As many veterans are aware, there are a special set of regulations that provide for “presumptive service connection” for certain conditions if a veteran was exposed to Agent Orange. This list is important because if a veteran does develop one of the listed condition, even 40 or 50 years after service, and they served on land in Vietnam during the war, service connection is very likely to be automatically granted. The list is updated periodically based upon the latest scientific studies; in recent years, conditions have been added including ischemic heart disease and Type II Diabetes. The addition of these diseases and others to the list have benefited thousands of veterans who are now service-connected and receiving VA benefits.
As mentioned, VA adds new conditions to the list every few years based on the latest research. Congress has mandated that the National Academy of Sciences report every two years on this research and that the report assess how likely it is that other diseases should be added to the list. The latest report, called Veterans and Agent Orange, Update 2012 was just released in December (despite the 2012 date, this report did not come out until late 2013). The biggest news from the report is a finding that there is “limited and suggestive evidence” that strokes are related to exposure to Agent Orange. Similar findings about Parkinson’s Disease led to that condition being added to the presumptive list several years ago. The report does not find that the latest research supports there being a link between any other new condition and Agent Orange. For example, the report finds that there is still insufficient evidence to currently show a link between Agent Orange and the development of certain leukemias, such as Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML) and Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS).
Under the Agent Orange Act of 1991, VA will now have to take the information from the study and can propose rules adding conditions, such as stroke, to the list of presumptive diseases. The National Academy’s report is available to read on line or download for free: https://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=18395