We are the Forgotten Children of Agent Orange

If we can afford to send our Veterans to war then we can afford to support them when they come home changed, and this also includes their children born with birth defects due to their parents wartime toxic exposures. I was born with a variety of birth defects due to my father's wartime toxic exposures. This includes severe lower limb issues, jaw deformities, and other defects. My father is 100% disabled due to his Agent Orange exposures.

 

My name is Scott Davidson, I am a para-athlete and deeply involved in the physical disability world. I am focused on changing the Veterans Administration (VA) policies regarding birth defects due to a Veteran’s toxic exposure such as Agent Orange. I've required a lifetime of treatments including massive reconstructive surgeries of my lower limbs and jaws. I now require hybrid prosthetic-orthotics to stand, walk, and run and struggle with a variety of impacts due to my birth defects.

In the past couple of years, I have met with United States Senate and House legislative staff from various states and worked with Senator Tester's team to introduce the legislation linked below. 

Bipartisan Effort to Expand Research for Descendants of Toxic-Exposed Veterans

This legislation is a good start but we need to do more now in order to support the offspring born with birth defects due to their parents wartime toxic exposures. 

What I seek to change is: 
(1) The VA needs to accept birth defects claims from the offspring of male Vietnam War Veterans exposed to Agent Orange and other dioxins/herbicides, just as they would accept the claims of the offspring of female Vietnam War Veterans. 
(2). Include all Agent Orange and dioxin/herbicide exposure locations acknowledged in the PACT Act when processing birth defects claims. Do not limit exposure locations to only the Republic of Vietnam.
 
Current VA Policy
The Veterans Administration recognizes a wide range of birth defects associated with women Veterans' service during the Vietnam War. Whereas, for the offspring of male Vietnam Veterans, the VA does not. The VA only acknowledges one birth defect for the offspring of male Vietnam Veterans. 
 
Also, the Veterans Administration rejects any birth defects claim if a Veteran's Agent Orange and/or other dioxins/herbicides exposure occurred outside of the Republic of Vietnam. For instance, if a female Veteran was exposed to Agent Orange in Thailand and later conceives a child with birth defect(s), the VA denies the claim because the exposure didn't occur within the Republic of Vietnam. The VA doesn't acknowledge the presumptive Agent Orange and dioxins/herbicides exposure locations found in the PACT Act when processing birth defects claims.  
 
Why Change?
Current research displays that a male Vietnam Veteran exposed to Agent Orange or other toxins is just as likely as a female Vietnam Veteran to conceive a child born with one or more of the same wide range of birth defects. The most current and comprehensive research study concluded that approximately 25% of male Vietnam Veterans exposed to Agent Orange conceived at least one child with birth defects and/or developmental disabilities (see research linked below). Therefore, the VA is using outdated research found in the Veterans and Agent Orange Report to reject claims. The Veterans and Agent Orange Report was last updated in 2018. 
 
Furthermore, the PACT Act now acknowledges that Agent Orange and other dioxins/herbicides exposures occurred in many other places outside of the Republic of Vietnam, yet the VA refuses to acknowledge these locations when processing birth defects claims. 
 
Research
I’ve attempted to communicate with every scientist from the most recent Veterans and Agent Orange Report panel, the director of this report, and also the few scientists that are conducting research on birth defects due to a Vietnam Veteran's Agent Orange exposure. Those that responded, believe the research in the 2018 report is outdated. 
The most current and only research focused on this subject supports the idea that the VA needs to change how the VA handles birth defects claims. For instance, see Greg Knafl's research linked below. Dr. Knafl continues to publish additional research supporting the fact that a Veteran parent's wartime toxic exposure will cause birth defects. 

It's not just the children of Vietnam Veterans
The children born with birth defects due to their Veteran parent's toxic exposures are not limited to Vietnam Veterans. Gulf War and Post 9/11 Veterans exposed to toxins are more likely to conceive a child born with birth defects. Moving forward, we need to support the offspring of these Veterans and the United States needs to consider birth defects when calculating the cost of war.

Those of us born with birth defects due to our parent's exposures to Agent Orange and other toxins have suffered since birth. We lack support. Our claims are rejected. If we are lucky to still be alive, we struggle in our orthotics, our prosthetics, our wheelchairs, and in our hospital beds. We navigated life like you, but with the additional intense struggles of significant physical disability. Many need medical and financial support as they seek their greatest potential under difficult circumstances. Respectfully, it’s time the Veterans Administration acknowledges us. 

 

Supporting Research and Links to VA Policies

Veterans and Agent Orange Report

https://nap.nationalacademies.org/catalog/25137/veterans-and-agent-orange-update-11-2018

 

VA Birth Defects Policies

https://www.va.gov/disability/eligibility/special-claims/birth-defects/


 

An Analysis of Specific Categories of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities for Children of Participants of the Air Force Health Study (2024)

https://www.scirp.org/journal/paperinformation?paperid=133219

 

An analysis of birth defects and developmental disabilities for children of participants of the Air Force Health Study (2023)

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36813141/

 

An analysis of reproductive outcomes for conceptions of participants of the Air Force Health Study (2023)

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37236408/

 

Adaptive Regression for Nonlinear Interrupted Time Series Analyses with Application to Birth Defects in Children of Vietnam War Veterans (2022)

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/366695397_Adaptive_Regression_for_Nonlinear_Interrupted_Time_Series_Analyses_with_Application_to_Birth_Defects_in_Children_of_Vietnam_War_Veterans

 

A Reassessment of Birth Defects for Children of Participants of the Air Force Health Study (2018)

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/328287331_A_Reassessment_of_Birth_Defects_for_Children_of_Participants_of_the_Air_Force_Health_Study