October is Agent Orange Awareness Month

Researched & written by C. Orlowski & R. MacDougall.

Agent Orange is an herbicide that contains the chemical TCDD, a type of dioxin. This dioxin is highly toxic. Depending on location and conditions, it can stay in the environment over 100 years. It can stay in the human body up to 20 years. It is linked to certain diseases and birth defects.

During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military used Agent Orange to clear leaves and vegetation for military operations. They stopped using it in 1971.

A half century later, Agent Orange continues causing hardship for Vietnam era Veterans, their families, and residents of the Vietnam War territory.

Efforts to understand and compensate for the effects of Agent Orange began shortly after the War.  Some continue. Included in those efforts are:


  • U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issues a recommendation that Veterans Affairs (VA) clarify its guidance for evaluating three Agent Orange presumptive conditions that it routinely denies benefits claims for. The conditions are early-onset peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage), chloracne, and porphyria cutanea tarda (skin blisters). VA agrees to review and clarify.
  • PACT Act becomes law. It adds high blood pressure (hypertension) and monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) to the Agent Orange presumptive conditions list. It also adds locations in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Guam or American Samoa, and the Johnston Atoll to the list of Agent Orange presumptive locations. Visit The PACT Act and your VA benefits for more information.


  • National Defense Authorization Act adds bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism to the Agent Orange presumptive conditions list. Visit Veterans’ Diseases Associated with Agent Orange for the list of diseases VA presumes an Agent Orange connection.
  • U.S. Agent Orange/Dioxin Assistance to Vietnam report shows that between fiscal years 2007 and 2021 Congress appropriated nearly $390 million to address environmental and health damage attributed to Agent Orange sprayed in Vietnam by the U.S. military during the War.
  • VA Office of Inspector General reports that VA needs better internal communication and data sharing to strengthen administration of spina bifida benefits. If a biological parent is a Veteran presumed to have been exposed during the Vietnam War to herbicides like Agent Orange, children born with spina bifida may receive benefits from VA.


Vietnam Veterans 2019 c.pdf (birthdefects.org)


  • From Enemies to Partners: Vietnam, the U.S. and Agent Orange published. This book includes tables identifying:
    1. Diseases & Conditions Associated with Exposure to Dioxin, Recognized by both Vietnam and the U.S. (Table 2.1.)
    2. Diseases & Conditions Associated with Exposure to Dioxin, Recognized by EITHER Vietnam OR the U.S., but Not Both {Table 2.2)

The authors state that “This book is about the particular struggle to address the effects of Agent Orange’s use during the Vietnam War. It also tells how it is possible to address a serious and complex problem in the face of profound political and legal resistance. We have written this book for policy decision makers, advocates and donors, journalists, program managers who work on disability assistance and clean up, and students of war and its legacies.”


  •  VA launches the free mobile app Exposure Ed. By entering date and location of service, or a specific conflict, the app identifies possible exposures, what those exposures might have caused, and VA help.
  • VA extends benefits to Air Force Reservists who served as flight crew, ground maintenance crew, and aero-medical personnel on Agent Orange-contaminated C-123 aircraft in years after the Vietnam War.


  • Children of Vietnam Veteran’s Health Alliance (COVVHA) founded, advocating for those who have illnesses they believe are tied to their parents’ service in Southeast Asia. COVVHA maintains a catalog of diseases of more than 2,000 military descendants.


  • U.S. Supreme Court dismisses a lawsuit filed in 2004 by Vietnam citizens against companies that manufactured Agent Orange.



  •  Agent Orange Act signed into law. This act directed the VA Secretary to request the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to review and evaluate information regarding the health effects of exposure to Agent Orange.


  •  August 10 becomes Agent Orange Awareness Day.  August 10, 1961 is believed to be the first day the U.S. military began using Agent Orange. This awareness day began as a newspaper and radio campaign to reach Vietnam Veterans who could have been exposed to Agent Orange. It is now an annual observance to remind the public about the lasting effects of Agent Orange.


  • Birth Defect Research for Children starts collecting research data and advocating for Veterans who have children with disabilities linked to Agent Orange exposures. Birth Defects Research for Children invites Vietnam Veterans with children with birth defects or disabilities to add their information to the National Birth Defect Registry.


  • Class action lawsuit brought by Vietnam Veterans and their families against the major manufacturers of Agent Orange and other herbicides settled out of court for $180 million. As a result, the Agent Orange Settlement Fund was created. The fund closed in 1997, all the money having been distributed.



  •  A VA case worker and an investigative reporter collaborate on health issues suspected to be related to Agent Orange. Their documentary, Agent Orange: Vietnam’s Deadly Fog, airs on TV.


  • U.S. military ends use of Agent Orange.


  • January 12, 1962, the first U.S. Air Force herbicide missions of Operation Ranch Hand were flown over South Vietnam.


  • In late 1961 President J.F. Kennedy authorizes defoliation operations in Vietnam.
  • The first defoliation test mission is flown in Vietnam on August 10, 1961. In 1988, August 10 becomes Agent Orange Awareness Day.


Agent Orange Record. (n.d.). The U.S. Veterans Lawsuit. AOR. Retrieved October 4, 2022, from https://agentorangerecord.com/the-u-s-veterans-lawsuit/

Agent Orange Record. (n.d.). The Vietnamese Lawsuit. AOR. Retrieved October 4, 2022, from https://agentorangerecord.com/the-vietnamese-lawsuit/

Aspen Institute. (n.d.). What is Agent Orange? Retrieved October 10, 2022, from https://www.aspeninstitute.org/programs/agent-orange-in-vietnam-program/what-is-agent-orange/#:~:text=Agent%20Orange%20was%20sprayed%20at,in%20the%20soil%20for%20decades.

