Currently, VA presumes Veterans' acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy is related to herbicide exposure during service when:
- It appears within one year of exposure to Agent Orange to a degree of at least 10 percent disabling by VA’s rating regulations, and
- It is temporary and resolves within two years.
VA proposed on Aug. 10, 2012, to replace "acute and subacute" with "early-onset" and eliminate the requirement that symptoms resolve within two years. The Institute of Medicine found evidence that symptoms can persist longer than two years. The condition must still be 10 percent disabling within one year of exposure for VA to presume an association.
About peripheral neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy is a condition of the peripheral nervous system, which consists of nerves outside the brain and spinal cord.
The acute or subacute ("early-onset") form of peripheral neuropathy refers to symptoms occurring within weeks after exposure.
Signs and symptoms include numbness, tingling or prickling in the toes or fingers in early stages. This may spread to the feet or hands and may cause burning, throbbing or shooting pain that is worse at night. Other symptoms include pain equally in both sides of the body (in both hands or in both feet), muscle weakness, loss of balance or coordination, and extreme sensitivity to touch.
Visit MedlinePlus to learn more about peripheral neuropathy, treatment, the latest medical research, and more from the National Institutes of Health.
VA benefits for acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy
Veterans with acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy that appeared within one year of exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides to a degree of at least 10 percent disabling by VA’s rating regulations and resolved within two years may be eligible for disability compensation and health care.
VA proposed on Aug. 10, 2012, to replace "acute and subacute" with "early-onset" and eliminate the requirement that symptoms resolve within two years. You may file a claim for disability compensation now. VA can’t pay compensation under the proposed rule until it is final.
Veterans who served in Vietnam, the Korean demilitarized zone or another area where Agent Orange was sprayed may be eligible for a free Agent Orange registry health exam. You don't have to file a disability compensation claim to receive the exam.
Research on peripheral neuropathy and herbicides used in Vietnam
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences concluded in its report "Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 1996" that there is some evidence to suggest that neuropathy of acute or subacute onset may be associated with herbicide exposure. Based on this evidence, VA presumed an association between herbicide exposure during service and acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy.
The IOM report “Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 2010” concluded that there is “limited or suggestive evidence of an association” between herbicide exposure and “early-onset peripheral neuropathy that may be persistent”. In response to this report, VA proposed to presume early-onset peripheral neuropathy is associated with exposure and symptoms may persist beyond two years.
View more research on health effects of Agent Orange.
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