Being a veteran that is diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma can feel like you just won the worst lottery in the world. It’s one of the rarest conditions, but it is a condition that is more common in veterans that have been exposed to Agent Orange and other military-use chemicals.
Table of contents
- What Is Lymphoma?
- The Veteran Factor with Cancer
- Presumptive Service Connection
- What Are the Benefits?
- Hodgkin’s Disease Is Rare
- Lymphoma Symptoms
- Ways to Treat Lymphoma
- Qualifying for Hodgkins Lymphoma Disability
- Other Qualifying Illnesses
- The Need for a Good Lawyer
- What’s Next For Your Disability Application?
What Is Lymphoma?
First, we need to answer a pretty basic question: what is lymphoma?
Lymphoma is a type of cancer. It gets its name because this type of cancer targets the lymphatic system within your body.
Hodgkin’s lymphoma is very rare. In fact, only 1% of lymphoma cases around the world are Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Other types of lymphoma are grouped under the term “non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma” also known as B-Cell Leukemia.
You might think the relative rarity of Hodgkin’s lymphoma would make it difficult for you to get VA disability benefits. But as long as your lymphoma meets certain qualifying conditions, you may qualify for disability.
The Veteran Factor with Cancer
Anyone can develop cancer. And non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL) is a relatively common type of cancer. However, these lymphomas have a special connection to older veterans that you should be aware of.
If you served in Vietnam and were exposed to Agent Orange (or other dangerous herbicides used by the government), you may be at an enhanced risk of developing Hodgin’s lymphoma or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The government spent years denying any connection between these chemicals and lymphoma. Because of those denials, it was nearly impossible for veterans to get the benefits they deserved.
Fortunately, that all changed back in 1991. This was when the Agent Orange Act was passed. Because of that, the VA now acknowledges the link between Agent Orange and NHL.
That act makes it easier for qualifying veterans to get VA benefits because of the presumptive service connection.
In this video about the Agent Orange Presumptives List, one of our VA disability lawyers explains how your conditions can be linked to a VA rating for Agent Orange.
Presumptive Service Connection
It usually takes a lot of paperwork to help establish your condition, the severity of your condition, and whether that condition was directly caused by your military service. It’s one reason many people rely on a good law firm to help them submit their application.
With Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, you actually benefit from a presumptive service connection. This means you do not have to prove an exact link between Agent Orange and your disease. And you don’t have to prove you were present during a specific Agent Orange incident.
The VA assumes that your time in Vietnam led to Agent Orange exposure and that the exposure led to your lymphoma. So long as your medical record doesn’t definitively prove your lymphoma was caused by something else, then you can benefit from the presumptive service connection.
What Are the Benefits?
Many veterans are interested in the potential VA disability benefits they may receive because of the lymphoma. But what are those benefits, exactly?
There are three primary VA disability benefits for these issues and any others caused by exposure to Agent Orange. Arguably, the most important benefit is healthcare, which will help you treat the cancer and manage your pain.
Another benefit includes direct compensation. This is important because, between lymphoma symptoms and treatment, you may not be able to work. If you are completely disabled because of lymphoma and its treatments, you should consider pursuing Social Security Administration benefits as well as TDIU VA disability benefits.
The final benefit: an Agent Orange registry health exam. Taking such an exam helps you to learn more about your body and how Agent Orange may have affected you. Additionally, taking this exam provides the government with additional information about Agent Orange and related diseases that may be helpful in treating other veterans.
Veterans themselves are the primary beneficiaries of these disability claims. However, qualified dependents (such as children with birth defects because of their parent’s Agent Orange exposure) may qualify.
Hodgkin’s Disease Is Rare
Cancer by itself is very common. You may be curious how rare your particular lymphoma is. And that depends on what type of lymphoma it is.
For example, non-Hodgin’s lymphoma accounts for 4% of cancers around the world. That number may look relatively low, but that actually makes NHL one of the most common kinds of cancers.
Hodgkin’s lymphoma (sometimes simply called Hodgkin’s disease) is a rarer subset of that. It only accounts for about 1% of the lymphoma cases around the world.
Sometimes, the hardest part of pursuing your lymphoma case can be getting that initial diagnosis. It’s important to understand what the different lymphoma symptoms are so that you can get yourself to your doctor right away.
As you have symptoms, keep a journal or a notebook to record their severity, treatment you received if any, and how you felt about it. If it kept you from working or caused you to lose your job, note that too. All of these details will be important for your C&P exam and ultimately your VA rating.
Here are some tips on your C&P exam from one of our VA disability lawyers.
What are the general signs of lymphoma? There are several different potential symptoms.
Now, some of the symptoms we’ve listed below may be caused by other things as well. That’s why you should pay special attention to see if you may be experiencing multiple symptoms. You should seek out medical attention to confirm any lymphoma diagnosis.
One of the most visible signs of lymphoma is the swelling of your lymph nodes. This swelling may or may not be painful, but it serves as an indication that something is affecting your lymphatic system.
Another common cause is fatigue. Granted, many different things may be causing you fatigue, so it’s important to try to isolate whether the lymphoma is responsible or not.
If you have lymphoma, you may also be experiencing weight loss. Remember, weight loss without any changes to your diet or exercise can be a major warning sign for a number of conditions.
You may also be experiencing things like night sweats and skin rashes. While these can also be caused by things like stress, these symptoms are usually your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong.
Some of the more serious warning signs include anemia or pain in your chest, bones, or abdomen. Those are less likely to be caused by something innocuous like stress.
We recommend that anyone worried about lymphoma seek medical attention right away. A trained doctor can help make a diagnosis, and you can begin pursuing your VA disability benefits right away.
Ways to Treat Lymphoma
The fact that it’s easy to qualify for lymphoma-based disability benefits may sound like good news. However, the reason it is easy to qualify is that the treatments are often worse than the disease itself.
The mildest form of treatment still involves fairly serious medication such as Interferon. And you will likely need surgical treatment to remove the various lymph nodes and vessels affected by the disease.
And because this is a form of cancer, you may undergo treatments such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy. These are the ways we aggressively fight off cancer, but they can leave you too drained to really do much of anything else.
Ultimately, this is why it’s easy to qualify for disability benefits when you have Hodgkin’s or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It’s because these diseases seriously affect the quality of life, and treatments for them may leave you feeling worse than ever.
Here one of our VA disability lawyers goes over the questions Woods and Woods are often asked about veterans disability claims and appeals.
Qualifying for Hodgkins Lymphoma Disability
While it’s relatively easy to qualify for VA disability with your lymphoma, you must still meet certain conditions in terms of your disease and treatment. Fortunately, those qualifying conditions are not very extreme.
The most basic qualification is a medical record showing that you have lymphoma or another illness caused by Agent Orange. In addition to that medical record, you will need to provide documentation for your military record.
Most of this documentation revolves around the time and place of your service. For example, you’ll need to show that you served in the Republic of Vietnam between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975. The amount of time you served does not matter, just that you served in that time or place.
Alternatively, you can prove that you served in the DMZ between September 1, 1967, and August 31, 1971. Or you can prove you were in a military vessel that entered Vietnam’s waterways or that you operated at least 12 nautical miles away from Vietnam and Cambodia’s demarcation line of waters.
Finally, you can attempt to prove that you were exposed to herbicides as part of your military service in areas other than Vietnam or the DMZ. So long as you are backed up by medical and military documents, you can proceed with the benefits application.
Other Qualifying Illnesses
Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma fall under many potential illnesses caused by Agent Orange. These include things like prostate cancer, leukemia, respiratory cancer, and more.
If you don’t have lymphoma but have one of these other Agent Orange-related diseases, you can still pursue the same kinds of disability benefits. And you may be able to get benefits for diseases that are not on the VA’s list.
Unfortunately, doing so puts the burden of proof squarely on your shoulders. You’ll need to prove that the condition is related to Agent Orange exposure. That means tracking down enough scientific and medical evidence to present to the VA.
Additionally, you’ll need to show that the problem either began or worsened because of your military service. This part will be much easier if you already have military records proving your exposure to Agent Orange.
Finally, your application will need to show that you currently have a disability and that the disability is connected to your exposure to Agent Orange. Consult with your doctor to provide the corresponding medical records for this application.
In all honesty, getting the VA to acknowledge that a disease outside of their list was caused by Agent Orange is going to be a long, uphill battle. If you haven’t already done so, it’s worth getting yourself a good VA disability lawyer who will be able to take your case all the way to court if that is necessary.
The Need for a Good Lawyer
You’ve probably noticed a certain word that hovers over all of this. And that word is “if.” Everything hinges on if you are approved or not when you apply for disability benefits.
Unfortunately, things aren’t always so clear cut. If your doctor doesn’t know exactly what paperwork to send, it can hurt your chances. For that matter, if you don’t understand the application inside and out, you may hurt your chances by submitting incorrect info.
And it is difficult to know what the VA is going to do. The country is full of people with qualifying disabilities that nonetheless did not qualify for the benefits they deserved.
That’s why it’s good to have a VA disability attorney in your corner. Such a lawyer understands every step of this process and can help you qualify for benefits.
For example, a VA disability attorney understands the exact records your doctor needs to submit. And they understand exactly what you need to say on your application. By helping you “speak the language,” a good attorney can make your case stronger right out of the gate.
And an attorney can help you make a strong appeal if your initial application is denied. Instead of giving up, why not hire a professional who can help you win this fight?
What’s Next For Your Disability Application?
Now you know more about Hodgkins Lymphoma disability benefits. But do you know who can help you with everything from an application to an appeal?
Our attorneys at Woods and Woods have dedicated their lives to helping you make your case and get every bit that you deserve. To see how we can help your case, contact us today!