have the DAV as my representative as well as a contact from my Congressman!
    I must pay to get treatment at the VA until my disability is determined because my income is to high! At present I pay a Cobra from the job I had to quit to receive my treatment and surgery.The staff at the VA clinic has been great.

  2. VA tells me that if I don’t have diabetes, I don’t qualify for A.O. dissability, even though they treat me for extremity neuroapathy (or how the hell it’s spelled), and I have tinnitus. I’m not a subject to A.O. Bene’s. I wonder how many others who served with me on the G.P. are in the same boat, and not aware of it. Thanks to the Army, it’s almost impossible to connect with those guys.

    1. John I have exactly the same conditions has you(peripheral neuropathy and tinnitus) and the VA tells me the same thing. I have served in vietnam from 1968-1969 with the 589 Combat Engineers and I am in the same boat as you. I also tried for chronic back pain and hearing loss – and turned down for both.

    2. I am a volunteer DAV Service Officer. I’m giving you advice blind because I don’t know what your rating decision declination explanations state. But the first thing you need to do is file a Notice of Disagreement with your service organization or email me and I’ll tell you how to go about it, then get a copy of all of the Comp and Pension exams, lab and hearing tests, xrays, etc.

  3. My husband ended up with MULTIPLE MYELOMA (a form of blood cancer) due to his exposure to Agent Orange.

    Thankfully, we had a wonderful Veteran’s “advocate” locally, and she filled out all of the paperwork for us.

    The VA temporarily claimed him 100% Disabled.

    I’m happy to say that after a Stem Cell Transplant 28 months ago, he continues to be in “COMPLETE REMISSION/RESPONSE”

    We, too have been very impressed with our VA staff in Biloxi, MS.

    Best of luck to you, Eugene.

    1. Dear Nanette,
      I too have been diagnosed with multiple myeloma and received a stem cell transplant three months ago at the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center. I had a autologous (using my own stem cells) and was curious as to what kind of transplant your husband had, autologous or allogeneic, and is he on any type of maintenance program? My last bone marrow test showed I have 0.2% monoclonal plasma cells. This was good news since before treatment I was at 90%. I would be happy if you could share any information with me if you so choose. I served on the USS Oriskany and made two cruises to Viet Nam however, the VA has not approved blue water sailors for agent orange benefits.

      Thank You,
      Ken Ostermiller

  4. I have prostate Cancr since being expossed to AO in 1969. I received benafits for @ three years. They, the VA are reduceing my bennafits from 100 % to 20% since my CANCER is getting better. I still have cancer since my PSA is under 1.0 . I don’t get there reason for the reduction. I guess they need the money to help someone else.

  5. i just visited the marion va hospital in marion il i have had blisters on my body and the dermatologist said it’s from taking medications wow no biopsy done and an on site visual look he can diagnoist what i had wrong where do they get these guys from the funny papers come on now does a mechanic fix a car by looking at it and hand you a bill or does it go in the shop for service repairs

  6. I have type ll diabetes , heart disease , chloracne issues dating back to 73 and cancer although it was colon cancer and is not recognized as a result of AO. I was a team member of a f-3 unit with no record of in country service . I took an oath of secrecy that I am paying for today . Any one relate to this send me an e-mail ?

    1. Dick Lindgren

      The VA has 3rd party that can check on covert operations that are not on DD214 or any others records. Don’t give up.

  7. I’m a volunteer CSO for the DAV and get a lot of oddball requests from veterans’ that if the VA or other service officers would think for a minute, they might be able to help the vet. Of course I NEVER promise the veteran that my efforts will be successful, but I have had some successes. One area I’ve dealt with is AO side effects from those that were never in NAM. I one case I questioned the vet about how he/she could have been exposed. It turns out that the vet, while stationed in FRG, had the duty of going through NAM KIA duffle bags to ensure nothing embarressing was found by NOK. That gave me enough information to write an “Expert” Letter that outlined AO exposure in my experiences as a SNCO and Field Grade Officer.

    1. Stephen, my husband was exposed to AO by working on the planes that distributed the chemical. He also was stationed at Chanute where it was stored. He has had a heart attack, his muscles are tearing and he has sleep apnea , we don’t know what other problems he is having that might be related to AO. We filed a claim on his heart but we are not sure if these other things are related to AO. Can you help us?

  8. Being a Nam Vet, I too was exposed AO. I have (type 2 Diabetes, Ischemic, Neuropathy, and Soft Tissue Sarcoma. Every Nam Vet is getting sisk after 40 years. I have other problem to. Brothers they didn’t care about us then and they don’t now.Just remember we are Brothers of one.

