Is Cancer a Residual for VA Disability?

Cancer diagnoses can be life-altering events, and veterans with service-connected cancer are eligible for VA disability benefits. However, the rating system considers two key phases: the active cancer itself and any lingering effects called residuals.

VA Disability for Active Cancer

The VA assigns a 100% disability rating for veterans diagnosed with active, service-connected cancer. This rating reflects the significant impact cancer has on a veteran’s overall well-being and ability to function. The 100% rating remains in effect throughout active treatment and for six months following its successful completion.

cancer residual va

Understanding Residuals in VA Disability

Residuals, in the context of VA disability for cancer, refer to the lasting effects experienced after treatment for the primary cancer diagnosis. These effects can be physical, mental, or emotional, and can significantly impact a veteran’s daily life. Even if the cancer itself goes into remission, the residuals may warrant continued disability benefits.

Here’s a breakdown of the process:

  • Evaluation After Treatment: Six months after completing cancer treatment, the VA schedules a Compensation and Pension (C&P) examination. This exam assesses the current status of the cancer and evaluates any lingering effects.
  • Rating Residuals: If the exam confirms the cancer is in remission, the VA rates the disability based on the severity of the residuals. The VA uses a “Schedule for Rating Disabilities” which assigns specific ratings for various conditions associated with different types of cancer and their treatments.
  • Examples of Residuals: Residuals can vary depending on the type of cancer and its treatment. Some common examples include:
    • Physical: Scars, pain, fatigue, nerve damage, lymphedema (swelling), loss of limb function, incontinence.
    • Mental: Anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Applying for Disability Benefits for Residuals

If you’re a veteran experiencing residuals from service-connected cancer, you can file a claim for disability benefits based on these lingering effects.  Here are some steps to consider:

  • Gather Medical Evidence: Documenting your residuals with medical records from your doctor is crucial. This evidence should detail the ongoing effects you’re experiencing and how they connect to your cancer diagnosis and treatment.
  • File a Claim: The VA offers various resources and tools to assist veterans in filing a claim. You can file online through the VA website or seek help from a Veterans Service Officer (VSO) at your local VA regional office.
  • Appeals Process: If your initial claim is denied, you have the right to appeal the decision. The VA offers a multi-step appeals process, and seeking assistance from veterans’ advocates can be beneficial during this stage.

Additional Considerations

  • Presumptive Conditions: The VA recognizes certain cancers as presumptive service-connected conditions for veterans who served in specific locations or during specific times. This means the VA presumes a connection between the service and the cancer, simplifying the claim process.
  • Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU): Even if the residuals from your cancer don’t qualify for a high disability rating, you might be eligible for TDIU. This benefit provides compensation at the 100% rate if your residuals prevent you from maintaining full-time employment.

Resources for Veterans

  • VA Website: The VA website offers a wealth of information on disability benefits for veterans with cancer, including the application process and resources for appealing decisions.
  • VA Disability Attorney: Getting an experienced attorney and law firm involved that knows the ins and outs of the VA system can be a successful way to obtain VA disability benefits. 
  • Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs): Many VSOs offer assistance with filing VA disability claims, including those related to cancer residuals. You can find a VSO near you through the VA website.

Remember, the VA disability system can be complex. If you have questions or require assistance navigating the process, don’t hesitate to reach out to the resources listed above.

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