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Vietnam Vets and Agent Orange

An estimated 2.4 million U.S. veterans, and approximately 1 million Vietnamese people, were exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. Agent Orange, an herbicide contaminated with high levels of dioxin, was sprayed over Vietnam from 1965-1971. About fifteen different herbicides were sprayed from 1962-1971, but 80% of that used was Agent Orange. The total amount was estimated by U.S. Veteran's Affairs to be about 20 million gallons, dumped over 6 million acres.

The VA, citing numerous studies, acknowledges that Agent Orange has been linked to a number of illnesses, including various cancers, birth defects in the children of exposed veterans, leukemia and other diseases. The companies responsible for the manufacture of Agent Orange were primarily Dow Chemical and Monsanto, but also include Diamond Shamrock Corporation, Hercules, Inc., Uniroyal, Inc., T-H Agriculture and Nutrition Company, and Thompson Chemical Company.

In 1985, a settlement was reached between the affected veterans and the chemical companies to create a $180 million fund for those making claims of disease from Agent Orange exposure. In order to receive benefits, veterans had to demonstrate "total disability" every year from 1971-1995. A large number of the affected veterans did not receive any benefits simply because they were not aware of the original class action lawsuit. Another group that was left out was those veterans that developed diseases after 1994, despite the known latency period for diseases from Agent Orange.

Daniel Stephenson was one such victim, who developed a rare cancer called multiple myeloma in 1998. He claims that he was not aware of the 1985 lawsuit and believes that he and others like him were unfairly represented in the original settlement. Along will fellow veteran Joe Isaacson, they sued Dow Chemical Company. Although originally unsuccessful, upon appeal the lower court ruling was overturned. On June 9, 2003, after Dow appealed to the Supreme Court, a deadlocked 4-4 decision effectively allowed the previous appellate court ruling to take effect.

For more information:

Court splits on Agent Orange By Bill Mears
June 9, 2003, CNN's Washington Bureau Monday
The Supreme Court has allowed a lawsuit against the makers of the Agent Orange herbicide to continue, despite a nearly two-decade-old class-action settlement.

Agent Orange Vets Win Round
April 2, 2002, CNN
A federal appeals court ruled that the Department of Veterans Affairs must pay retroactive disability payments to thousands of Vietnam vets.

Exposure to Agent Orange confirmed
December 4, 2003
New Zealand troops who have long maintained they were exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam have been vindicated after a new report showed they were exposed to defoliants at least 356 times.

Veteran's Benefits and Services: VA's Guide on Agent Orange Claims
Site gives overview of Agent Orange, lists diseases caused by Agent Orange, and shows vets and their survivors how to get benefits.

Details Agent Orange Exposure and legal action related to it.