VA Disability for Agent Orange and Bladder Cancer
For Vietnam War-era veterans, the VA recognizes the connection between exposure to Agent Orange and bladder cancer and presumes the connection between your military service and your illness, making you eligible for 100 percent benefits and access to VA programs. Once your cancer is in remission, you are entitled to further compensation for conditions related to your cancer or its treatment, and you may still be eligible for 100 percent disability. Find out more with Veterans Guide.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has recognized the connection between the herbicide Agent Orange and certain illnesses and conditions since the 1990s. In 2021 it added bladder cancer to that list, enabling veterans to get disability benefits for bladder cancer without proving that Agent Orange exposure led to their condition.
You are entitled to 100 percent disability benefits for service-connected bladder cancer until six months after your treatment stops. The VA requires a mandatory claims exam after six months when your doctor will rate you for conditions related to your cancer that impact your overall health and ability to work. You are entitled to further benefits with a 10 to 100 percent disability rating, depending on the severity of your residual conditions and symptoms.
Agent Orange and Bladder Cancer in Veterans
Bladder cancer is the growth of abnormal cells in the bladder lining. If bladder cancer isn’t treated, it can grow into the lymph nodes and spread to other parts of your body, such as the liver, lungs, or bones.
Symptoms of bladder cancer include the following:
- Frequent urination
- Painful urination
- Blood in urine
- Persistent bladder infections
- Trouble urinating, such as weak flow
Veterans are at risk for bladder cancer, particularly if exposed to radiation and chemicals such as Agent Orange. In some cases, the VA presumes your service led to your bladder cancer. If you got bladder cancer due to your service and do not fit presumption criteria, you must establish a service connection through service and medical evidence.
Service Connection for Bladder Cancer
To receive VA disability benefits, you must show that you have an active condition connected to your service or worsened by your service. You do this through service records, medical records, and letters from your doctor that show a nexus, or link, between the two.
You are eligible for benefits if your illness or injury occurred during active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training. You do not qualify if you received a bad conduct, dishonorable, or less than honorable discharge. You can ask for a discharge upgrade to become eligible.
Depending on where and when you served, the VA may presume that your service led to bladder cancer. One of those presumed connections is for Vietnam War-era veterans and Agent Orange exposure.
How Does the VA Rate Bladder Cancer?
The VA rates bladder cancer under diagnostic code 7528, Malignant Neoplasms of the Genitourinary System. If you are diagnosed with service-connected bladder cancer, you get a 100 percent disability rating. You keep this rating until six months after your treatment ends. The VA then requires that you undergo a Compensation and Pension, or C&P, exam.
If your cancer is in remission, you receive a new rating based on the residuals of your bladder cancer. Residuals are disabling conditions that result from your bladder cancer or its treatment.
What Are Residuals of Bladder Cancer for VA Benefits?
Your VA disability rating following treatment for bladder cancer is based on renal or voiding dysfunction, whichever is predominant. Renal dysfunction is related to kidney disease, and your rating relies heavily on the results of glomerular filtration rate, or GFR tests. The GFR measures how well your kidneys filter blood, and 60 is a normal score.
Renal dysfunction VA ratings are 30, 60, 80, or 100 percent, depending on your GFR levels for at least three consecutive months during the last year. If your GFR is normal, you may also get a 30 percent rating if you have abnormal blood cell counts or structural kidney abnormalities. Poor renal function, such as symptomatic infections, is rated at 10 or 30 percent.
Voiding dysfunction as a residual of bladder cancer has VA ratings at 10, 20, 30, 40, and 60 percent, depending on your urination problem. The 60 percent rating is for using an appliance to capture urine or absorbent materials that must be changed at least four times daily. Lower ratings depend on how frequently you urinate during the day, how often you have to get up at night, or whether you have a urinary obstruction.
Total Disability Individual Unemployability and Bladder Cancer
The VA offers Total Disability Individual Unemployability, or TDIU, benefits for veterans with disabilities rated below 100 percent who cannot hold substantially gainful employment. TDIU provides the equivalent benefits of having a 100 percent disability rating. The eligibility requirements are the following:
- One disability rating of 60 percent or higher
- Multiple ratings totaling 70 percent under the combined rating table, with at least one condition rated at 40 percent or more
You must show strong evidence that you cannot work, such as statements from your doctor and previous employer about missed time, inability to perform duties, and other factors that show you deserve full benefits. If you already have 100 percent benefits from your bladder cancer diagnosis, you can file your TDIU claim once your residuals are rated.
PACT Act and Toxic Exposure
The 2022 Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics or PACT Act expanded the list of toxic exposures that harmed veterans and created a list of presumed conditions. It added burn pits, radiation, and exposure to other toxins.
It took decades after the Vietnam War for the government to formally recognize the connection between Agent Orange exposure and veterans’ health problems. The VA developed a list of conditions presumed related to that exposure, making it much easier for veterans to receive disability.
The Agent Orange presumed illnesses list has expanded, and in 2021 the VA added bladder cancer. It automatically reviewed cases for veterans and their survivors who were denied benefits despite Agent Orange exposure and a bladder cancer diagnosis.
Is Bladder Cancer a Presumptive Condition for Veterans?
For a presumptive connection between Agent Orange and bladder cancer, veterans must show through their military records that they served during specific years and places in the Vietnam War era. The PACT Act added five locations to this list, expanding the number of veterans eligible for a presumptive service connection for bladder cancer.
Due to exposure to toxic chemicals in drinking water, bladder cancer is also recognized under the PACT Act as a presumptive condition for veterans who served at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River, North Carolina, for at least 30 days total between Aug. 1, 1953, and Dec. 31, 1987.
How to Obtain VA Disability Compensation for Bladder Cancer
Start by notifying the VA of your intent to file for disability for your bladder cancer or related conditions. If you start applying for VA benefits online, that is your intent to file. After you notify the VA, you have one year to complete your claim.
After you complete your full application, you can send it in three ways:
- Finish an online VA disability application
- Mail a completed VA Form 21-526EZ and send it to the VA Claims Intake Center
- Bring your form and evidence to the nearest VA regional office
Include your VA and private medical records as part of your evidence and statements from laypeople who can attest to your condition and how the symptoms affect your life and ability to work. If you do not have a presumed service connection for your bladder cancer, include a nexus letter from your doctor explaining how your service led to your disease.
If you need help understanding Agent Orange and bladder cancer VA ratings or have other VA disability questions, contact the experts at Veterans Guide.
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