Air Force and Army Veterans that served at Thailand military bases have been ignored by the VA for decades. They are dying from cancer and other diseases caused by exposure to Agent Orange like chemicals, but, until recently, the VA has denied that Agent Orange/tactical herbicides were used in Thailand.
VA Reluctantly Admitting That Thailand Veterans Were Exposed to Tactical Herbicides
The government declassified Project CHECO which confirmed that herbicides were used inside the perimeters of bases in Thailand. However, as recently as 2012, the VA would not grant service connection because it reasoned that the CHECO report did not confirm that tactical herbicides were sprayed in Thailand, as shown in this BVA Decision.
The VA now admits that the herbicides the military used in Thailand were likely tactical herbicides. This is a positive first step for Thailand veterans. Be aware though, if you served at a Thailand base, you want to state that you were exposed to tactical herbicides, do not use Agent Orange, a specific tactical herbicide. Even though the VA uses the term Agent Orange on its Thailand exposure webpage, it has never admitted that actual Agent Orange was sprayed in Thailand, rather, some sort of tactical herbicides were sprayed. The tactical herbicides used in Thailand seem to cause all the same diseases as Agent Orange, but, use the correct term – tactical herbicide. Do not let a VA initial rater or DRO deny your claim because they cannot confirm Agent Orange usage in Thailand.
VA Only Granting Service Connection to Veterans that Served on the Perimeter
Although the VA admitted that tactical herbicides were sprayed at Thailand bases, it will only grant service connection to Veterans that prove their MOS placed them “at or near the base perimeter.” The VA has not defined what is at or near the base perimeter,” and the decision by the reginal offices and the Board of Veterans Appeals are inconsistent. For now, the only MOS that clearly gets service connected for service at or near the base perimeter is security patrol (including canine units), because, of course, they were patrolling the perimeter.
For Army Veterans that served at small Army bases, the VA specifically requires a military police MOS, which is ridiculous, because tactical herbicides have a 500m spray pattern, which means, at small bases, the whole base was covered with tactical herbicides – not just the perimeter.
All Air Force and Army Veterans Can Prove Their MOS Placed Them at or Near the Perimeter
A skilled lawyer like myself and Sean Kendall, can likely prove any MOS placed an Air Force or Army veteran “at or near the base perimeter.” I will discuss in more detail proving that you served at or near the base perimeter in a future blog, but, if you have a pending appeal, I suggest you contact our office and take advantage of our free consultation. Proving exposure to tactical herbicides is difficult, but, after reviewing countless VA claims files, we know what to look for or what you still need to submit. For Thailand Veterans that do not have an active claim or appeal, I strongly encourage you to apply for your benefits today to preserve an early effective date because the Nehmer Rule does not apply to Thailand Veterans. And remember, you need to tell the VA that you were exposed to tactical herbicides because your MOS placed you at the base perimeter. If you are filing your claim alone, or using a VSO, please take advantage of our free book offer to guide you through the VA claims process.