Birth Defect Research for Children. (n.d.). Agent Orange and Birth Defects. Birth Defects.  Retrieved October 1, 2022, from https://birthdefects.org/agent-orange/

Buckingham, W., Jr. (1982). Operation Ranch Hand: The Air Force and Herbicides in Southeast Asia 1961 – 1971. Airforce Historical Support Division. https://web.archive.org/web/20161123145823/http://www.afhso.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-100928-054.pdf

Buffler, P.A., Ginevan, M.E., Mandel, J.S., Watkins, D.K. (2010, November 16). The Air Force Health Study: An Epidemiologic Retrospective.  ScienceDirect. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1047279711000482

Congressional Research Service. (2021, February 10). U.S. Agent Orange/Dioxin Assistance to Vietnam. CRS Reports. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/r/r44268

Eschwege, H. (1978, August 16). Use of Agent Orange in Vietnam.  GAO. https://www.gao.gov/products/ced-78-158#:~:text=From%20August%201965%20to%201971,exposure%20to%20herbicides%20in%20Vietnam

The Foundation for Worker, Veteran and Environmental Health. (n.d.). Agent Orange Data Warehouse: A Research Repository for Agent Orange and Other Military Herbicides. Columbia University. http://www.workerveteranhealth.org/milherbs/new/herbs.php?s=0

Institute of Medicine (US) Committee to Review the Health Effects in Vietnam Veterans of Exposure to Herbicides. (1994). Veterans and Agent Orange: Health Effects of Herbicides Used in Vietnam. NCBI.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK236347/#:~:text=The%20control%20of%20the%20use,1969b%3B%20NAS%2C%201974).

Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. (2015). Post-Vietnam Dioxin Exposure in Agent Orange-Contaminated C-123 Aircraft. NAP.  https://nap.nationalacademies.org/catalog/18848/post-vietnam-dioxin-exposure-in-agent-orange-contaminated-c-123-aircraft

Institute of Medicine (US) Committee to Review the Health Effects in Vietnam Veterans of Exposure to Herbicides. (1994). Veterans and Agent Orange: Health Effects of Herbicides Used in Vietnam. NIH. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK236347/

Krache Morris, E. F. (2012, April 12). Into the Wind: The Kennedy Administration and the Use of Herbicides in South Vietnam. Digital Georgetown. https://repository.library.georgetown.edu/handle/10822/557621

Kurtis, B., Economou, R., Boyer, B. (1978). Agent Orange: Vietnam’s Deadly Fog. [Video]. WBBM-TV (Television station : Chicago, Ill.) https://kaltura.uga.edu/media/t/1_0fvygrwx

National Day Calendar. (n.d.). Agent Orange Awareness Day| August 10. Retrieved October 1, 2022, from https://nationaldaycalendar.com/agent-orange-awareness-day-august-10/#:~:text=AGENT%20ORANGE%20AWARENESS%20DAY%20HISTORY&text=The%20date%20is%20thought%20to,been%20exposed%20to%20Agent%20Orange.

NYC Department of Veteran Services. (n.d.). Recognizing Agent Orange Awareness Day. NYC. Retrieved October 3, 2022, from https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/veterans/downloads/pdf/newsletters/August-12.pdf

Ronald Reagan. (1981, November 3). Statement on Signing the Veterans’ Health Care, Training, and Small Business Loan Act of 1981.  Regan Library. https://www.reaganlibrary.gov/archives/speech/statement-signing-veterans-health-care-training-and-small-business-loan-act-1981

Ronald Reagan. (1984, November 24). Statement on Signing the Veterans’ Dioxin and Radiation Exposure Compensation Standards Act.  Regan Library. https://www.reaganlibrary.gov/archives/speech/statement-signing-veterans-dioxin-and-radiation-exposure-compensation-standards-act

Science Clarified. (n.d.). Agent Orange. Retrieved October 1, 2022, from http://www.scienceclarified.com/A-Al/Agent-Orange.html

Son, L.K., Baily, C.R. (2017). From Enemies to Partners: Vietnam, the U.S. and Agent Orange. https://www.aspeninstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/Enemies-to-Partners.pdf

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.).  Agent Orange Settlement Fund. VA. Retrieved October 10, 2022, from https://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/claims-postservice-agent_orange-settlement-settlementFund.asp

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019. VA. Retrieved October 2, 2022, from https://benefits.va.gov/benefits/blue-water-navy.asp

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.)  BREAKING: VA plans expansion of benefits for disability claims for conditions related to certain toxic exposures. VA. Retrieved October 2, 2022, from https://news.va.gov/89496/breaking-news-va-plans-expansion-benefits-disability-claims-conditions-related-certain-toxic-exposures/

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). C-123 Airplanes and Agent Orange Residue. VA. Retrieved October 4, 2022, from https://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/locations/residue-c123-aircraft/index.asp

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). Have you heard of Exposure Ed? VA. Retrieved October 2, 2022, from https://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/publications/military-exposures/meyh-4/app.asp

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). The PACT Act and your VA benefits. VA. Retrieved October 2, 2022, from https://www.va.gov/resources/the-pact-act-and-your-va-benefits/

U.S. Government Accountability Office. (2022, September 1). VA Disability: Clearer Claims Processing Guidance Needed for Selected Agent Orange Conditions. GAO. https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-22-105191

Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin. (n.d.). An Overview of Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin. VAVA. https://vava.org.vn/an-over-view-of-vietnam-asociation-for-victims-of-agent-orange-dioxin-vava-89.html

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. (n.d.). Agent Orange. VVMF. Retrieved October 1, 2022, from https://www.vvmf.org/topics/Agent-Orange/

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