If you are a veteran and have cancer, you could receive disability from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The process is time-consuming and often difficult, especially if your cancer is not on the list of presumptive cancers from exposure. A VA disability attorney can help you get the veteran disability benefits for cancer that you deserve, even if you’ve received a previous denial on your claim.
If your cancer is not on the presumptive list for exposure, the VA could deny your claim for cancer if you did not provide the correct information or if you left some information out. To apply for a service-connected cancer rating, you must have a current cancer diagnosis and a medical nexus that links the cancer to your service.
Some veterans do not have to prove that their cancer was caused by exposure to chemicals in the military. If you were in the military and served in a location that VA recognizes as hazardous during specific time periods, and you have been diagnosed with one of the types of cancer which is considered presumptively linked to the exposure, the VA assumes for the purpose of granting service connection that your service and presumptive exposure caused the cancer.
For example, the VA automatically assumes that those who served in Vietnam were exposed to Agent Orange and that the chemicals contained in Agent Orange cause Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, prostate cancer, and numerous other cancers. Those veterans who can prove they were in Vietnam and have a diagnosis of a cancer on the Agent Orange presumptive list automatically receive service connection. Further, if the cancer is in an “active” phase, veterans will generally receive 100 percent disability while undergoing treatment such as chemotherapy.
Because cancer is a devastating diagnosis, causes severe functional impact, and cannot always be cured or sent into remission, the VA gives veterans a 100 percent disability rating after diagnosis and while receiving care. The veteran receives monthly payments at the 100 percent rating during this active treatment phase for cancer and for six months after the cancer goes into remission. At that time, VA evaluates the residuals of cancer and awards a rating based on the long-term effects of the cancer and treatment for the cancer. For example, a veteran with prostate cancer generally receives a rating based on the severity of urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction, which are recognized side effects following a prostatectomy.
Some of the causes of service-related cancer include:
Presumptive exposure to Agent Orange or the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune are the two most common ways that veterans are service-connected for cancer. The VA assumes that those veterans who were in certain areas – such as Vietnam or Camp Lejeune – during specified time frames were exposed to something that caused later development of cancer. For the cancers on the presumptive lists, a veteran simply needs to apply for disability once they have been diagnosed with cancer, identifying their in-service exposure as the cause.
If you are a veteran who does not have a type of cancer listed on the presumptive list, but you suspect some in-service event, illness, or injury caused your cancer, you must have a current diagnosis (or residuals of a cancer in remission) and a medical nexus that links the cancer to the illness, event, or injury from your active duty period.
Whether the disability is presumptive cancer or not, a veteran must provide VA with medical records and attend a C&P exam. . During the C&P exam, a doctor will review your medical records and ask you about any current residuals, if the cancer it not in an active phase. The C&P report will also contain a medical nexus opinion, identifying whether the doctor believes the cancer is at least as likely as not related to service, if the condition is not on the presumptive list.
Some veterans attempt to file their disability claim themselves but are disappointed when the VA denies their claims. The process is often difficult, especially if you have issues or residuals that are caused by your cancer or the treatment of your cancer.
The application is long, and you must list your service-connected disabilities and then show the proof that the afflictions are service-connected. The VA disability board will need your current and past medical records and other documents. For example, a Vietnam veteran must prove that he was in the service between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, and either had boots on the ground or was on a Navy ship in the Blue Water area, generally within 12 nautical miles of Vietnam. Your DD-214 and possibly other documents will typically show this information.
Once you complete the application, the waiting process starts. It often takes several months to get an answer, which means that you want to submit everything you need and submit it correctly the first time. If you have to correct anything on your application or submit additional documents, the application goes back to the end of the line.
If you are a veteran and have a service-related cancer diagnosis, you will likely qualify for a 100% rating from the VA during the active phase and 6 months following any treatment such as chemotherapy or surgery. Once the cancer goes into remission, VA will rate the cancer based on residuals such as chemotherapy-induced neuropathy, urinary incontinence, or the development of secondary disabilities such as diabetes or even depression.
Many types of cancer have been proven to be presumptively service-connected due to the military’s history of using certain types of chemicals such as Agent Orange or contaminated water at bases such as Camp Lejeune. If you served in a designated location such as Vietnam during the time periods VA recognizes for presumptive exposure, and you have a cancer diagnosis that VA recognizes is presumptively service-connected for that exposure, VA will establish service connection on a presumptive basis, and you will not need to take additional steps to prove the nexus to service.
Agent Orange (which was used fairly widely during the Vietnam war) has been proven to have caused numerous types of cancers in those who were exposed to it. Click here to review the full list of cancers and other conditions presumptively linked to Agent Orange.
A VA Disability Lawyer’s role is to assist you throughout the confusing and often frustrating appeals process after you have received a denial for your veteran disability cancer claim. Generally, you need to be denied at least once before an attorney can assist, but once a lawyer is involved they will often be able to quickly determine what needs to be done in order to prove entitlement.
If you’ve received a denial for your veteran disability cancer claim, be sure to contact the VA Accredited Attorneys at VetLaw right away to help make sure you get the entitlement you deserve.