Serving in the military can be a demanding and often dangerous experience, and for many veterans, the toll on their physical and emotional well-being can be significant. Along with the scars of war, many veterans also endure debilitating health conditions that prevent them from working and enjoying life to the fullest. One such condition is cancer, which can have a profound impact on a veteran’s quality of life.
While many veterans file disability claims for cancer while still undergoing treatment, the transition to remission can be a time of uncertainty and concern. Though cancer patients in remission may enjoy long and healthy lives, the risk of recurrence is always present, and they may continue to experience lasting physical and emotional effects of their illness.
To support veterans who have fought cancer and are now in remission, the VA provides disability benefits, health care, and other forms of assistance. This guide is intended to help veterans navigate the process of increasing their VA disability rating for cancer in remission. With the right information and support, veterans can access the resources they need to live full and healthy lives after cancer.
Active Cancer Versus Remission and VA Benefits
Typically, when a veteran receives a cancer diagnosis, they are considered to have active cancer. In this stage, the cancer is actively growing and may cause symptoms or pain. However, when the cancer goes into remission, it is no longer an immediate threat and may not require ongoing treatment or monitoring.
Despite being in remission, cancer can still have a significant impact on veterans’ lives. This is because cancer often leaves lasting effects, such as reduced function in the affected body part or organ, which may cause chronic pain or other symptoms.
If you are a veteran with cancer in remission, you may be wondering how to increase your VA disability rating. To help navigate the VA disability system and obtain the benefits you deserve, here are some tips to consider.
In order to receive a VA disability rating for cancer, you must provide evidence that your cancer was caused or worsened by your military service. Additionally, you must have an active diagnosis of cancer, an event that occurred during your service that led to the cancer, and a medical nexus that connects your service to your cancer.
It’s important to note that your disability rating will vary depending on whether your tumor is malignant or benign. If your tumor is benign, you can still receive a VA disability rating, but it will not be considered cancer.
VA Ratings for Cancer in Remission
In most cases, cancer is initially rated at 100% temporarily by the VA, and this rating is maintained as long as the cancer remains active. The 100% VA rating will stay in place for six months after your cancer goes into remission or is being treated. This means that your VA disability rating for cancer in remission will initially start at 100%, but after six months of remission, your rating will be based on the residual symptoms that remain.
To determine whether your cancer is still active, the VA will usually re-evaluate you in six months to a year, depending on the type of cancer you have. Residuals refer to any condition caused by cancer or its treatment that remains after the cancer has been treated. Residual disabilities can include a range of conditions, such as nerve damage, chronic pain, anxiety, depression, urinary incontinence, lung damage, and heart problems, among others.
It is important to be honest and open with your Compensation & Pension (C&P) examiner during the re-evaluation process, as they will need accurate information to determine your rating based on the residuals you are experiencing.
Cancer and VA Benefits: Benign and Malignant Conditions
Malignant cancer is a type of cancer that grows and spreads uncontrollably, often causing life-threatening symptoms and complications. In contrast, a benign neoplasm does not spread and typically does not cause significant symptoms or health concerns.
The VA recognizes certain types of active cancers at 100% VA disability rating for veterans with malignant cancer. These types include bone cancer, breast cancer, cancer of the digestive system, cancer of the urinary system, ear cancer, endocrine system cancers, eye cancer, intestinal cancer, leukemia, liver cancer, lung cancer (or any respiratory cancer), lymphoma, muscle cancer, other reproductive system cancers, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, skin cancer, testicular cancer, and thyroid cancer.
How Can a Veteran Prove a Service Connection to Cancer?
Being diagnosed with cancer while still serving is the easiest way to prove that your military service caused it. However, many veterans do not develop cancer until years or even decades after leaving the military.
The VA assumes that certain exposures led to cancer development in many Vietnam and Gulf War veterans.
With the passing of the PACT Act in 2022, veterans who have cancer resulting from exposure to toxic chemicals are now eligible for VA disability benefits. If you served in one of the listed countries in Africa or the Middle East on or after August 2, 1990, and have one of the types of cancers specified, you may be eligible for presumptive service connection. These cancers include those affecting the head, neck, respiratory and gastrointestinal systems, reproductive organs, lymphoma and lymphatic system, kidney, brain, melanoma, and pancreatic cancer.
In addition, Agent Orange presumptive service-connected cancers include B-cell leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, respiratory cancers, and soft tissue sarcomas. If your cancer is not on these lists or falls outside of the presumptive criteria, you may still qualify for VA disability benefits, but you will need to prove service connection.
Veterans who were involved in nuclear testing or exposed to radiation may also qualify for VA disability benefits.
Long-Term Cancer Effects for Veterans
It’s crucial to ensure that all relevant information about your pain or difficulty moving due to radiation treatments for bone cancer is in your record to receive the appropriate VA rating for cancer in remission.
Similarly, veterans who recover from lung cancer but still require outpatient oxygen therapy will maintain their 100% VA disability rating.
Moreover, the VA offers counseling services and support for caregivers to help survivors adjust to their new reality. The journey after cancer can be challenging, but the VA is dedicated to assisting veterans in obtaining the benefits they deserve.
If you or someone you know needs help getting a VA disability rating for cancer in remission, reach out to the VA for support. Veterans deserve our gratitude and assistance, particularly when facing tough challenges like cancer.
Get Help Today from a VA Benefits Attorney
If you need assistance proving a cancer-related condition to the VA, you may need a veteran benefits attorney. It is also common to be denied benefits for cancer from the VA. Contact us today if you need assistance with your claim.