In a seemingly abrupt turnaround, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has published a change in the Adjudication Manual for claims development based on herbicide exposure or exposure to Agent Orange in Thailand during the Vietnam era, one that will benefit veterans in special circumstances.
The change to M21-1, Part IV, Subpart ii, Chapter 1, Section H, Topic 5 was dated November 12, 2015. With this change, the VA is extending a “special consideration of herbicide exposure on a factual basis” to those Veterans whose military duties placed them on or near the perimeters of Thailand military bases.
Previous adjudication instructions applied very narrow criteria — U.S. Air Force security policeman, security patrol dog handler, members of the security police squadron at one of the Royal Thai Air Force Bases in Thailand. U.S. Army soldiers providing perimeter security on Thai bases were considered under limited circumstances. However, claims from Veterans with assigned duties other than perimeter security were very likely to be denied. Few Veterans won their disability compensation case on appeal after submitting clear and convincing evidence of working on or near the base perimeter.
Now, Veterans (regardless of assigned duties or military occupational specialty) claiming service connection for a disability as a result of herbicide exposure near the Royal Thai Air Force Base perimeter must show evidence of “daily work duties, performance evaluation reports, or other credible evidence.” U.S. Army Veterans can “submit a statement that he was involved in perimeter security duty” and there must be “additional credible evidence supporting this statement.” In all cases, the Veteran must provide approximate dates, location, and the nature of the herbicide exposure.