Birth Defects in Children of Women Vietnam Veterans
VA presumes that certain birth defects in biological children of women Vietnam Veterans were caused by military service when the birth mother served in Vietnam between February 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975. Eligible children may receive VA benefits.
Birth defects covered by VA
Birth defects are abnormalities present at birth that result in mental or physical disabilities.
VA recognizes a wide range of birth defects as associated with women Veterans' service in Vietnam. These diseases are not tied to herbicides, including Agent Orange, or dioxin exposure, but rather to the birth mother's service in Vietnam.
Covered birth defects include, but are not limited to, the following conditions:
- Cleft lip and cleft palate
- Congenital heart disease
- Congenital talipes equinovarus (clubfoot)
- Esophageal and intestinal atresia
- Hallerman-Streiff syndrome
- Hip dysplasia
- Hirschprung's disease (congenital megacolon)
- Hydrocephalus due to aqueductal stenosis
- Imperforate anus
- Neural tube defects
- Poland syndrome
- Pyloric stenosis
- Syndactyly (fused digits)
- Tracheoesophageal fistula
- Undescended testicle
- Williams syndrome
Conditions due to family disorders, birth-related injuries, or fetal or neonatal infirmities with well-established causes are not covered. If any of the birth defects listed above are determined to be a family disorder in a particular family, they are not covered birth defects.
VA benefits for children with covered birth defects
Children who meet the following requirements may be eligible for VA compensation, health care, and vocational training:
- Are biological children of a woman Vietnam Veteran who served in Vietnam during the period beginning February 28, 1961 and ending on May 7, 1975
- Were conceived after the date on which the Veteran first entered the Republic of Vietnam
- Have a covered birth defect, which resulted in a permanent physical or mental disability
Learn more about benefits for children with birth defects and how to apply.
Research on birth defects and herbicides
The Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences concluded in its report, Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 1996 Summary and Research Highlights, that there is limited/suggestive evidence of an association between exposure to herbicides used in Vietnam and spina bifida in children of Vietnam veterans.
In 2000, Dr. Han Kang of VA's Epidemiology Program published a study that found that the risk of birth defects was significantly associated with the mother's military service in Vietnam.
As a result of these findings, the VA now funds assistance programs for spina bifida in the children of male or female Vietnam Veterans and for all birth defects without other known causes in the children of female Veterans.
View more research on health effects of Agent Orange.