Healthy Living

Understanding the Real Link Between Agent Orange and Parkinson's Disease

Understanding the Real Link Between Agent Orange and Parkinson's Disease

Veterans are people who have served or worked for a long time in a job or task that he or she specialized in, but in most countries, this term is usually used to describe a person who has done the same in the armed forces or military. A veteran doesn’t have to be in the war for some time as even those who have held rank in the force are also dubbed as veterans. Just the same, these distinctive people are held with high respect in any government, as well as their people whom they have dedicated their youth, skills, and life to.

While these people are held in such high esteem, there are very few veterans who would speak of their tours of duty. This is especially true for those who have served in wars because speaking of their stories will simply trigger their memories to come rushing in. Sometimes, those memories are not the best, and aren't anything that anyone would want to relive. This is particularly true for those who  were drafted in the Vietnam War, and Lorenzo Gonzalez is the best example for this.

Due to his curiosity, Lorenzo Gonzalez, or simply Larry (as what his friends call him), didn’t hesitate to participate in this research. At the age of 50, he found out that he had Parkinson’s disease, and previously, he aided three tours along with the Navy.

Rachel Gonzalez, Larry’s wife, explained that her husband started to ask himself why before he began performing some research. She further added that he looked and found two other guys who also were affected by Parkinson's disease and fought during the Vietnam War.

Finally, after several years of hard work and perseverance, Gonzalez along with other veterans achieved their goal – to find the connection between their Parkinson’s disease and their exposure to Agent Orange.

If you aren't aware of what Agent Orange refers to, Agent Orange was a herbicide that was used during the Vietnam War during the years 1961 to 1971. This herbicide was used across Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, and it also has been linked to other diseases that include different types of cancer and birth defects. U.S. forces used this to interfere with the crops of Vietnamese troops. It is said that U.S. troops used more than 20 million gallons, but back then, no one was really aware of the effects this herbicide would have on U.S. veterans in the future.

Not only that, Veteran Affairs has identified that there’s proof of Agent Orange Exposure for Air Force Reserve and Air Force members who served as well between 1969 to 1986. They repeatedly and regularly maintained, serviced, and operated onboard C-124 aircraft.

In 2008, they presented their study to the Institute of Medicine, and the veterans have become the instrumental on the disease as they were added into the presumptive list of Veteran’s Administration of service-related illnesses that allow many veterans to seek help.

Who is Lorenzo Gonzalez?

He is known to be the eldest child of six offspring who grew upon the west coast of the United States. In 1966, he made his parents proud as he graduated from Jefferson High School prior to entering the San Antonio Community College. After three years, he joined the Navy as soon as he learned that he would be drafted anyway. By that, he was then sent into the Mekong Delta with the name of "river rat," which is a nickname exclusive to the members of the River Patrol Force.

He underwent training as an electrician and worked as well for aircraft carriers within his three tours. In 1972, he was discharged from his service and returned to San Antonio where he started to work as a lineman in the Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. and married. He also didn't waste any time whatsoever and enrolled at St. Mary's University to later earn his electrical engineering degree in 1980. Due to his excellence, he was recruited right away by different companies, but in the end he chose to work for AT&T. He served this company for about 17 years right before he got laid off. After that, he decided to start his own firm that sells scanners and teaches software classes.

However, in the mid-2000s, he diagnosed early Parkinson’s symptoms.

Now, he also assists the evaluation of several studies and has co-founded the US Military Veterans who have Parkinson’s disease. Together with the team, he led in interviewing numerous co-veterans who suffered the same condition, generally about 33 years right after they return from that war. Although his well-being failed, this man still kept finding the answer he had been yearning for.

Facts and Figures

The Veterans of Korean War, Vietnam War, and World War II

It is estimated that about 9.8 million of the veterans have served during these wartime periods: Vietnam era, Korean War, and World War II. These veterans are individuals who are already 55 years of age and more than 70% of these are already 65 years of age. Almost 96% of these veterans are believed to be men, and 30% of these male veterans are now in the labor force while their unemployment rate is at 6.5% in the present day.

Veterans with Service-Connected Disability

According to the survey in 2013, 15% or almost 3.2 million of the veterans are suffering from a service-related disability. These veterans are provided with disability ratings by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and by the United States Department of Defense. The ratings are ranging from 0-100%, 10% of which is added depending on how severe the veterans’ condition is.

Among all the veterans who are reported with a service-connected disability, 35% of these people are able to get a rating of 30% while 3 out of 10 veterans are able to get a 60% rating and above. By August 2013, it has been reported that twice of 30% rating of the veterans with a service-connected disability are found on the labor force. Also, it is said that 3 out of 10 veterans who have served during the Gulf War Era have a service-related disability. The unemployment rate of the veterans with a service-related disability because of Gulf War era is 8.6% while the unemployment rate of those who are not disabled is almost 11.1%.

Despite having a service-related disability, which is due to various war periods they have served, it has been found out that these veterans are still working in various public sectors. The survey says that almost 31% of these veterans are still employed and they are working in local, state, or federal government. These governments, particularly federal government have employed 19% disabled veterans, 7% veterans without disabilities and 2% who are not veterans. These veterans are given the chance to work and be productive despite of the service-connected disability they got.

These days, veterans who were unprotected to Agent Orange in the midst of military service are qualified for different Veteran Affairs, which includes disability compensation for illness related to exposure. Their survivors and dependents may also be qualified for different benefits.


Veterans like Gonzalez are absolutely the ones this younger generation look up to for the opportunity they gave them to enjoy whatever freedom people are enjoying now. But this freedom and greater good of mankind has a huge price tag and every veteran is paying for it every day of their lives. In fact, not only these veterans but the would-be veterans, too— those military men and women who are still in combat and in war zones completing their tours of duty. What they have and will have to go through every day will be a reminder of their choice to give up a part of themselves for the people they serve.