The VA’s Agent Orange Policy Change: Personnel who Worked on Contaminated C-123s Now Eligible for VA Disability

As of June 19, 2015 service members and reservists who served on contaminated C-123s from 1969 to 1986 are now able to qualify for VA Disability if they have developed one of the conditions on the VA Presumptive List for Agent Orange exposure.

This is a much-awaited change that we are very glad to finally see in place. After the Vietnam War, between 1,500 and 2,100 Air Force members and reservists were repeatedly in contact with the C-123s that had been used to deliver Agent Orange during the war.  Many of these people have since developed conditions that are known to be connected to Agent Orange exposure, but all their VA Disability Claims for compensation have been denied since the VA’s policy required service in Vietnam itself (or Korea) during the war.
This policy change came after a long campaign that resulted in a formal study done by the Institute of Medicine. The Institute determined that those who had “regular and repeated contact” with the planes were most likely exposed to enough Agent Orange residue to cause “adverse health consequences.”
The study provided enough evidence to convince the VA to change their Agent Orange policy to include any service member or reservist who had “regular and repeated contact” with one of these planes. This includes the flight crews, the ground maintenance crews, and the aero-medical personnel who worked on these planes.
See the VA’s list of Air Force Speciality Codes and Units for specifics on exactly which service members and reservists qualify for C-123/Agent Orange exposure.
The reservists who served on these aircraft can also use their conditions caused by Agent Orange to qualify as veterans. To be considered a full veteran, and thus eligible for all VA Disability Benefits, a reservist must have been disabled while in active service. The VA now accepts the development of any of the presumptive conditions for Agent Orange in these reservists as proof that they developed a disability while in active service and thus qualify as veterans.
If you served on one of the contaminated C-123 aircrafts, you now fully qualify for VA Disability compensation if you have since developed one of the conditions on the VA Presumptive List. To receive your benefits, simply submit a new VA Disability Claim. Make sure to include proof that you did serve on a C-123 in one of the capacities noted above, and you should be good to go.  


  • I am an Army veteran with a 50% disability rating from agent orange exposure while in Vietnam in 1966 – 67 (diabetes and coronary artery disease w/triple bypass/2010, and hearing loss). I also suffer from non – alcoholic cirrhosis with esophageal varices. In 2014 I suffered a rupture in my esophagus and required emergency surgery and spent five days in ICU on a ventilator, with numerous blood transfusions. Prior to this I filed for compensation for this condition (twice) and was denied both times. I also suffer from anemia. In October 2016, I had a total knee replacement due to osteoarthritis. In addition, I have arthritis in both feet. Under the VA expanded list of conditions for agent orange exposure, I find that anemia, cirrhosis, and degenerative arthritis are covered. I am confused whether the 90 day or one year after separation rules apply in my case. Obviously, none of my conditions were identified within either if those time frames. I was 24 when discharged and 54 when my diabetes and CAD were identified, sand I was granted disability. I am 73 now. I have always believed that my cirrhosis was due to exposure as well. Now with the anemia and arthritis I wonder if I have grounds to file for additional benefits? Tom Lewis

  • Hi Tom –

    Where did you find this expanded Agent Orange list? It certainly isn't official. Officially, anemia, cirrhosis, and arthritis are NOT on the presumptive list for Agent Orange exposure.

    The 90-day rule does not apply to Agent Orange exposure, so that will not be an issue, but this conditions are not currently on the list.

  • I am an Army veteran with only 10% disability because of Tinnitus. I was denied disability for Keratoconus on both eyes because there was never any claim or any provider sought while I was in service. I've done further research and found the following,
    Citation Nr: 0614134. Let me know what else I can attach to my appeal before i submit it. Truly appreciate you advise and help.

  • This case is definitely a good one to note on your appeal.

    It's a tricky situation since the law specifically states that if a condition is not diagnosed within 1 year of service, it does not qualify.

    In very special instances like this, however, there can be enough proof that the condition did exist, as the case states, "in a subclinical state" while in service.

    Citing this case alone may not be enough, however. The key to this case being successful was the opinions of his physicians. To strengthen your case, you need to get statements from your physicians that claim this same idea: the condition usually presents between these ages and the veteran was in service during this time, thus it was subclinical while in service. Etc.

  • Dear Dr.Johnson

    I just recently got my some of my records and found out that I was diagnose with Peripheral Vascular Disease from my military records in Korea. So can I file for disability since I was diagnose with diabetes in 2013. I been suffering with leg cramps and leg problems but I didn't know about this at all.

  • Unfortunately, he can't. All the records that were destroyed in the fire are simply gone since they didn't have backups at that time. There is sadly nothing that can be done at this time. Without proof, the VA legally can't grant him additional benefits.

  • There was a recent Medical study that linked Agent Orange to Hypertension. Do you know if the VA has added this to their list of presumptive ailments or if it's claimable? I made a claim about a year ago and it was denied.

  • I made a claim for hearing loss years ago, but was denied. At the time I made the claim, I didn't realize tinnitus was a compensable condition. Every time I've received a hearing test, including the one I took at Ft Knox upon separation in Jan of 1970, I tell the person giving the test that I will have a hard time telling the sounds of the test from my tinnitus noises. Is it possible after all these years to get a favorable rating for this annoying condition? I am currently rated at 60%, partially due to a neck injury in RVN. That begs another question. Could the tinnitus be related to the neck injury? Thank you.

  • If you have medical records clearly showing the diagnosis and presence of tinnitus while still in service, then yes, this can be claimed and is rated 10%. if not, you would still apply, but your MOS would have to be included at a moderate or high level on the Noise Exposure Listing.

    If your hearing loss was denied, then it is likely that your MOS does not qualify.

    You'd have to then find another way to prove service-connection or prove that you were exposed to high levels of noise while active duty.

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