Military service comes with sacrifice and risk, including contracting or developing illness and disease. Unfortunately, time in the service for some military members leads to prostate cancer. If you’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer after serving your country, you deserve the treatment you need without worrying about how to pay for it. Below we offer more information about VA disability for prostate cancer and offer some answers to frequently asked questions about a service-related prostate cancer disability claim, including how to appeal a denial from Veteran Affairs (VA).
Some veterans who develop prostate cancer receive disability benefits from the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). Whether the VA denies the claim for prostate cancer depends on whether you can prove your cancer developed as a result of your time in the armed forces. The VA maintains lists of illnesses and diseases that they assume come from specific exposures during service. The VA presumes that all veterans who served in Vietnam have been exposed to Agent Orange, putting them at risk for developing various cancers, including prostate cancer. The same is not true for those who served in Iraq, Afghanistan, or other areas of the world where they were exposed to the toxic fumes and substances from burn pits. If you received a denial of your prostate cancer claim, a veteran disability appeals lawyer can help you get the benefits you deserve.
The VA has multiple classification systems for illness and disease, and they assign a percentage disability rating to every condition and disease. First, they determine whether a service connection exists to prostate cancer. If they establish a connection, they rate prostate cancer as active or inactive. Active prostate cancer typically results in a 100 percent disability rating. When prostate cancer is inactive or in remission, the VA evaluates residual effects from the cancer itself or symptoms and conditions resulting from treatment. They rate each of these conditions based on their severity.
Conditions commonly associated with prostate cancer include:
The disability rating for frequent urination or incontinence ranges from 10 to 60 percent, depending on the situation and the extent to which the condition impacts a veteran’s life. In some cases, veterans can receive special monthly compensation for service-connected erectile dysfunction, even though the condition is typically rated as 0 percent disabling.
Veterans encounter various situations and geographical locations that put them at risk for cancer development. Service-related prostate cancer occurs for two primary reasons: exposure to Agent Orange and burn pit exposure. There is also a growing body of evidence showing a connection between the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune and the later development of prostate cancer.
Agent Orange is one of many herbicides used during the Vietnam War. It’s made of two toxic chemicals that give off a highly toxic and dangerous byproduct linked to multiple types of cancers and other diseases. Many Vietnam veterans were exposed to Agent Orange, as well as veterans who served in Korea and nearby areas during these wars.
If you served in Iraq and/or Afghanistan after 9/11, it’s likely you saw and smelled one or more burn pits. Some service members helped maintain burn pits, and many had to sleep close to one. Burning plastic, rubber, human waste, and anything else the military wanted to destroy, emitted large plumes of toxic smoke, which traveled miles in the desert landscapes of the Middle East and Central Asia. Burn pit exposure has been linked to various conditions and diseases, including prostate cancer.
Veterans who served in Vietnam or on a ship that operated in Vietnam’s waterways between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, do not need to prove a nexus to service in order to establish service connection for their prostate cancer. The VA has established a presumption of exposure to Agent Orange that provides for automatic service connection for prostate cancer. The same is true for those who served in the Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ) between September 1, 1967, and August 31, 1971, as well as certain veterans who served in Thailand between 1961 and 1975.
Although one of the chemicals in Agent Orange is also found in smoke from burn pits, the VA has not established a presumption of exposure for all veterans. Instead, the VA evaluates prostate cancer claims for those exposed to burn pits on a case-by-case basis. This often means veterans need the help of an experienced VA benefits attorney to present evidence that supports their claim to establish a service connection to their prostate cancer diagnosis.
Yes, but depending on the outcome of your treatment, you may not have 100 percent permanent disability. Once service connection is established, the VA rating for active prostate cancer is 100 percent. The rating lasts for up to six months after successfully completing cancer treatment, including radiation, chemotherapy, and/or surgery. Following that time, a C&P exam is conducted to determine what residual effects exist from the cancer or treatment, including ED, increased urinary frequency, and/or urinary incontinence.
If your prostate cancer is active, the correct rating is 100-percent. Following successful cancer treatment, many veterans receive a rating between 10 percent and 60 percent, depending on the severity of the cancer residuals. If the cancer residuals prevent a veteran from working or seeking future employment, then a total disability rating based on individual unemployability (TDIU) may be an option.
The VA establishes service connection on a presumptive basis for some veterans suffering from prostate cancer. For other veterans who don’t meet the qualifications for presumptive service connection, such as veterans with burn pit exposure or Camp Lejeune service, a medical nexus opinion will likely be required.
A VA Disability Lawyer’s role is to assist you throughout the confusing and often frustrating appeals process if you have been denied benefits for your service-connected prostate cancer. 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 your VA disability claim for prostate cancer has been denied, be sure to contact the VA Accredited Attorneys at VetLaw right away to help make sure you get the entitlement you deserve.