Each year, over 40,000 veterans are diagnosed with cancer in the US. Many veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were exposed to a variety of hazardous substances, from depleted uranium to chemical warfare agents. This history of toxic substance exposure has left a legacy of health complications and may explain the worrying increase in cancer rates among veterans in recent years.
Veteran’s Affairs healthcare benefits
For veterans lacking insurance, cancer can be particularly distressing, adding financial worries to the considerable health concerns of a diagnosis. Veterans diagnosed with cancer during or after their military service may be entitled to Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) healthcare benefits if they are discharged under any condition other than dishonorable, regardless of the time since active service. VA healthcare benefits will cover health exams as well as specialized inpatient care. Furthermore, these benefits are available regardless of what insurance a veteran has, be it Medicare, Medicaid, private or none at all.
Veteran’s Affairs disability compensation and cancer
To receive maximum disability compensation, a disabled veteran must earn a 100% VA Disability rating. However, because of the way the rating is calculated, this can be very difficult to achieve. Veterans affected by cancer may qualify for VA disability benefits, and in cases where the VA determines the illness is service-related, they may temporarily receive a disability rating of 100% for as long as the cancer is active.
Agent Orange, a herbicide deployed in Vietnam, has been linked to Hodgkin’s lymphoma and leukemia in veterans and civilians exposed to it during the Vietnam war. As a result, veterans deployed to Vietnam may qualify for VA disability benefits under presumptive conditions. Presumptive conditions are cases in which the VA presumes a disability or illness is caused by military service and for which it decides to award benefits.
Non-governmental organizations offering assistance to veterans
Beyond the VA, there are a number of charitable organizations offering assistance to veterans diagnosed with cancer and their families . The Fisher House Foundation offers a no-cost network of comfort homes located near major military and VA medical centers across America to the families of veterans receiving treatment. This is especially important in cases where veterans must travel long distances for treatment at VA or specialist medical centers, allowing their families to be with them every step of the way. For veterans looking for guidance or aid when applying for benefits, Disabled American Veterans (DAV) offers their services free of charge, helping veterans file their claims and providing vehicles for those in need of transport to medical facilities.
The decade following the Iraq and Afghanistan wars saw an unprecedented increase in the number of cancer cases among armed forces veterans. While the VA offers benefits and services to aid veterans living with this disease, in many cases it simply isn’t enough. For veterans in this situation, there exists a strong framework of charitable organizations ready and willing to pick up the slack and aid them in the fight.