Are you a military veteran who served in the Vietnam War or near the Korean Demilitarized Zone? Or, are you a surviving spouse of one of these veterans? Over 40 years after the Vietnam War, the impact of Agent Orange is still affecting veterans.
Experts predict that the number of new disease diagnoses will continue to increase. More presumptive diseases are being added to the list of Agent Orange-related conditions.
Table of contents
- What Is Agent Orange?
- Understanding Leukemias
- Symptoms of Chronic B-Cell Leukemia?
- Chronic B-Cell Leukemia and Agent Orange
- Impact on Day to Day Life
- How to Apply for VA Disability Compensation
- How VA Benefits Are Calculated?
- Chronic B-Cell Leukemia VA Benefits
- Can You Appeal Your VA Disability Rating?
- The Appeal Process
- Additional VA Benefits
- Total Disability Individual Unemployability Benefits
- Do You Need Help Filing a VA Disability Claim or Appeal?
Did you know 80% of the 1 million annual new insurance claims filed involve military service before September 11, 2001? Of these claims filed, 37% are for Vietnam War Veterans. This represents almost twice as many claims filed by post-Vietnam veterans.
For veterans that served in places where Agent Orange was present, the VA has set up some presumptive conditions and diseases that they link automatically to your time in the service. A presumptive service condition only requires that you prove that you were in the wrong place at the wrong time to be awarded VA disability benefits.
Chronic B-cell leukemia is one of those Agent Orange presumptive diseases.
What Is Agent Orange?
During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military cleared plants and trees using Agent Orange. This herbicide is now believed to cause disabilities. Those who served in Vietnam or near the Korean Demilitarized Zone, have a high risk of exposure.
The VA refers to this possible exposure as a “presumption of contact”. You may be eligible for disability compensation or other benefits if this fits your service.
Here one of our VA disability lawyers explains the Agent Orange Presumptive Conditions list:
Leukemia describes a type of cancer that starts in the bone marrow cells that make blood cells. This cancer causes blood cells to divide and form abnormally.
Since this is a blood cell cancer, it spreads through the bloodstream. This causes damage to many parts of the body and organs.
Acute leukemia describes cancer that’s comprised mostly of immature blood cells. In chronic leukemia, the cells are more mature, but not normal. Chronic leukemias are often harder to treat than acute leukemias.
Our immune system relies on lymph cells to fight infection. One specific type of lymph cell is the B-cell. When these cells are almost mature and diseased, it’s called chronic B-cell leukemia. One of the main indicators is a very high white blood cell count.
Symptoms of Chronic B-Cell Leukemia?
Each person responds differently to this disease due to genetic factors. Signs and symptoms of chronic B-cell leukemia include:
- Painless, swollen lymph nodes
- Persistent feeling of fatigue
- An enlarged spleen which causes pain in the upper left part of the stomach
- An enlarged liver
- Waking up at night covered in sweat
- Unintentional weight loss
- Repeated infections
- Bleeding and bruising easily
- Petechiae: tiny red spots on the skin
- Pain or tenderness in the bones
Anyone experiencing these symptoms should notify their healthcare provider.
Some individuals may experience complications caused by chronic B-cell leukemia. This could include frequent upper or lower tract respiratory tract infections. The damaged immune system can allow infections to become more serious.
A few people with chronic B-cell leukemia may develop a more aggressive form of this cancer. It’s called diffuse large B-cell lymphoma or Richter’s Syndrome. There’s also an increased risk for melanoma and lung and digestive tract cancers.
One of the problems that can occur with the immune system is that it starts attacking the body. The disease-fighting cells mistake red blood cells and platelets for harmful cells. Thus, they begin attacking these cells.
Chronic B-Cell Leukemia and Agent Orange
If you or your loved one served in the at-risk areas described, you’re not required to prove a connection. Those with a presumptive disease, are eligible for VA care and disability compensation. The following list describes other cancers with a presumed connection to Agent Orange.
- Hodgkin lymphoma
- Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS): a precursor to multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
- Soft tissue sarcoma
All these cancers require some level of treatment. The prognosis varies based on many factors. These include the stage at diagnosis, other health problems, access to care, and response to treatment.
Impact on Day to Day Life
The symptoms described above have a significant impact on daily life. It’s hard to work when you have fatigue, pain, weakness, and frequent infections. This also limits participation in social and family activities.
There is no cure for chronic B-cell leukemia. One study of 2,052 Vietnam veterans found that exposure to Agent Orange resulted in this diagnosis at a younger than average age. Many individuals experience challenges for the rest of their lives.
How to Apply for VA Disability Compensation
The first step is to determine your eligibility. The veteran must have served on active duty for 90 days or 24 months depending on when you served.
You must prove that your injury or disease is service-connected. This includes presumptive conditions. You have to prove that you served in the place and time that qualifies for presumptive service connection. You may also qualify if you had a pre-existing condition that became worse due to your service.
The veteran and qualifying dependents may receive benefits.
Once you believe you meet the qualifications, gather all documents to support your claim. Be sure to include your DD214 or other separation paperwork.
You can download the VA Form 21-526EZ application by clicking here. Once completed, you may submit the form via U.S. mail or in person. You may have the option of completing the application online.
Prepare yourself to wait for a decision. As of April 2020, the average number of days for receiving a decision about your VA claim is 105.9 days.
When you work with us, we have a whole team setup to monitor your claim through the entire process. We don’t miss deadlines and we keep you updated in case the VA comes back with new requirements, changes in the law, or with a rejection that we need to appeal.
