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Colusa Veterans Corner: Vietnam Veterans and Agent Orange


Published: April 3, 2015 • By: Don Parsons

First off, I would like to Welcome Home all of our Vietnam veterans, on 30 April marks the 40th anniversary of the Vietnam War coming to an end with the fall of Saigon. Today’s column focuses on Vietnam veterans and the presumptive medical conditions that the Veterans Administration has identified as linked to Agent Orange/Herbicide exposure. About 20 million gallons of herbicides were used in Vietnam between 1962 and 1971 to remove unwanted plant life that provided cover for enemy forces. These defoliants had dioxin as the main ingredient, which has since been proven to be a very powerful carcinogen and is banned in most of the world. Shortly following their military service in Vietnam, some veterans reported a variety of health problems at very young ages, which some of the veterans attributed to exposure to Agent Orange and the other herbicides used by our government to clear the foliage.

The Department of Veteran Affairs has developed a comprehensive program to respond to these medical and health concerns. The principal elements of this program include providing quality health care services and disability compensation for veterans with service-connected illnesses as well as conducting scientific research, outreach and education. The following conditions are recognized as having a presumptive service-connection for Vietnam veterans, based on the veteran’s exposure to herbicides during the Vietnam War:

  • Diabetes Type 2
  • Prostate cancer
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Hodgkin’s disease
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
  • Leukemia Type B (Hairy Cell)
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Ischemic heart disease (defined as heart disease caused by blockage or reduced blood flow)
  • Respiratory cancers, including cancers of the lung, larynx, trachea and bronchus
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Chloracne (must have occurred within one year of exposure)
  • Soft tissue sarcoma
  • Porphyria cutanea tarda (must have occurred within one year of exposure)
  • Peripheral neuropathy (must have occurred within one year of exposure)

The most common of the presumptive conditions are diabetes and ischemic heart disease. If you were in Vietnam and have had a stint, angioplasty or a by-pass procedure, you most probably have ischemic heart disease. The widows of Vietnam veterans who died of the aforementioned conditions could be eligible for death benefits. To qualify for these benefits as a Vietnam veteran, the service member must be able to prove they were in country – even if boots on the ground was just for one day.

Some Naval personnel could qualify if they were on certain ships; the list of ships is available on the VA website at http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/shiplist/list.asp.

Veterans assigned to specific units in Thailand and Korea may also qualify, as Agent Orange was used in very specific areas in these countries during very specific times.

Use the VA website – www.va.gov/agentorange – to identify these specific units, times and locations. If you feel that you qualify for these benefits, please stop by my office and bring proof of your Vietnam Service (usually your DD-214/Discharge) and a diagnosis of your health condition.

Remember, the Colusa County Veteran Services office is here to serve veterans and their dependents. There are many state and federal benefits available to veterans and their dependents that they have earned. To find out if you are eligible for any of these benefits, visit or call our office.  We can and will assist you in completing all required application forms.  You can get information on the Web from the Colusa County Veterans Service Office webpage at http://www.countyofcolusa.org/index.aspx?nid=180

Don Parsons, retired Army, is the Asst. Veterans Service Officer for Colusa County. Send your questions to the Veterans Service Office, 251 E. Webster St. Colusa, Ca 95932, email   don.parsons@colusadhhs.org    or call (530)458-0388. 