Veterans Disability Benefits: Thailand Veterans and Agent OrangeBy Chris Attig | Permalink
October 29th in VA Benefits, Vietnam & Agent Orange.
U.S. Military Veterans of the Vietnam War have all been treated differently when it comes to Agent Orange Exposure.
Soldiers that can prove “Boots on the Ground” in the Republic of Vietnam are presumed exposed to Agent Orange. Navy Veterans that served on ships in the inland waterways – the so-called Brown Water Navy Veterans – are entitled to a legal presumption that they were exposed to Agent Orange. Some Veterans of the Vietnam Era that served in Korea were exposed to Agent Orange when the Department of Defense tried to defoliate portions of the Demilitarized Zone – click here if this describes your Vietnam Era service.
Vietnam Era Veterans that served in Thailand (as well as those in the Philippines and Okinawa) have long been the “orphans” of the Agent Orange catastrophe. Though any Veteran that was stationed at Takhli, NKP, and many other Air Bases in Thailand can tell you that the vegetation around their perimeter quickly vanished after being sprayed, the VA and DoD have long denied that Agent Orange was used in Thailand.
In May 2010, however, the VA issued a Compensation and Pension Bulletin that addressed the process that the VA should follow in handling Agent Orange claims for Vietnam Era Veterans stationed in Thailand. Generally, here is how the VA’s process is working. It is currently being used in Agent Orange Exposure claims by military veterans on the following Royal Thai Air Force Bases: U-Tapao, Ubon, NKP (Nakhon Phanom), Udom, Takhli, Korat or Don Muang,
If the military Veteran claiming Agent Orange caused a medical condition provides a lay statement that he (or she) was involved with perimeter security duty, and there is additional credible evidence supporting this statement, then herbicide exposure on a “facts-found” or “direct” basis can be acknowledged.
The key phrase is “additional credible evidence supporting this statement”. What does that mean? It means that the VA still won’t concede that Agent Orange was used inside the perimeter at these Air Bases, and wants to further segregate Thai Veterans into “those that were on the perimeter” and “those that were not on the perimeter”. I believe this is a ridiculous distinction that ignores the reality of military life; as one Veteran recently said to me: “If the perimeter was being probed, and the alarm was sounded, you didn’t sit in your hooch sucking your thumb while the MPs took care of things. No – everybody went out to the perimeter and took up positions.”
Regardless, the VA is still wanting some corroborating evidence that a service-member performed “perimeter duties”. Here are some examples of “additional credible evidence”, as used above:
1) Your MOS required perimeter duty – i.e., military police, dog handlers, air operations crews responsible for maintaining runways, etc.
2) You have a buddy statement from someone that manned a bunker on the perimeter with you on a frequent or regular basis.
3) Pictures of you on the perimeter at the RTAFB – though this is rare, I have seen Veterans that have photographs on the perimeter.
4) If part of your duties were to drive company or field grade officers around the base, and were frequently up on the perimeter with the officer, this may be sufficient to service-connect your condition to Agent Orange exposure.
5) If you are one of the few military veterans that has a copy of anything from your PCS flight from Thailand to a CONUS base, then it may be possible to show that you had “Boots on the Ground” in Vietnam. Most – if not all – flights from a RTAFB taking soldiers from Thailand to the CONUS base passed through Vietnam, landing to deboard and refuel at Tan Son Nhut in Saigon. If you fall into this case – please contact a lawyer familiar with VA Disability claims to help you properly appeal your disability claim.
6) If you assisted in Agent Orange (and other herbicide) spraying operations at Royal Thai Air Bases, the Attig Law Firm would be very interested in hearing from you.
Bottom line – if you are a Vietnam Era Veteran that served in Thailand, and remember performing work on the air base perimeter, you are entitled to an opportunity to prove exposure to Agent Orange on a “facts found” or direct basis. Unfortunately, the VA still very frequently ignores their own rules, and applies “old law” to Thai Veterans.
If you have a Ratings Decision from the VA which denies service-connection of your condition on the basis that you are not entitled to the legal presumption of exposure because you served in Thailand, it would be wise to consult with a VA Disability Benefits Attorney to consider appealing that decision or – if the decision is final and unappeased – whether you can reopen that claim.
No post on this website is meant to be legal advice and the posts on this website do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Information is power, and we are providing this information to give you, the Veteran, some power. This information is not widely or easily accessible to Veterans. The information presented on this website is a general description of law and processes; each case is different, and there may be approaches listed here that are not accurate or applicable to your case. Likewise, their may be information that is applicable to your case that is not provided on this Veterans Disability Compensation Blog.
It is very important that we note that each and every Veteran’s claim is different. Just because we were able to secure substantial past-due benefits for one Veteran does not mean or imply that we will be able to do so for you. In some cases, we may not be able to secure you any financial compensation due to the facts of your particular case.
It is best to consult with a lawyer familiar with VA Disability claims and benefits or a Veterans Service Organization to examine your particular case. If you would like to discuss your VA claim with a lawyer who handles VA Benefits and Disability Appeals, contact the Attig Law Firm, PLLC, for a free consultation with a VA Benefits attorney.