Vietnam Veterans Seek VA Recognition and Benefits for Rare Cancer




Legal Help for Veterans is a law firm helping veterans get the benefits they deserve.

Northville, MI (Law Firm Newswire) December 13, 2016 – Hundreds of Vietnam veterans are suffering from a rare bile duct cancer that may be connected to their wartime service. The former service members are urging the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to acknowledge their condition is service-related so that they can be eligible for benefits.

The cancer, called cholangiocarcinoma, can be caused by liver flukes present in raw or poorly cooked freshwater fish. Vietnam War veterans may have been infected by liver flukes after eating such fish when their rations ran out. The parasites are commonly found in certain areas of China, South Korea and Vietnam.

“Veterans diagnosed with the cancer may spend their final months fighting for benefits and end up disappointed and frustrated due to lack of recognition from the VA,” said Jim Fausone, a Michigan veterans attorney. “Early diagnosis of the condition is key. If doctors gain a better understanding of the cancer and its risks to those who served in Vietnam, it may be possible to treat veterans and ensure they receive the benefits they deserve.”

Last year the VA rejected nearly 80 percent of benefit claims for the cancer, which have grown six-fold since 2003. According to The Associated Press, three out of four claims are denied.

The department said the VA medical system has seen fewer than 700 cholangiocarcinoma cases over the past 15 years. Only 307 of those veterans applied for benefits claims during that time. Many veterans are unaware of the cancer’s potential connection to their service because it is so rare. About 1.7 in 100,000 individuals in the United States are diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma each year.

VA officials evaluate each case individually. In order to qualify for VA benefits, veterans are required to prove that their condition is “as likely as not” service-related. However, doctors have said proving that can sometimes be challenging. In addition, the VA said performing regular screenings would be unrealistic and difficult because the condition is so rare.

Cholangiocarcinoma is also hard to treat, killing many victims within a few months of diagnosis. After the liver flukes are ingested, they can live in the bile duct undetected for over 25 years, causing scarring and inflammation that can eventually lead to cancer. Symptoms such as itchy skin and jaundice typically do not occur until advanced stages.

Learn more at Legal Help for Veterans, PLLC 41700 West Six Mile Road, Suite 101 Northville, MI 48168 Toll Free Phone: 800.693.4800
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