VA Disability Rating for Colon Cancer
Veterans who show a connection between colon cancer and their service can receive a 100 percent VA disability rating for up to six months following their treatment and follow-up disability ratings for resulting problems from the disease or treatment. Gulf War-era and post-9/11 veterans may be eligible through the recently enacted PACT Act for a presumptive connection between colon cancer and their service based on potential exposure to toxins. Veterans Guide can help you learn more about your VA benefits eligibility.
Veterans with colon cancer who show the disease is related to their service are eligible for a 100 percent VA disability rating. Post-9/11 and Gulf War-era veterans may qualify under the PACT Act for a presumption that their service led to their cancer, meaning you don’t need your doctor to connect your service and your illness.
If you do not have a presumptive service connection, you must provide medical evidence and service records showing that your cancer occurred during your military service. Medical opinions that your service likely caused your cancer can bolster your claim.
Following treatment for colon cancer, the VA requires a follow-up examination to reassess the 100 percent rating. While the cancer may be gone, many veterans experience follow-up problems related to colon cancer, such as incontinence or bowel problems. They can receive new ratings for these conditions, which are considered secondary to colon cancer.
Veterans and Colon Cancer
Colon cancer begins as polyps in the large intestine that turn cancerous. Tumors form on the colon’s inner lining and spread through muscle and tissue and then to other parts of the body. A polyp takes about 10 years to become cancerous, so veterans may not be aware of their condition until well after discharge.
Veterans with colon cancer may experience symptoms such as the following:
- Bloody stool
- Persistent diarrhea or constipation
- Abdominal pain
- Unexplained weight loss
- Anemia, which may also lead to fatigue and shortness of breath
Genetics and poor lifestyle choices are risk factors for colon cancer, as is exposure to certain toxins. For Gulf War-era and post-9/11 veterans, the VA presumes that exposure to burn pits, radiation, and other toxins also increases the risk of colon cancer.
Service Connection for Colon Cancer
To receive VA disability benefits, veterans must show a disability is connected to their service. This can include time on active duty or training. Just having served generally isn’t enough to show that you deserve benefits. Your medical and service records must show that your service caused or worsened an illness or condition.
Once your service connection is established, the VA assigns a disability rating between zero and 100 percent in 10-percent increments. Your rating reflects how much your injury or illness affects your overall health and ability to carry out daily tasks. A 30 percent rating means you are 30 percent disabled. Active colon cancer has a 100 percent disability rating.
PACT Act and Toxic Exposure
The Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022, or PACT Act, added to the VA list of conditions presumed linked to toxic exposure, such as burn pits, Agent Orange, and radiation. It also expanded the list of locations of service where the presumption of exposure exists.
For Gulf War era and post-9/11 veterans, the PACT Act added gastrointestinal cancer of any type as a presumptive condition. This includes colon cancer. If you have colon cancer and served in one of the PACT Act-designated areas, you do not have to prove that there is a connection between your service and your cancer. The VA presumes your service connection for purposes of disability benefits.
If you were denied a service connection in the past and are now eligible under the PACT Act, you can reapply for disability benefits.
How Does the VA Rate Colon Cancer?
The VA addresses colon cancer under diagnostic code 7343, Malignant Neoplasms of the Digestive System. When you have active colon cancer, the VA assigns a 100 percent disability rating. You keep the 100 percent rating through your treatments and for six months after the treatment ends.
The VA then requires a Compensation and Pension, or C&P, exam to rate your condition. If there is no recurrence of your cancer and it hasn’t spread to another area, you can receive a new rating based on problems resulting from your colon cancer. The VA refers to these problems as residuals and assigns separate ratings based on those.
Colon Cancer and Secondary Disabilities
The VA rates any residual disabilities you have as secondary conditions to your colon cancer. Since the VA already granted you a service connection to your colon cancer, you do not have to repeat that step of the eligibility process. You must only show that your new disabilities are related to your cancer. Some common problems following colon cancer that the VA rates as disabilities include:
- Incontinence, called voiding dysfunction, rated under diagnostic code 7517 from 20 percent to 60 percent
- Loss of sphincter control, rated under diagnostic code 7332 from 10 percent to 100 percent
- Symptoms following the removal of all or part of the colon, rated under diagnostic code 7329 from 10 percent to 40 percent
You can receive disability benefits for one or more residual effects of colon cancer. You may also qualify for special monthly compensation in addition to your other disability benefits if you experience erectile dysfunction due to your cancer or treatment.
Total Disability Individual Unemployability and Colon Cancer
If you can’t maintain substantially gainful employment due to your disability, you may qualify for Total Disability Individual Unemployability, or TDIU. This program offers full benefits to veterans with a disability rating of less than 100 percent who cannot work.
When your colon cancer is active, you receive 100 percent benefits and don’t need TDIU, but your rating may change after treatment. You could qualify for the program based on the residual problems caused by your colon cancer.
To qualify for TDIU, you must meet one of two rating criteria:
- One disability rated at 60 percent or higher
- Multiple disabilities with one rated at least 40 percent and a combined rating of at least 70 percent
The VA uses a table of combined ratings to determine whether you meet the combined disabilities threshold. If your colon cancer results in a 60 percent rating for incontinence and a 30 percent rating for loss of bowel control, your combined score is 72. This gives you a 70 percent disability rating and makes you eligible to apply for TDIU.
How To Obtain VA Disability for Colon Cancer?
Following your diagnosis, you must apply for disability benefits to get a colon cancer VA rating. There are several ways to submit your application:
- Complete an online application
- Fill out VA Form 21-526EZ and mail it to the VA Claims Intake Center
- Bring your completed form to the VA regional office nearest you
Submit any information that can bolster your claim, including private and VA medical records and service records showing a connection between your diagnosis and your service. If you don’t qualify for presumptive benefits under the PACT Act, include a nexus letter from your doctor. This letter shows the connection between your service and your colon cancer.
Once the treatment for your colon cancer ends, you will have a mandatory C&P exam to determine your new rating for any other conditions. The VA may also require further exams if the residual problems from your colon cancer might improve.
If you need help understanding colon cancer VA ratings or have questions about VA disability benefits, contact the experts at Veterans Guide.
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