  9. Michael J Bilicko

    I served with Army in the 589th Eng. Bn. Vietnam 1968/69. I too, have Diabetes Mellitus (Type 2), Tinnitus w/associated hearing loss, Acute Peripheral Neuropathy, Sleep Loss, Chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and a new one just started but not yet diagnosed (swelling of feet, ankles, and legs) painful as hell. I am one of the (lucky?) ones who were granted 100% disability. What in hell did our government do to us guys-n-gals? Everyone I talk to at the VA Medical Center here in Delta, Colorado (hospital located in Grand Junction) seems to have a health problem related to AO. (I must say that the VA Med Center treats us very well). Ever think what will happen to us if our country continues down the road to Socialism? We will all be taken off the program and left to twist in the wind? Another problem for us to worry about for sure. AND–why in hell does Blue Water Navy not qualify? These guys were exposed to AO during transport and load/off load. I know first hand how the 55 gal drums leaked because I was a crane operator loading/unloading that poison. All I can recommend to my Navy buds is to call your Congressman. I wish you luck. One last thought; is Congress thinking of cutting our comp?

  10. I too was exposed to Agent Orange while serving in Nam in 67 & 68. In October of 2010 I went through the American Legion Service Officer and got real lucky as he works for the IL Dept of VA. He is always helpful and filed out all my paperwork. See if your state has a local VA office near you. Most people tell me the same thing–do not try to do this on our own. Get an Advocate and work with him. The VA in Danville, IL has been very good and the staff is great. After 40 odd years I am getting what we all deserve. Good Luck!

    1. Nick
      I was in kOREA 70 -71 and noticed that u r from Danville Ill.

      I was with a buddy in Korea from Danville.. Dennis Wagner…

      Do u know him??


  11. My husband served in Korea on the DMZ 1968-1969. He filed a claim for IHD,in 1997, 2000,2002, all were denied “no boots on ground in Nam” show proof It was service related. Well now isn’t that special, knowing dam well he couldn’t. I now have 100 pages of Top Secret Declassified info. Not only was there heavy chemical exposure but stuff was tested on them then shipped to Nam!!! After his first heart attack in 1985, he had diabetes, COPD, thyroid issues, 5 by-passes, Difb/pacemaker and recommended for heart transplant. He died in 2008, never receiving one red penny from the VA!! I feel I have been discriminated against. Nam Vet Widows are entitled to retro accrued compensation from time claim first denied why can’t I??? You can take Nam Vets off of Nehmer case and put Korean DMZ Vets name on that lawsuit and it is the same. Korean Vets and their Widows should be afforded Nehmer protection. Read about operation Flyswatter, and project Shade it is on the internet.

  12. I’m a Vietnam Vet, and thanks to Agent Orange I have diabetes type 2, neuropathy, Sleep apnea and chronic Fibromyalgia. The VA doesn’t recognized sleep apena and fibro as related to diabetes. Despite there is growing evidence and a large number of diabetic veterans with multiple problems. My concern is that My daughter has medical issues, and two of her children are autistic with multiple issues. Maybe not related, but it makes me wonder. God bless all my fellow Veterans for all of us, we relive our War experience everyday with our disabilities, and for a Veteran to have to fight for benefits and health care is a crime.

  13. My husband was in viet nam 1968-69…………also have neuropathy an other problems we have 4 daughters with so many problems an also a grandson with austistic makes me wonder ……….I really dont understand the VA an the government but as also i think the vets doesnt get the care they need they served us proud……….but one day the government people will get what they deserve ………to denine a vet is so wrong an for the vet to seem like they have to beg………so wrong ..COME ON VA GIVE THEM THE HELP THEY ASK FOR DONT MAKE THEM BEG..

  14. Blue water Navy here, okay we have heard about the drinking water cocktail .. what about the dust/dirt we use to clean off the deck and pipes in the engine room where I worked??? We were constantly bombarded with force air being drawn in from intake located on the island … I have Diabetes, have had to have 1/3 of my Colon removed and one Doctor remove a polyp in my stomach and told me it gave him a reason for concern because of it’s location. Neuropathy from my waist to my toes that came on long before I was told about Diabetes. What about the Lupus I have. NO one in my family had has these issue and I have a twin Brother … …. Geeeeeze shall I tell ya more???
    Regards, .. Ron

  15. @ Paul- the research out there ‘s saying that children of vietnam veterans are being affected, but the government does not recognize most of our problems. I am the daughter of a vietnam vet and suffer from a variety of medical issues from thyroid, gal bladder, kidney, allergies (food, drug, and environmental), headaches that linger for 1-2 weeks, infertility problem and other stuff. I am now on a mission to try and be a voice for us children!

