Cancer can strike at any time, but it usually does not become active for years after the cause. Many veterans do not automatically make the connection between their time of service and their cancer diagnosis. But there are many exposures during military service that are presumed to cause cancer and others that can be proven to be either a direct cause or a secondary cause of cancer. If your service to our country caused cancer, you deserve compensation while you fight to defeat this enemy.
Proving Service Connection for Cancer
As with all disability claims, you must be able to demonstrate that you are a veteran of the U.S. military, that you have an honorable discharge, and that there is a connection to military service: a direct connection, an aggravation of an existing condition, a secondary connection, or a presumptive connection.
In order to demonstrate a direct connection between your cancer and your military service, you must present to the VA a current diagnosis of cancer, a related in-service event, exposure, or illness, and a statement from your doctor connecting the diagnosis to the in-service occurrence. A secondary or aggravated connection would require the same evidence but can be challenging to prove since they would require more evidence to make the connection. This, however, should not dissuade you from trying. You deserve compensation if there is a connection, especially while you are being treated to stop the cancer.
Presumptive Connection to Cancer
Some military exposures, situations, or locations are presumed connections to cancer, which means that you only need a current diagnosis of cancer and proof that you experienced these exposures. Some of these presumed causes include:
Agent Orange: A cancerous defoliating chemical, Agent Orange was used extensively in the Vietnam and Korean Wars, and in other military operations as well. You may have had exposure to Agent Orange through transport if you were in the Navy or Air Force, or on military bases where the toxin was stored.
Radiation: Any duties involving radiation, for instance, nuclear submarines or nuclear weapons testing, gaseous diffusion plants, or depleted uranium exposure would put you in danger of cancer-causing agents.
Contaminated Groundwater: A number of military bases have been determined to have had contaminated groundwater that could cause cancer. Anniston Army Depot, Camp Pendleton, Camp Lejeune, and Fort McClellan, as well as others, are reported to have had contaminated water during certain years. You would need to demonstrate that you spent time at one of these bases during the years that the groundwater was determined to be contaminated.
Other Contaminants: There are many other toxic chemicals and substances that have been used in the military over the years. Many engine cleaners and degreasers, benzene, and other substances have been connected with cancer. Open-air burn pits have not yet reached the level of presumptive exposure, but depending on the substances being burned, many veterans are able to prove a connection.
VA Rating for Cancer
When your service-connected cancer is active and/or you are undergoing treatment for service-connected cancer, the VA should automatically assign you a 100% disability. If you are unable to work during your cancer treatment, you may also receive Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits. However, these ratings are temporary. They continue for six months following the end of your treatment (for instance, chemotherapy), at which time you are expected to get another C&P exam to determine the status of your cancer.
If your cancer is in remission, the VA will reevaluate your rating, taking into account any possible residual conditions caused by cancer or the treatment.
Getting all your benefits
When you’re sick, you’re not in any condition to collect all the necessary evidence and submit it accurately and in a timely manner to the VA in order to get your benefits as quickly as possible. At the Law Offices of Robert B. Goss, we’re disabled veterans ourselves, and we are committed to helping our fellow veterans navigate the VA and get all the compensation they deserve for their service. We know the ins and outs of the VA, and we will help you accumulate the evidence you need to present a compelling case to the VA to get your full benefits as quickly as possible. Call us today at (877) 425-4838.