Although the general public often thinks of Agent Orange exposure as a problem affecting Veterans who were stationed in Vietnam, Veterans who served in Thailand know that they've also suffered serious health problems due to toxic herbicide exposure. Now, the PACT Act allows these Veterans to more easily access the VA disability benefits they need to provide for themselves and their families.
Qualifying for Presumptive Exposure
On August 10, 2022, President Joe Biden signed the Honoring Our PACT Act into law. This legislation, formally known as the Sergeant First Class (SFC) Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act, gives more than five million Veterans exposed to toxins during their service access to much-needed health care and cash benefits.
Under the PACT Act, Veterans who served at any U.S. or Royal Thai military base in Thailand from January 9, 1962, through June 30, 1976, are presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange. This presumptive exposure makes it easier to be approved for VA disability benefits because Veterans no longer need to provide evidence to establish that their duties put them in contact with Agent Orange. They only need to verify the time and location they served.
While most of the Air Force bases in Thailand were treated as staging hubs for operations in Vietnam, military personnel serving throughout Thailand were subjected to hostile attacks from Communists and herbicides within base perimeters as a means of helping to prevent ambushes. Operation RANCH HAND activities in Thailand also involved the use of tactical herbicide formulations known collectively as Rainbow Herbicides.
Named for the color of the bands around the barrels they were shipped in, Rainbow Herbicides are chemically similar to Agent Orange. Thus, Veterans exposed to Rainbow Herbicides have all of the same legal protections as those who were only exposed to Agent Orange.
A free Agent Orange Registry health exam from the VA can provide Veterans who served in Thailand with insight into any medical conditions that could be related to their military service. However, this exam is not required to be approved for VA disability benefits.
Qualifying for a Presumptive Service Connection
Agent Orange and Rainbow Herbicide exposure has been linked to a wide range of serious health conditions. Before the PACT Act was signed, the following conditions qualified for a presumptive service connection:
- Bladder cancer
- Chronic B-cell leukemia
- Hodgkin's disease
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
- Prostate cancer
- Respiratory cancers (including lung cancer)
- Soft tissue sarcomas (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi's sarcoma, or mesothelioma)
- Type 2 diabetes
- Parkinson's disease
- Ischemic heart disease (also known as coronary artery disease or coronary heart disease)
- AL amyloidosis (also known as primary amyloidosis)
- Early onset peripheral neuropathy
- Porphyria cutanea tarda
The PACT Act expanded this list to add two additional conditions:
- High blood pressure (also called hypertension)
- Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (also known as MGUS)
If your condition qualifies for presumptive service connection, you do not need to provide evidence establishing that your military service is the cause of your diagnosis. You only need to provide medical documentation that can be used to establish the severity of your condition.
If you suffer from high blood pressure or MGUS and the VA previously denied your claim, you should submit a Supplemental Claim to request that your case be reviewed again. The VA will contact Veterans it believes may be eligible based on the changes to the law due to the PACT Act, but you are encouraged to submit a Supplemental Claim to ensure your case is reviewed as quickly as possible.
If you have a pending claim for high blood pressure or MGUS, you do not need to take any additional action. The VA will review your claim in accordance with the provisions of the PACT Act.
Do You Need to Speak to a VA Disability Benefits Attorney?
The office of Sean Kendall, Attorney-at-Law, helps Veterans nationwide get the compensation they deserve for service-connected disabilities. If you served in Thailand and believe you are suffering from a medical condition caused by toxic herbicide exposure, call our office or use our online contact form to set up a free, no-obligation consultation. You can also learn more about your claim in our free guide, VA Benefits Handbook.