  16. i was in the168 combat engeers 68 and 69 have type 2 ddbeits also have copd with cronic broncas two many of us have it to not be because of ao sorry i cant spell

    1. Charles Crapps

      If you have diabetes type 2, then you qualify for CRSC (Combat Related Service Connected). This is one of the top diseases on the Agent Orange list.
      I don’t have diabetes, but have polyneuropathy, since the early 70’s, also have COPD with chronic bronchitis.

  17. i thought i left vietnam behind me,but vietnam didn’t leave me behind. 40+ yrs later my body has been ravaged by chloracne,diabetes(type2),hepatitus/c,cirrhosis of the liver(presently in remission),copd,severe sleep apnea and GOD only knows what’s coming!!!! i like to take this oppourtunity to thank the military and vva for all the help that may come my way.

  18. martin v brown

    my husband martin been trying to get help from the VA. He was over there when they was spraying agent orange. His arms jerks bad and does not realize it. His lungs are shot. He lost his job of 33 years because of his lungs. he gets treated for asthma ,but I think its more then that. They keep turning him down. He is always talking about vietnam. Sometimes he wakes up sweating thinking he is still over there. how can i get some help for my husband. He might look normal but he is not. His wife Roberta

  19. Husband tom died may 2009 from melanoma. He came home from Nam with a small purple mark on his lower torso which turned to melanoma and was dead 1yr later. Filed claim with Va/was rejected then filed appeal 16 mos ago and no response. @Don’t know what to do now

    1. Charles Crapps

      Contact your congressional represenative for the district that you reside in. They will help you!!!!

  20. Sherron Clevenger

    My husband passed from metastic melanoma. We definitely felt it was from Agent Orange. He was denied of course. He was in Viet Nam in 1968 to 1969. Cancer is cancer…All cancers should be added. Every other man at my Church has prostate cancer, and they haven’t been in Viet Nam….Something is wrong with the way the decision process is decided. Next week I will have been a widow for 18 months. All the paperwork was filled out by VSO person, he told me that it was not on the list. We filed anyway, feeling that it was the right thing to do, and maybe someday if enough wives file, it will be added. Thank you for letting me vent .

  21. Charles Crapps

    I served in Nam 68-69, was sprayed with and walked through the jungle that was saprayed, breathed the air, drank the water, just like everyone else that was there. I have polyneuropathy, COPD with chronic bronchitis. But, since I don’t have Diabetes Type 2, the VA says that my medical problems are not service connected.
    Were the people making all these decisions about us, over there fighting next to us. NO!!!! They were back in the states, safe, going to college, having a great ole time. I have been awarded 100% disability, but I am entitled to receive CRSC. Have filed 5 times and the DOD turns it down because of the VARSD Code is wrong on the rating, and they refuse to change it.

  22. We filed a year ago, haven’t heard much from them since we filed , I have sent all kinds of info, my husband was a Navy 68-74, RM2 in NAM on the caliente but was exposed to AO while docked in DeNang. We filed for asbestos, AO, IHD,PAD,and Chronic Hypertension. He has just been diagnosed with Diabetes,Doc has confirmed PAD too , I am getting really nervous like maybe I should get a lawyer & more docs on board to confirm his AO and Asbestos Exsposure? I really do not want to get denied, we have jumped through so many hoops already. I need to add diabetes, but i think it might be too late? Thank you all for your service!!! Wishing you all the best, please message me if you have been on the Caliente… Mindy

  23. My husband had a heart attack and had never had problems with cholesterol and the doctors were shocked it happened. We have been told that the structural work he did on the planes that distributed agent orange caused him to be exposed to agent orange. He has severe sleep apnea and problems with his muscles that have been tearing. Does anyone know if agent orange caused damage to muscles? He’s had one knee operated and now the other knee is in the same shape. His scapula muscle torn twice and he stays in severe pain all the time. He also has ringing in the ears but had never seen a doctor for it. We have filed a claim for the heart attack but want to know if these other things are related to agent orange. We have no idea what other ailments he has had are related to this.

  24. Looking for veterans who served at Little Rock AFB in the early 60’s who have been diagnosed with diabetes, Cancers (namely Prostate and Colon Cancer) as well as neuropathies such as GBS/CIDP. All were exposed to Agent Purple especially the base fireman who burned effluent from the nearby Hercules Chemical Plant which produced Agent Purple. Looking for this information so I am able, to help others who were on the base as well as their widows and children.

  25. I was diagnosed with NHL(stage 3) in January of 2000. I was in Vietnam 68-69 on PBR’s (Brownwater Navy)(COMBAT)(in an Active Agent Orange area). I applied for compensation AFTER I was in remission. Did the mono-clonal antibody clinical trial. I was turned down for compensation. I had a hearing in Columbia SC with a VA judge and the VA representative on staff told me I was fighting a losing battle….how can that be? I keep seeing guys that are getting compensation and just keep getting more and more frustrated at my situation. I explained to the judge that NHL was not curable and directly affects lifestyle. Any suggestions from anyone? I’m not looking for a hand-out and have done well in my career…just can’t understand how so very are getting compensated and all I have gotten was a thank you for serving. Now I’m 65 getting ready to retire and would like to hear some opinions.

