For many Vietnam veterans, the possibility of having been exposed to Agent Orange during the war is a cause for serious concern. Exposure has been linked to the development of numerous diseases, such as lymphoma and various forms of cancer. If you think you may have been exposed and affected, you would be well advised to contact VA disability lawyers, Florida veterans disability claim attorneys, or Florida veterans disability rights lawyers. The history of this condition has shown a general reluctance on the part of the Department of Veteran Affairs to compensate affected veterans. It has been due largely to the persistence of attorneys repeatedly bringing these claims to the attention of the courts that veterans have been properly compensated.
What was Agent Orange? Agent Orange was one of the herbicides used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. Twenty-million gallons of chemical herbicides were sprayed in Southeast Asia as part of Operation Ranch Hand. After the war many veterans began to suspect that their health problems were related to their exposure to Agent Orange. Veterans began to file claims in 1977 with the Department of Veterans Affairs for disability payments. These claims tended to be denied.
The first Agent Orange class action was filed in 1979. There were 2.4 million veterans that the Agent Orange class action lawsuit sought to represent. The 1985 out-of-court settlement made between the chemical companies and the veterans created a $180 million fund to pay veterans who were adversely affected from Agent. For each year between 1971 and 1994 that the Agent class members could demonstrate total disability they would receive a small amount of compensation. Additionally, a lump sum payment was provided for the families of veterans who died from diseases related to Agent Orange. The $180 million fund was depleted by 1994. Only 50,000 veterans received any compensation. Veterans who became ill after 1994 did not qualify for compensation under the terms of the settlement.
A subsequent case, Dow Chemical v. Stephenson, involved Vietnam veteran Daniel Stephenson. He had developed a deadly form of rare cancer called multiple myeloma in 1998 and was not only unaware of the 1985 Agent Orange settlement but felt that he and other veterans had been unfairly represented. The 2003 deadlocked Supreme Court vote resulted in the automatic affirmation of the lower court’s ruling. That previous ruling had been made by the New York based U.S. Court of Appeal for the 2nd Circuit. This allows representation for those veterans who were improperly omitted from the earlier Orange settlement. It identified Agent side effects as including cancer, diabetes, and neurological disorders. The Department of Veterans Affairs announced in 2003 that the link to chronic lymphocytic leukemia to Agent exposed Vietnam veterans is strong enough that benefits would automatically be given to any new diagnoses of it.