Here are the steps we go through when we appeal a VA decision that we think is wrong or unfair:
How VA Benefits Are Calculated?
The VA rating works to describe your percentage of disability. The rating ranges from 0% to 100% disability.
Some individuals qualify for more than one disability. In this circumstance, you add the 2 or more ratings together with VA Math. Since conditions aren’t really added together but rather combined, the math can get a little weird.
They may not total more than 100% as no one is more than 100% disabled. To calculate your estimated disability rating, click on this calculator.
Chronic B-Cell Leukemia VA Benefits
You can receive benefits if you had Agent Orange exposure and now have chronic B-cell leukemia. These benefits can include disability compensation and health care. Widows and children of veterans who died with chronic B-cell leukemia may also get benefits.
Use The Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) claim form to file for compensation. View this video to learn more about filing this claim.
The basic monthly DIC benefit is $1,437.66. This compensation is tax-free.
Some widows receive a Survivor Benefit Plan payment (SBP) as well. This payment may be decreased by the amount of your DIC. There are also partial reimbursements called the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA).
It’s important to note that the SBP and SSIA are considered taxable income.
This process is often very confusing. We can take care of all of this for you and we don’t charge a fee until we win your case. After that, we charge one time fee of the minimum amount allowed for VA disability lawyers. Your phone call is free and you have nothing to lose.
Can You Appeal Your VA Disability Rating?
It’s not uncommon for veterans to receive an initial denial or a low VA disability rating. This initial rating decision isn’t final. You always have the right to appeal.
Getting help from a VA disability law firm is beneficial. They have experience representing veterans in the appeal process. Having an attorney can ensure that you receive the compensation you’re due.
Here is a review from a vertan that used Woods and Woods to fight with the VA for a higher rating.
The Appeal Process
Begin by considering the following questions about why the VA denied your claim. Did they rule that your disability isn’t connected to your military service? If so, you need to give them evidence that it is service-related.
Did they rate your disability too low? This means you’ll need to prove that your injury or disease is causing a higher level of disability.
The following provides key information about the appeals process.
- You must file your appeal within one year from the date of your VA Rating Decision Letter
- Complete the Notice of Disagreement which states you wish to appeal the rating
- Be sure that you have told them about all secondary service-related disabilities
- If you have lost records, you can file a VA Disability Buddy Statement when appealing your rating
- The law only requires you to show that your condition is “as likely as not” service-related
It’s important to file new evidence about your disability when submitting your claim form. For example, send medical records from an exam completed by a physician outside of the VA. This may help strengthen your claim.
Providing records from medical experts adds validity to your claim. If you have service-related cancer, send a report from your oncologist. You may also include reports from physicians or chiropractors if you have back problems.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a common problem for many veterans. Ask your psychologist to submit a report detailing your mental condition. Include the length of treatment and associations with your military service.
Consider getting a report describing your work limitations from a vocational expert. This details how your injury or illness interferes with your ability to work. We will also review your case with our doctors and psychiatrists on staff to make sure we aren’t missing anything.
Additional VA Benefits
Many veterans don’t know about all the compensation benefits they’re eligible for. Once you’re approved for a VA disability, you and your family can apply for extra benefits.
You may receive monthly compensation for dependent children or even dependent parents. If your disability causes you to need special assistance, you can file for the A&A benefit. Aid and Attendance (A&A) Benefits pay for you to receive extra help.
Sometimes, the VA disability approval process grants benefits, and then the veteran dies. In these cases, the widow may receive compensation. The surviving spouse should file for the DIC Benefits for Widows.
If you win your VA disability rating appeal, you can receive back pay. This means the VA will give you a lump sum check. This includes the amount you’re owed back to the effective date.
It’s important that you contact the VA or an attorney before filing or entering the appeal process. Your chance of qualifying for these extra benefits increases if you apply early.
One of our VA disability lawyers talks about DIC benefits for widows and surviving spouses.
Total Disability Individual Unemployability Benefits
If you can’t work, you may file for Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits. This compensation pay equals a 100% VA disability rating.
The VA will determine if you’re unemployable. The severity and number of service-related problems aren’t the only factors considered.
The TDIU will allow you to receive benefits and still work. Yet, you must need significant accommodations in order to perform your job duties. Examples of special accommodations include:
- No penalty for missed work related to your disability
- Adjustments if you can’t sit or stand for a long time
- Adjustments if you’re unable to interact effectively with customers
- No penalty for being late to work
Be sure to show that the accommodations made for you are different than for other employees. If the business operates in this manner for everyone, you aren’t getting special help. Many veterans with disabilities work for friends or family that wish to help them do as much as possible.
Do You Need Help Filing a VA Disability Claim or Appeal?
One of the many illnesses that military veterans develop is chronic B-cell leukemia. This article provided an overview of this type of cancer. You also learned that it’s a presumptive disease connected to Agent Orange exposure.
The process for filing VA disability compensation applications and obtaining a disability rating is often difficult. Veterans may also miss out on applying for compensation due to passing cut-off dates and bureaucratic rigmarole.
For this reason, hiring an attorney that specializes in VA Disability cases can offer a vast benefit. Woods & Woods has helped veterans with disability claims since 1985. During this time, we’ve provided representation for thousands of disabled veterans.
We strive to help you receive the highest VA disability rating that correlates to your service-related condition. Our attorneys know the ins and outs of appealing VA benefit decisions. We also want you to know that you won’t receive a bill unless we win the appeal. All legal consultations are free. You also aren’t obligated to use our practice after receiving a consultation.
Contact us today to discuss your questions and get the help you need.