  26. My husband served in Vietnam in 1970, was stationed at Nui Dat, Vietnam and was exposed to Agent Orange. He died Sep. 17, 2011 after suffering for nine years from Alzheimer’s Disease. He was 58 years old at the time of the initial diagnosis. I attribute his suffering and death to his being exposed to Agent Orange. Do I stand a chance at receiving compensation from the VA? And the wives and widows of other Vietnam Vets who are suffering or deceased as a result from exposure to this deadly chemical – what about them?

  27. I served aboard the Prairie AD15 (Destroyer Tender) from 1973-74, during a WestPac deployment. Yes, six months prior to deployment, we lived aboard the ship, in drydock (to save money) while the asbestos was ripped out of large areas of the ship. We were told – “all is AOK – just brush the asbestos powder off the bunks, etc.” All was NOT AOK. We (many) slept in the asbestos powder. I’m scared crazy that this will eventually catch me, and others, in the asbestosis, mesothelieoma (sp) nightmare. Additionally, we received shots prior to deployment, with possibly (?) shared needles (to save money). I now have HEPC. Additionally, we sailed to a ‘hot zone’, off the coast of Viet Nam, into a ‘general quarters’ alert one day. We did transfer alot of ‘stores and materials’ between other ships, that in my view more than likely were contaminated with Agent Orange, and/or the residue, for sure. Additionally, when we took water aboard for conversion to potable water (for showers, cooking and drinking), the ‘salt’ water was desalinated for sure – but it was not dechemicalized of all the poisons that were surely contaminating the coastal ocean areas just by the fact that the rivers, streams etc. flowed to the oceans. I have had serious skin issues for nearly 40 years now, stemming from, you guessed it, 1973. The “blue water/brown water issue” is key and critical to thousands of military personnel that served in that area, period. We KNOW, as a people, and as a nation, that poisons, garbage, and other ‘you name its’ can travel, and float thousands of miles, and maintain their levels of damaging consequences – just look at the recent Japan earthquakes – and all the trash floating to Washington, Oregon and California. We need to confront this, and these issues straight on and in their totalness once and for all, without basically blaming those that served, doing as they were told, for their health connections to these known toxins. NO ONE wants to be labeled as many have been for these issues – but we DO want the respect that we gave in our service. Granted, these issues of the past are just that – the past. And yes, addressing the past can be costly – but we did definately learn the lesson. Help us move forward. Thank you. Geof/September 4,2012

  28. ron freeze,,put in claims for all conditions…one for each one! I HOPE YOU DON’T LIVE IN WISCONSIN! GOOD LUCK! GODS SPEED!

  29. My husband recently passed away. He suffered horribly from many health issues. He had a claim in for exposure to Agent Orange. Two days after his death I received a denial letter. I need help. If anyone out there was stationed on Okinawa during the Vietnam Conflict during the years 1965, 1966, and 1967 can you please e mail me? On his claim they said we could not prove that he was in country. He was a Hawk Missile man. He disarmed missiles. He told me he was actually in Vietnam disarming missile approximately 6 to 8 times. Shouldn’t there be records somewhere of this?

  30. I was diagnosed with stage 4 bladder cancer, my Doctor concurs that pesticides, dioxins or just old weed killer while in the Air Force 61-66 was likely as not the cause of my condition. Bladder Cancer is not on that list but my question is this?
    Would bladder cancer fall into the category of “Soft Tissue Sarcoma (other than Osteosarcoma, Chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or Mesothelioma)”?

    A group of different types of cancers in body tissues such as muscle, fat, blood and lymph vessels, and connective tissues.
    Thank you for this platform…

  31. I have a blood disorder and the VA told me that they can’t prove it was related to Agent Orange and they can’t prove that it is. I went to a appeal hearing and was treated like a second class citizen by an attorney that works for the VA. They told me they would review my case and it could take up to 60 days until i received an answer. It is now going on 90 days and still have not heard a thing. My health has gotten worse since the doctors have been treating me. I am a veteran and i feel any veteran that served time in Viet Nam should be entitled to compensation for Agent Orange. This is an outrage that they can deny us and treat us like dirt.

  32. My father was in Vietnam and was a grunt and has all kinds of health problems and now I have been told I have lupus and there is no history of it in my family but I have been told that I cant get help through the VA until they decide if it was caused by AO. What should I do I need lots of help with it because it is so bad I cant work and can barely take care of my kids and no insurance with take me either.

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