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By Major Mike Dryden USAR Ret
Senior Voice Correspondent 

Apply now for Agent Orange benefits

Alaska Older Veterans Report


Veterans exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War – 9 January, 1962 through 7 May, 1975 – or near the Korean DMZ between 1 April, 1968 and 31 August, 1971, have been determined to have a presumptive service-connected disability for certain illnesses (see VA and VVA websites for full list) and are entitled to compensation as well as medical care. If you served in-country in Korea or Vietnam during these dates, you are eligible for compensation for many illness including Type ll diabetes, Parkinson disease, prostate and lung cancer. Many other illnesses and types of cancer are listed on both the VA and Veterans Health Council’s website.

What this means is you no longer have to prove a link between your exposure and the onset of these diseases. Your service record and statements from your doctor or the VA is all you need to apply. The best and fastest way is to contact the VFW, American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America or any of the other fine veterans organizations to assist you with the paperwork. Be sure to check with the nearest VA center or clinic for these representatives’ times of availability.

The VA process from the submission to determination is not quick but upon approval, compensation is backdated to the date of submission. If you are a surviving spouse of a service member that has passed away from one of these illnesses, you may be entitled to compensation under certain conditions. All veterans who served in that era need to check the websites since many other veterans are eligible.

Agent Orange was a tactical herbicide called Dioxin used to defoliate vegetation along the Korean DMZ and in the jungles of Vietnam where the dense foliage was allowing the North Vietnamese troops cover to infiltrate the south. The liquid was actually clear but got its name from the orange stripe on the steel drum containers.

Vietnam veterans for years had higher incidence rates of cancer and other diseases than non-veterans; 20 million gallons were used in Vietnam alone and exposed ground troops as well as air crews, ground personnel and container ship workers to this ticking time bomb.

Many Vietnam veterans died claiming their illness was service-connected. It wasn’t until 1991 that Congress finally passed legislation to compensate veterans for their service-connected disability. However, with the policy of presumptive service-connected illness, the path to compensation is clearly a vast improvement.

You may use the VA’s Guide to Agent Orange, which can be downloaded, to learn how much the rate of compensation is and which illnesses qualify. I would urge all Vietnam and Korean veterans in this category to check the list of diseases because many will qualify you for this well-earned benefit.

Below are some helpful websites and phone numbers;

• VA Agent Orange Helpline 1-800-749-8387 or go to the website:

• Vietnam Veterans of America has an excellent website:

• has an outstanding informational website:

The damage done by Agent Orange to our veterans was overlooked for almost a quarter of a century but has now been addressed. By classifying certain illnesses and diseases as presumptive causes, thus making veterans with these diseases eligible for compensation, Congress and the VA have closed the loop on this chapter of the Vietnam Era.

As always until next month, stay safe. Major Mike is RTB.

Mike Dryden is a retired Army Major and current board member of Older Persons Action Group, Inc.


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