Written by attorney Kenneth Lewis LaVan

Birth Defects Caused by Agent Orange

Due to the exposure of Vietnam War veterans to Agent Orange, many of the children born to these veterans may have suffered birth defects. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has identified several types of birth defects with known associations to exposure to toxic herbicides used in the combat and demilitarized zones during the war.

Children of female veterans of this era were especially susceptible to these environmental hazards. The VA has established guidelines and compensation programs to care for children of Vietnam War veterans born with certain birth defects.

Birth Defects Connected to Agent Orange Exposure

The VA currently identifies the following birth defects as those caused by a female Vietnam veteran's exposure to Agent Orange prior to the child's birth:

  • Achondroplasia;
  • Cleft lip and cleft palate;
  • Congenital heart disease;
  • Congenital talipes equinovarus (clubfoot);
  • Esophageal and intestinal atresia;
  • Hallerman-Streiff syndrome;
  • Hip dysplasia;
  • Hirschprung's disease (congenital megacolon);
  • Hydrocephalus due to aqueductal stenosis;
  • Hypospadias;
  • Imperforate anus;
  • Neural tube defects;
  • Poland syndrome;
  • Pyloric stenosis;
  • Syndactyly (fused digits);
  • Tracheoesophageal fistula;
  • Undescended testicle; and
  • Williams syndrome.

Additionally, children born to either a male or female Vietnam War veteran who were diagnosed with spina bifida (except for spina bifida occulta) may also be eligible for VA benefits.

Eligibility Requirements for VA Compensation for Children of Veterans

Vietnam War veterans whose children suffered a listed birth defect must prove that the vet served in an area and time where Agent Orange and other toxic herbicides were used.

Children with spina bifida born to servicemembers stationed in the Republic of South Vietnam may be eligible for benefits if one or both parents served there between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975.

Children with spina bifida whose parent served in the Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ) between September 1, 1967 and August 31, 1971 and was exposed to herbicides are also eligible if they were conceived after the date on which the parent served (servicemembers who served in this area between April 1, 1968 and August 31, 1971 are presumed to have been exposed).

Female veterans of the Vietnam War who gave birth to children with any of the listed birth defects may prove their children are eligible for benefits through their dates of service. Women who served in the Republic of South Vietnam between February 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975 who conceived their child after their service may have children eligible for benefits if the child suffered a permanent physical or mental disability.

The evidence necessary to prove these claims includes the veteran parent's record of service with the applicable times and locations, evidence that the affected child is biologically tied to the applicable parent, a birth certificate determining the approximate date of conception, and medical evidence reflecting a covered birth defect or spina bifida.

As more research is done on the long-term health effects of Agent Orange exposure, there has also been further evidence of areas where veterans were exposed. Many naval ships and ports outside Vietnam have been identified as potential sites of exposure, which may expand the eligibility areas.

Children of Vietnam War veterans who experience unexplained medical conditions or have a condition present since birth should discuss the potential of Agent Orange-linked birth defects with their physician. A VA disability claim may be an option to assist with treatment for these ailments.

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