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U.S. to Pay Agent Orange Injury Claims to Vietnam Veterans

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U.S. to Pay Agent Orange Injury Claims to Vietnam Veterans

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Thanks to a ruling by U.S. District Judge William Alsup, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) must pay out previously denied injury claims from navy Veterans who suffered from exposure to Agent Orange during their military careers.

Agent Orange was used as part of chemical warfare strategies to deforest certain areas, particularly during the Vietnam war. However, shortly thereafter it was discovered that dioxin, the primary active chemical in this herbicide, was linked to a myriad of diseases. Under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Standards Act of 1984, Veterans were all presumed to be exposed to dioxin, while only certain diseases were attributed to the chemical.

Later, the Agent Orange Act of 1991 expanded the list of attributable diseases to include the following:

  • Chloracne and other consistent acneform diseases
  • Soft tissue sarcomas
  • Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • Additional diseases which can presumably be linked to dioxin exposure

Shortly after the passing of this act, the Veterans and their families who took this case to court entered into a consent decree or agreement with the VA, requiring that all previously denied claims would now be considered valid under the Agent Orange Act, and would be readjudicated or paid out. This was a great success in the fight for justice for affected Veterans; each of the above conditions can lead to a variety of damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.

This is not the first lawsuit to attempt to enforce the court’s previous judgment.

The Agent Orange Act of 1991 was the first motion intended to enforce the payment of dioxin injury claims from affected Veterans. However, the VA consistently failed to pay out the claims assumed to be covered under this and the Radiation Exposure Compensation Standards Act. In fact, there have been three motions since the act’s passage intended to enforce the payment of these claims, all of which were approved in a district court as well as a court of appeals. Continued failure by the VA to pay out valid dioxin injury claims is what led to this most recent lawsuit and subsequent ruling.

In this lawsuit, the VA argued unsuccessfully that “blue water” Veterans were not covered under the above acts.

“Blue water” Veterans is a term used to refer to the Veterans who served offshore of the Republic of Vietnam but did not set foot on the landmass. While these Veterans might never have tramped through the Agent Orange affected jungles, dioxin exposure was still a very real hazard. Additionally, Judge William Alsup pointed out in his ruling that the VA paid Agent Orange claims from blue water Veterans for the first 11 years of the initial consent decree, so it is not only a violation of that decree but structurally inconsistent that they would suddenly begin denying these same claims.

If you or a loved one have suffered from denial of a valid VA claim, reach out to a military rights attorney to learn more about filing an appeal.

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