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VA Proposes to Expand the Agent Orange Presumptive List

Agent Orange Cropdusting

On February 12th, the VA published a proposal in the Federal Register to expand the Herbicide Agent Orange Presumptive List

The Agent Orange Presumptive List establishes service-connection for specific medical conditions that developed after a veteran was exposed to herbicides during service. To qualify, the veteran must have served in certain locations during specific time frames when herbicide exposure was likely.

For example, if a veteran is diagnosed with lung cancer (a condition on the Agent Orange Presumptive List), the cancer will automatically be considered service-connected if the veteran can show evidence that they served in one of the locations on the list during the designated times, such as in Cambodia between April 16, 1969 and April 30, 1969. 

Over time, the Presumptive Lists have been adjusted periodically as the VA’s understanding of the correlation between military service and the development of medical conditions in the veteran population has improved, via data collection, scientific research, etc. 

The last change to the Agent Orange Presumptive List occurred on August 10th, 2022 when the PACT Act was signed into law. The PACT Act added 5 new locations to the list, extended the service dates for Vietnam, and added two new medical conditions. 

Now, the VA is proposing four new changes to the Agent Orange Presumptive List.

Four Proposed Changes to the Agent Orange Presumptive List

Change #1. The VA proposes to expand the definition of Blue Water veterans for service in Vietnam. Currently, the list covers all veterans who served in Blue Waters within 12 nautical miles of the shores of Vietnam. This boundary cuts through Phu Quoc Island and has resulted in denials for some veteran claims. The VA thus proposes to add the offshore waters surrounding Phu Quoc Island to the definition and more clearly define the boundaries to avoid erroneous denials in the future. 

Change #2. In addition to the current locations included on the Agent Orange Presumptive List, the VA proposes to add a regulation that would allow new locations added to the DoD’s herbicide agent list to be automatically added to the Presumptive List. 

The DoD’s herbicide agent list is a list that includes all of the areas where there is evidence that Agent Orange was used, tested, or stored. This list is constantly evolving as internal DoD research continues and new public submissions of evidence occurs every year, though no new locations have been added in the past few years.

The VA’s proposal would allow the VA’s Presumptive List locations to be automatically updated any time the DoD updates their list, allowing immediate access to benefits for veterans without having to wait for the VA to update their regulations.    

Change #3. Parkinsonism was added to the Agent Orange Presumptive List in 2021, but the VA now proposes to expand this to ensure that all sub-types of Parkinsonism are included and not overlooked. The VA proposes to include all Parkinson-plus syndromes, including progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), multiple system atrophy (MSA, a.k.a. Shy-Drager syndrome), corticobasal degeneration (CBD), vascular Parkinsonism, and dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). 

Change # 4. Finally, the VA proposes updates to the regulations in the 38 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) to reflect all legislative changes that have occurred during the past five years or so, including the changes instituted by the PACT Act. The 38 CFR is the official rulebook for the VA that governs the VA Disability System. These changes have already had legal affect, so veterans will not be affected by this proposal. The VA is simply proposing to update the regulations in the 38 CFR to ensure alignment between the regulations and enacted laws governing the VA Disability System.

Have thoughts on these proposed changes? Submit a comment!

The VA will be accepting comments on these proposed changes for the next 60 days.

If you have any pertinent comments regarding these proposed changes, you can submit them here.

The VA will review all submitted comments and respond to them in the final ruling, anticipated to be published later this year.

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