VA proposes rule to extend presumed areas of exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides

VA proposes rule to extend presumed areas of exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides

Today, the Department of Veterans Affairs issued a proposed rule outlining plans to expand the locations and time frames for which VA presumes exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides. If this proposed rule becomes final, VA will implement a new presumption of exposure to locations where herbicides were tested, used, or stored outside of Vietnam. Specifically, this proposed rule would add locations in the United States (full list of US locations where Agent Orange was tested or stored), Canada, and India to the existing presumptives for Agent Orange in Vietnam, Cambodia, Johnson Atoll, Guam, American Samoa, Korea, Laos, and Thailand.

A presumption of exposure means that VA automatically assumes that veterans who served in certain locations were exposed to certain toxins. Presumptives lower the burden of proof required to receive disability benefits, helping veterans get the benefits they deserve as quickly as possible. This expansion of presumptives will help veterans who served in the specified locations receive health care and benefits for certain cancers and chronic conditions. To be eligible, a veteran must have served in the identified location(s) during a specific time period and currently have a condition(s) presumptively associated with herbicide exposure.

Over the past few years, VA has expanded presumptive service connection for more than hundreds of  health conditions related to toxic exposures under the PACT Act – the largest expansion of veteran care and benefits in generations. Thanks to this historic action, VA is delivering more care and more benefits to more Veterans than ever before in U.S. history.

“This proposed change would make it easier for Veterans exposed to herbicides who served outside Vietnam to access the benefits they so rightly deserve,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “Our goal is to provide every veteran – of every era – with the VA health care and benefits they deserve, and this is another step in the right direction.”

Veterans who want to file an initial claim for a herbicide-related disability can visit VA’s website, use VA Form 21-526EZ, Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits, or work with a VA-recognized veterans service organization such as The American Legion to assist with the application process. Veterans may also contact their state Veterans Affairs officeSurvivors can file claims for benefits based on the veteran’s service if the veteran died from at least one of the recognized presumptive herbicide diseases.

This proposed rule also codifies provisions in the PACT Act, the Blue Water Navy Act of 2019, and the National Defense Authorization Act for 2021.

For more information about the changes, visit The Federal Register.