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SDDVA Secretary Whitlock’s October Column – Agent Orange



For more information, contact: Audry Ricketts (South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs) at 605-773-8242 or audry.ricketts@state.sd.us  


October is designated as a month to increase awareness of Agent Orange and the long-term effect it has had, and continues to have, on our veterans.


In addition to brutal combat conditions, U.S. troops in Vietnam faced invisible hazards from the exposure to Agent Orange. Agent Orange was a tactical herbicide the U.S. military used to clear leaves and vegetation for military operations during the Vietnam War.


After the war, the toll of Agent Orange manifested itself in severe skin rashes, cancers, diabetes, birth defects, and numerous other health issues.


In 1991, Congress enacted the Agent Orange Act, giving the United States Department of Veterans Affairs the authority to declare certain conditions “presumptive” to exposure to Agent Orange, making veterans who served in Vietnam eligible to receive treatment and compensation for these conditions. In 2019, Congress enacted the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, extending the presumption of herbicide exposure to veterans who served in the offshore waters of the Republic of Vietnam. 


Over 28,000 South Dakota veterans served during the Vietnam War era and we owe it to them to continue raising awareness about the deadly consequences of its use.


Federal benefits are ever changing and can be very confusing. We encourage all Vietnam Veterans to visit their county or tribal veterans service officers (CTVSO’s) and discuss issues relating to Agent Orange. To locate the CTVSO nearest you visit: https://vetaffairs.sd.gov/veteransserviceofficers/locatevso.aspx.


Now, more than ever, we need to continue to deliver on our promise to take care of our veterans. We will keep our sleeves rolled up and work collectively to ensure our veterans have a successful journey after they return home.


Greg Whitlock, Secretary

South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs