Although thousands of veterans served in the Panama Canal Zone, the Department of Veterans Affairs does not recognize it as a place in which veterans were exposed to tactical herbicides such as Agent Orange. Is that about to change? Is there now sufficient evidence to convince VA that Agent Orange was sprayed in the Panama Canal Zone?
I don’t have the answer to the first question. Frankly, I don’t know whether VA is ready to concede that Agent Orange was sprayed in the Panama Canal Zone. I do believe that there is sufficient evidence to convince VA in individual cases that veterans have been exposed to Agent Orange in the Panama Canal Zone. I’ll summarize and discuss the evidence for veterans who served in the Panama Canal Zone in future posts, but first, I want to explain a bit about Agent Orange and presumptive service connection for VA disability compensation.
In legal terms, certain veterans who file compensation claims for diseases or disorders linked to Agent Orange exposure are entitled to presumptive service connection. In future posts, I will summarize and discuss which diseases and disorders VA recognizes as due to exposure to Agent Orange.
Presumptive service connection is a legal basis for awarding veterans’ disability compensation based on a presumption. In the case of Agent Orange, certain veterans are presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange based on where they served or their specific occupational duties. The presumption acts to lessen the evidentiary burden on a veteran filing a claim for compensation. In other words, the veteran need not provide evidence of specific exposure to Agent Orange if VA has already accepted that the veteran is presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange.
The most well-known presumption is for veterans who served in Vietnam. A veteran who had service in Vietnam during a specific period is presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange. Pursuant to the Secretary’s own regulations, a veteran who is presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange is entitled to disability compensation for a host of diseases and disorders. In future posts, I plan on summarizing and discussing VA’s list of locations and occupations that are presumed to have exposed veterans to Agent Orange. The list is constantly being updated.
As of this date, VA does not recognize the Panama Canal Zone as a location where veterans were exposed to Agent Orange. Based on my own research and experience, I have come to conclude that veterans who did serve in the Panama Canal Zone during certain periods were exposed to Agent Orange. More to follow ….
If you served in the Panama Canal Zone and believe that you have been diagnosed with a disease or disorder that is due to exposure to Agent Orange, I invite you to contact me to discuss legal representation. Feel free to call me at (202) 607-5731.