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Disabilities or Injuries Incurred During Specific Combat Operations

Combat-related conditions receive an extra amount of public attention, and the VA makes sure that veterans who might suffer from these conditions are given just as much attention in the examining room as they are in the media.

Exposure to Radiation During and After World War II

Service-related exposure to radiation can come from a variety of contexts, including incidental occupational exposure and certain treatments given to service members in preparation for underwater operations.  As nuclear technology was developed as part of the war effort in the 1940’s, veterans who served in any active-duty capacity relating to the testing of nuclear devices or relating to the detonation of nuclear devices in Japan in 1945 are particularly susceptible to  the devastating effects of ionizing radiation.

The following conditions, when combined with confirmed radiation exposure, will be presumed to be caused by radiation exposure, and qualify veterans for expanded VA treatment.

  • All cancers, including:
    • Leukemia (except chronic lymphocytic leukemia)
    • Lymphomas (except Hodgkin’s disease)
    • Multiple myeloma (cancer of plasma cells)
  • Non-malignant thyroid nodular disease
  • Parathyroid adenoma
  • Posterior subcapsular cataracts
  • Tumors of the brain and central nervous system

Veterans who may suffer from radiation-exposure-related illnesses are given a comprehensive Ionizing Radiation Registry health exam to determine the level of radiation exposure and corresponding appropriate care.

For more information on veteran exposure to radiation, visit www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/radiation/

Exposure to Agent Orange and Herbicides During and After Vietnam

From 1962 to 1971, millions of gallons of herbicides and defoliants (chemical that kill plants) were used to clear away trees and plants that provided hostile forces with cover in Vietnam and the surrounding combat zone.  These herbicides were used throughout Asia during and after this time, including in areas of Thailand and the Korean Demilitarized Zone.  While there were multiple mixtures used, Agent Orange is the most well-known and was the most widely used.  The primary toxic component of Agent Orange is dioxin, and veterans serving during this time period and in the zones where Agent Orange was used have suffered from dioxin-related illnesses.

The following conditions, when combined with confirmed Agent Orange or related exposure, will be presumed to be caused by said exposure, and qualify veterans for expanded VA treatment.

In addition, certain birth defects in veterans’ children may be presumed to be effects of parent’s Agent Orange Exposure.

Veterans who may suffer from Agent Orange exposure-related illnesses are given a comprehensive Agent Orange Registry health exam to determine the level of herbicide/dioxin exposure and corresponding appropriate care.

For more information on veteran exposure to Agent Orange, visit www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange

Gulf War Syndrome and Related Unexplained Illnesses

Many veterans who were called to active-duty service that occurred after August 2, 1990 in any of the qualifying areas of the Middle East, including Iraq, Kuwait, and other Persian Gulf locations, have since developed unexplainable combinations of symptoms and illnesses that are commonly grouped under the term “Gulf War Syndrome”, though the VA prefers to refer to them as “chronic multisymptom illness” or simply “undiagnosed illness”.

The following illnesses, when persisting for 6 months or more (and therefore “chronic” illnesses), in connection with the Persian Gulf theater of operations, resulting in a 10% or greater disability rating, and which are otherwise unexplainable will be presumed to be related to active-duty service.

  • Abnormal functioning of the gastrointestinal system
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia and joint pain
  • Insomnia and sleep disorders
  • Neurological or psychological disorders
  • Respiratory conditions
  • Skin conditions
  • Unexplained weight loss

Veterans who may suffer from Gulf War-related chronic multisymptom illness or other undiagnosed illnesses are given a comprehensive Gulf War Registry health exam to determine the extent to which those illnesses are attributable to active-duty service in the Persian Gulf.

For more information on Gulf War-related illnesses and available treatment options, visit www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/gulfwar

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