This blog includes a rather sad topic because it involves children and birth defects as a result of toxic exposure during the Vietnam War and service at Camp Lejeune. We’ve all heard about the terrible side effects from agent orange exposure in Vietnam and the illnesses caused by contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. When these topics are discussed, you frequently hear about the problems it has created for Veterans who were exposed. But you rarely hear about the birth defects that these toxic exposures can cause for children born to those who were exposed.
Agent Orange Birth Defects
Let’s start by talking about possible birth defects caused by exposure to agent orange in Vietnam, Thailand, or the DMZ near Korea. Medical evidence has shown that exposure to agent orange can increase the likelihood of their children having spina bifida. Spina bifida is a spinal cord birth defect that a child develops while in the womb. If you were exposed to agent orange and have a child with spina bifida, your child is likely eligible for VA benefits as a result of this disability.
If the father was exposed to agent orange, VA disability benefits only cover cases of spina bifida. But if the mother was exposed to agent orange, there are many other birth defects that may be covered. These include birth defects that have caused a permanent physical or mental disability.
Camp Lejeune Birth Defects
What if you weren’t exposed to agent orange in the Vietnam War, but you served at Camp Lejeune and were exposed to the contaminated water there? The CDC now reports that between 8,000 and 10,000 Camp Lejeune babies were born with birth defects. These babies were diagnosed with oral clefts, cleft lips, neural tube birth defects, and more. A federal study found that the rate of birth defects at Camp Lejeune was 265x higher than the national average. That’s extremely alarming!
Other birth defects associated with chemicals found in the Camp Lejeune water supply include spina bifida, missing part of the brain or skull, heart defects, still births, and miscarriages. Exposure to TCEs, PCEs, benzene, vinyl chloride, and other toxic chemicals from the Camp Lejune water doesn’t guarantee your child will have a birth defect. It just means that you are 265x more likely to have a baby born with one of these birth defects.
The likelihood of birth defects increases with increased exposure. It’s just like increased exposure to the sun. If you’re laying in the sun a lot, you’re more likely to contract some type of skin cancer. The more you were exposed to these toxic chemicals, the more likely a baby will have birth defects. The people who were exposed for the longest periods of time are at the greatest risk.
Is Your Child Eligible for Benefits?
Now let’s discuss the requirements for benefits eligibility if your child has one of these birth defects. For spina bifida benefits, one of these two service requirements must be met. The child’s biological mother or father must have served in Vietnam or Thailand between 1962 and 1975, or the child’s biological mother or father served in a unit near the Korean DMZ between 1967 and 1971.
Your child also has to have a medical diagnosis for spina bifida. There are different types of spina bifida and we won’t get into those here. But for some reason the VA has said that spina bifida occulta cases are not eligible for benefits. The child also must have been conceived after you first entered Vietnam, Thailand, or the DMZ during the qualifying periods listed above.
If the child was conceived prior to service in these areas, they would not be eligible. If you or your spouse was pregnant before your service in the Vietnam War and your child has spina bifida, they would not be eligible. Your child must have been conceived during or after your service in Vietnam, Thailand, or the Korean DMZ. Those rules don’t apply to Camp Lejeune water exposure.
Recall from previous blogs that your character of discharge and length of service generally affect your ability to get VA disability benefits. If you had a less than honorable discharge, you probably can’t get disability benefits for yourself. But these character of discharge rules don’t apply to children. If you had a dishonorable discharge, you can still get benefits for a child with birth defects.
Contact Us So We Can Help!
This is a very tough subject because your kids are your life. I have three myself. It’s a difficult topic to discuss and makes you mad that the government has exposed Veterans to these toxic chemicals which have now injured children. That’s very upsetting, but we’re here to help.
If you need assistance with a VA birth defects disability claim, you can complete this form or give us a call at (229) 226-8183. If you’d like to see this blog in video format, you can watch it below. Please be sure to SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel and click the bell notification button so that you’re notified each time we publish a new video.