Parkinson’s Disease, B Cell Leukemias and Ischemic Heart Disease Recognized

WASHINGTON, October 13, 2009 – Relying on an independent study by the Institute of Medicine, Eric K. Shinseki, Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA),  established a presumption of service-connection for Vietnam Veterans suffering from three specific illnesses based on the latest evidence of an association with the herbicides referred to Agent Orange.

The illnesses affected by the recent decision are B cell leukemias, such as hairy cell leukemia; Parkinson’s disease; and ischemic heart disease.

Used in Vietnam to defoliate trees and remove concealment for the enemy, Agent Orange left a legacy of suffering and disability that continues to the present.  Between January 1965 and April 1970, an estimated 2.6 million military personnel who served in Vietnam were potentially exposed to sprayed Agent Orange.

In practical terms, Veterans who served in Vietnam during the war and who have a “presumed” illness don’t have to prove an association, or “nexus”, between their illnesses and their military service.  This “presumption” simplifies and speeds up the application process for benefits.

The Secretary’s decision brings to 15 the number of presumed illnesses recognized by the VA.

“We must do better reviews of illnesses that may be connected to service, and we will,” Shinseki added. “Veterans who endure health problems deserve timely decisions based on solid evidence.”

Other illnesses previously recognized under VA’s “presumption” rule as being caused by exposure to herbicides during the Vietnam War are:

  • Acute and Subacute Transient Peripheral Neuropathy
  • Chloracne
  • Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
  • Diabetes Mellitus (Type 2)
  • Hodgkin’s Disease
  • Multiple Myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  • Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Respiratory Cancers, and,
  • Soft Tissue Sarcoma (other than Osteosarcoma, Chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or Mesothelioma)

Additional information about Agent Orange and VA’s services and programs for Veterans exposed to the chemical are available at

I previously blogged about  VA Compensation Claims and the “Medical Nexus” Requirement here.

UPDATED ON 3/25/10 – Proposed regulations establishing service connection for Vietnam veterans with Parkinson’s, B cell leukemias, and ischemic heart disease were recently published in the Vol. 75, No. 57 of the Federal Register, which can be found here – Federal Register. Comments must be submitted on or before April 26, 2010.