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Vietnam War Dictionary

Agent Orange

Agent Orange was the most commonly used herbicide in the USAF Ranch Hand defoliation missions in Vietnam, which sought to deprive enemy forces of jungle cover. Used between January 1965 and April 1970, approximately 11 million gallons of Agent Orange was sprayed on forests throughout the country. Nine other defoliant herbicides were used in Vietnam, each named after the color coded 55-gallon drums they were stored in.

After the war Vietnam veterans brought a class action lawsuit against the major manufacturers of Agent Orange alleging health problems resulting from herbicide exposure. In 1984 the manufacturers settled out of court and established the $180 million dollar Agent Orange Settlement Fund. The fund was used to pay cash compensation to totally-disabled veterans and survivors of deceased vets. Monies were also provided for social services organizations to assist veterans and their families. The fund was closed on 27 September 1997.

The Department of Veterans Affairs currently (November 2008) presumes the following diseases resulted from exposure to herbicides like Agent Orange:
  • Chloracne
  • Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • Soft-tissue sarcoma
  • Hodgkin's disease
  • Porphyria cutanea tarda
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Respiratory cancers
  • Prostate cancer
  • Acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Vietnam veterans with one or more of these conditions do not have to show that their illness is related to their military service in order to get disability compensation.

For more information visit the Department of Veterans Affairs