Today my best friend while I was in the U. S. Marine Corps died. For the last 8 years he has suffered through the long term effects of Agent Orange. Always upbeat and confident, he fought like a Marine should and died valiantly in his own home at the too early age of 64. Through his suffering, he had resources available to him through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Without the loving support of his devoted wife and the benefits provided by the VA, he would never have been able to live as long as he did or enjoy his children and grandchildren. I urge any veteran who was in Vietnam to go the VA or to the VA’s web page http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/benefits/Herbicide/ to see if there are benefits avaialble for you. This is probably the only legal avenue available for those who suffer diseases which may have been caused by Agent Orange.
In 1991, the US Congress enacted the Agent Orange Act giving the VA authority to declare certain conditions ‘presumptive’ to exposure to Agent Orange/Dioxin. The law requires the National Academy of Sciences to periodically review the science on dioxin and herbicides used in Vietnam. From this review it is to inform the Secretary of Veterans Affairs whether there is scientific evidence demonstrating association between exposure to Agent Orange/Dioxin and certain conditions. To date evidence exists for the following diseases for veterans who served in Vietnam:. prostate cancer, respiratory cancers, multiple myeloma, type II diabetes, Hodgkin’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, soft tissue sarcoma, chloracne, porphyria cutanea tarda, peripheral neuropathy, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and spina bifida in children of veterans exposed to Agent Orange as conditions associated with exposure to the herbicide. If you suffer from these you may be eligible to receive treatment and compensation for these conditions from the VA.
There have been lawsuits attempting to obtain compensation for victims of Agent Orange against the manufacturers. Some of the lawsuits were settled out of court without an admission of liability by the manufacturers. In 1984, some chemical companies that manufactured Agent Orange paid $180 million into a fund for United States veterans following a lawsuit.
There was lawsuit filed on behalf of Vietnamese who were exposed too. The Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin (VAVA) in 2004, filed a suit against Dow Chemical, Monsanto, Diamond Shamrock, Uniroyal, Thompson Chemicals, Hercules, and others for by developing and producing the chemical which caused these injuries. The lawsuit was dismissed with the court ruling that there was no legal basis for the plaintiff’s claims under international law because Agent Orange was not considered a poison at the time of its use. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan upheld the ruling. The lawyers for the Vietnamese have filed a petition to the US Supreme Court to hear the case. On March 2, 2009, the Supreme Court denied certiorari and refused to reconsider the ruling of the Court of Appeals.
Civil litigation attorney Billy Cunningham practice concentrates on personal injury, wrongful death, nursing home abuse, business litigation, environmental law and insurance matters. He is licensed to practice in the state and federal courts of Alabama and Mississippi, as well as in the U.S. Court of Military Appeals, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and the Supreme Court of the United States.