Getting started with your claim.
So, what do you need to get your Agent Orange claim approved by the VA? There are three basic requirements and all of them must be met:
- A medical diagnosis of a disease with the VA recognizes as being associated with Agent Orange.
- Evidence of service in Vietnam.
- Medical evidence that the disease began within the deadline (if any).
Proving you actually served in Vietnam
To determine if you had service in Vietnam, the rating specialist looks at your DD Form 214 to see if there is a statement showing dates of in-country service. If nothing is found on your DD Form 214, the next source will be your military 201 Claims File which shows records of duty assignments, etc. A further resort will be your service medical records (SMR’s). Sick-call entries or hospital reports often list the name of a dispensary or hospital and, sometimes, its location in Vietnam. Unfortunately, many such entries list the facility, but not its location. If such a record is found indicating the facility was in Vietnam, however, proof of service in RVN is conceded. The main point is that you must have had your feet on the ground in Vietnam (fly-overs don’t count). However, a recent court decision has opened the way to those vets who served off the coast of Vietnam.
You will note that the Vietnam Service Medal is not among those decorations considered conclusive proof of service in RVN. This is because the medal was awarded to anyone who served in Vietnam, the waters offshore, or the airspace above. It was also awarded for service in Thailand, Laos, or Cambodia.
Very few claims are granted based on direct exposure to Agent Orange. On the contrary, the majority of claims granted are based on presumption. Technically speaking, this means the condition did not happen in military service, nor was it aggravated or caused by service, or manifested to a compensable degree within the one-year presumptive period after service. Simply put, if you were in Vietnam it is acknowledged, or presumed, that you were exposed to Agent Orange.