Agent Orange is among the most notorious chemical agents ever employed by the United States military. In the Vietnam War, Agent Orange was widely used as a “tactical herbicide.” It was loaded onto helicopters and airplanes, then sprayed onto vegetation to deprive insurgent fighters of natural cover.
Over the course of the entire conflict, the U.S. Air Force dropped an estimated 11 million gallons of Agent Orange on Vietnamese forests. However, Agent Orange’s destructive properties are incredibly potent, posing a risk not only to plants but to people, too. Exposure is associated with a wide range of serious medical conditions, including high blood pressure.
Today, Congress and the Department of Veteran Affairs both recognize hypertension as a presumptive service-connected condition. Many Vietnam War Veterans could receive compensation for Agent Orange-related high blood pressure, including disability ratings of up to 60%. Unfortunately, obtaining benefits is not always easy, even with a seemingly open-and-shut case.
You do not have to take on the VA and its bureaucracy by yourself. Sean Kendall, Attorney at Law, has spent decades helping American heroes fight for their rights. Our experienced team of Veteran Affairs attorneys could help you collect the evidence needed to obtain the rating you need and the care that you deserve.
Blood pressure is the amount of force that blood uses to move through arteries. Everybody’s blood pressure changes throughout the day. It may rise with intense physical activity or fall during times of rest and relaxation. However, some people have consistently higher-than-average blood pressure.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a very common health condition. It usually develops gradually and has few, if any, warning signs or symptoms. In fact, many people with hypertension do not realize they have it until they are diagnosed.
If symptoms are evident, they may seem minor. They might include:
- Shortness of breath
- Unexplained nosebleeds
Since these symptoms are not specific, they are often overlooked or confused with other conditions. In many cases, hypertension-related symptoms never actually occur, or they emerge only when a patient’s blood pressure has reached a critical stage.
Unfortunately, even when high blood pressure is not immediately life-threatening, it can still impact health in different ways. Since the heart has to work harder to maintain higher pressure, certain parts of the heart—like the left ventricle—can thicken and swell. This can impede blood flow, injuring the body’s organs and even increasing patients’ risk of cardiac failure.
Agent Orange Exposure and Hypertension
Agent Orange was a defoliant used to destroy certain types of vegetation. It was made from two types of herbicides, as well as a chemical called dioxin.
Dioxin is a compound released by burning chlorine with carbon and hydrogen. The molecules dioxin mixtures release are toxic to plants, animals, and humans alike. It is also categorized as a carcinogen, meaning that scientists believe it can either cause cancer or increase individual risk for cancer.
Vietnam War Veterans may have been exposed to dioxin in Agent Orange through any of the following routes:
- Inhalation, or by breathing it in
- Ingesting Agent Orange-contaminated food or drink
- Absorbing dioxin through direct physical contact
- Absorbing airborne Agent Orange through the skin, eyes, or mouth
While almost every pesticide can be dangerous, Agent Orange was particularly problematic because the U.S. Air Force failed to adhere to common safety procedures. In some cases, helicopters and airplanes would drop more than 20 times the manufacturer-recommended amount of Agent Orange on a single location.
Many people—Veterans and Vietnamese civilians—still report Agent Orange-related health concerns, including hypertension.
Although nobody knows exactly how Agent Orange causes high blood pressure, scientists believe that its most toxic ingredient, dioxin, binds with receptors in different types of blood cells. This process can confuse the body, making it more difficult to naturally regulate blood pressure.
The PACT Act and Agent Orange
Congress recently passed the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act, a new law that expands VA benefits eligibility to veterans who have been exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic substances.
Under this legislation, Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange could receive benefits for new presumptive service-connected conditions, including:
- High blood pressure
- Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS)
Since the PACT Act considers both high blood pressure and MGUS as presumptive service-connected conditions, Veterans who have been diagnosed with either ailment do not need to prove that their illness was caused by military service.
Instead, they must simply establish that they meet these service and deployment requirements:
Agent Orange Service and Deployment Requirements
Any Veteran with hypertension could receive VA benefits without having to prove a service connection.
However, to be considered for higher ratings and additional compensation, Veterans must have service records showing that they were present in:
- The Republic of Vietnam between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975
- Any U.S. or Royal Thai base in Thailand between January 9, 1962, and June 30, 1976
- Laos between December 1, 1965, and September 30, 1969
- Certain Cambodian provinces between April 16, 1969, and April 30, 1969
- Guam or American Samoa (including territorial waters) between January 9, 1962, and July 31, 1980
- Johnston Atoll, or on any ship that called at Johnston Atoll, between January 1, 1972, and September 30, 1977
Veterans who meet these requirements and have been diagnosed with hypertension could receive a wide range of benefits, including free toxin screenings, subsidized health care, and disability pay.
Getting Help for Your Agent Orange Hypertension Claim
Although the Department of Veteran Affairs does not ask Veterans to prove that their hypertension was caused by military service, it still enforces rigid requirements for all claimants.
Under most circumstances, former servicepeople must still present evidence that they have been diagnosed with a presumptive service-connected condition and continue to suffer from a presumptive service-connected condition.
For most Veterans, this means simply seeing a doctor and obtaining a diagnosis. However, diagnoses do not guarantee a disability rating. In many cases, the VA may give Veterans with serious blood pressure-related problems a much lower rating than they deserve. Even when filing an appeal is an option, it can be difficult and incredibly time-consuming.
Sean Kendall, Attorney at Law, has spent decades helping Veterans get the care that they deserve. We could help you obtain a high blood pressure disability rating by: