Cindy Speaker: Good afternoon and welcome to our show today. My name is Cindy Speaker. I have with me as my guest attorney Nathan Guin of Gardberg & Kemmerly. Nathan, thanks for being with us today.
Nathan Guin: Thank you for having me. It’s always great to be here and get some good information out to our veterans.
Cindy Speaker: Yes. Well, Nathan, we’re going to talk about, obviously, veterans disability law, but we’re going to talk about Agent Orange and what you call presumptive issues, which I know you’re going to tell us what they are. I don’t know what they are, but you’ll explain that. But let’s start off by talking about what exactly is Agent Orange?
Nathan Guin: Agent Orange is basically the slang term, for lack of a better word, for any kind of herbicides that were used during the Vietnam War, specifically in country of Vietnam, certain places around the DMZ in Korea, as well as around the perimeters of certain air force bases in Thailand, different things like that. Agent Orange is not technically speaking an actual herbicide. There’s not something with a big barrel that says hey this is Agent Orange. But it’s a lot of things that are used to kill vegetation with all that jungle warfare that was going on to help our soldiers be able to see better, be able to move better. That’s what it was. They sprayed it on pretty much everything to kill down all the vegetation.
Cindy Speaker: Okay. We did that?
Nathan Guin: Yes, our military sprayed it basically in an attempt to … because there was a lot of guerrilla jungle warfare going on over there which they were used to, but obviously we were not, so try to get it a little bit cleared out. Try to get it cleared out so that we could move through, basically have our missions handled in the right way, without having to worry about getting ambushed in the jungle as much, especially around our bases, so they could see if there was anybody trying to approach or anything like that.
Cindy Speaker: That makes sense.
Nathan Guin: They sprayed pretty much everywhere that they thought it was necessary.
Cindy Speaker: Wow! Wow! Wow! Okay, and you said everywhere, but where is everywhere, like..
Nathan Guin: If you were in the field, if you were in Vietnam at all, if you were to step foot in the country of Vietnam, then it presumed … during a specific period of time during the Vietnam War, which was … I have to think of the exact dates … but it was about a 13, 15 year period. If you stepped foot in Vietnam, then you are presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange because it was so widely used in Vietnam.
Now in situations with Korea or with Thailand … like in Thailand specifically, it was used at Thai Air Force Base. It’s around the perimeter. Specifically, if you were a security officer, military police, something like that, where you had to patrol the perimeter as part of your duties, then you would be presumptively service connected if you can show that you did those jobs.
There are other ways to get service connected, but that’s if you were in Thailand and you weren’t specifically within those NOSs or those occupational specialties or anything like that, but those are the ways that you could do it through Thailand and through the DMZ, if you worked specific duties that now would be enough to presume exposure. But if you were in Vietnam at all or in certain waters within Vietnam, then you’re also presumptively service connected for certain issues.
Cindy Speaker: Explain these presumptive issues and how they factor in.
Nathan Guin: Okay. There’s about 15 presumptive issues, and basically by presumptive issue, it means hey, if you stepped foot in Vietnam and we can prove it, or if you were on the perimeter, like we were talking about at the air force bases in Thailand, basically if you can show that you were in area or had a particular specialty that would put you in an area with Agent Orange, and you have any of these 15 issues at all.
And the most common ones we see are diabetes, coronary artery disease/ischemic heart disease, prostate cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are the main ones that we see. If you’re even diagnosed with those and you can show that you stepped foot in the country of Vietnam or any of those other places, they will service connect you right then and there for that issue.
Now the percentages obviously would be up in the air, based on the medical records, but if you were in Vietnam or any of these places and you have any of these conditions that are just diagnosed … there doesn’t have to be a nexus, no medical opinion … and then you can get service connected for those.
Cindy Speaker: What’s unbelievable is when you start naming off these diseases and things like that, it’s unbelievable that things like Agent Orange or these pesticides even exist. They’re that dangerous that-
Nathan Guin: Yeah. And hopefully-
Cindy Speaker: … it’s just unbelievable.
Nathan Guin: … they don’t anymore. I hope they don’t anymore. I think that a lot of things have been outlawed since then, but it is crazy. And a lot of things now, now especially in Afghanistan and Iraq with all the burn pits, that’s going to be this generation’s Agent Orange. I think this video, if you’re in the Gulf War or have been overseas recently, pay attention, because a lot of these things might apply to you.
Cindy Speaker: Wow!
Nathan Guin: And a couple years down the road or maybe a decade or two down the road, when they do some research, there might be presumptive issues for that, too. It’s something to look out for and it’s obviously kind of a shame. You would hope that they wouldn’t use things that would have adverse effects on our own people, too. Really, I know that it’s war and there’s obviously adverse effects on some people, but obviously you wouldn’t want your people to come back and then 40 years later develop cancer because they were serving their country.
Cindy Speaker: Right, right.
Nathan Guin: Yeah, that’s something that you wouldn’t want. And obviously something that should be compensated for.
Cindy Speaker: Sure, yeah. Well, you kind of went over this, but explain for us how do you prove entitlement to service connection for presumptive issue based on exposure to Agent Orange?
Nathan Guin:Like if your personnel records, which will be in your claims file, if you have an DD214 or a lot of people have certain medals from their service that will show that they were in Vietnam, basically there’s going to be something in your personnel records that shows either a base or a duty or a medal that you’ve received. Or like a lot of times it’ll have transfer paper. You have papers that say, hey, they were in Vietnam from X to X. They’re now being transferred to this particular base somewhere else.
Any kind of thing like that that shows that you were in Vietnam for any period of time. We’ve even had cases where they’re flying from point A to point B. They landed in Vietnam and got off the plane for a second, got back on, went off to wherever they were going. Just as good as if you were in the middle of the jungle. Even if you can show that you were on a plane that just passed through, then you can still be presumptively service connected.
Cindy Speaker: Wow!
Nathan Guin: That’s a little bit tougher to show, but a lot of times, there’s going to be something in your personnel records that is a definitive record that shows hey, this person was in Vietnam.
Cindy Speaker: Okay, great information. Great information. Yeah. Well, Nathan, if someone has specific questions, how can they reach out to you or your firm?
Nathan Guin: They can give us a call at 251-343-1111 or they can reach us online at www.gardberglaw.com. That’s G-A-R-D-B-E-R-G law.com. They can check out our website there. They can also email us from our website. And I think I mentioned this before, but the great thing about VA law is that hey, we’re in Alabama, but we’re all accredited through the VA, which means that if you are in Kentucky, if you’re in Arizona, if you’re in Michigan, you can be in North Dakota, it doesn’t matter. You can call us. You can send your case to us to be evaluated, and we can take your case. If we think we can help you and work on it, no matter where you are in the country, really, as long as you’re somewhere in the world, we can really help you through the VA system.
Cindy Speaker: Outstanding. Nathan, as always, thanks so much for your time today. Great information.
Nathan Guin: Well, thank you for giving me the chance to get it out there. I really appreciate it, as always.
Cindy Speaker: Yes. And to those of you watching, either live or by replay, if you have questions, comments, leave them right on this page. We’ll get back to you and answer all your questions. Thanks everybody for being with us. Have a great day.