Lymphoma is among one of many cancers that can be connected to a veteran’s military service. Nearly 13,000 veterans with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma received VA disability compensation in 2021.
The prevalence of lymphoma in veterans is sometimes a result of exposure to toxic substances including Agent Orange, burn pits, radiation, or water contaminated with carcinogens.
Lymphoma and lymphatic cancers can be service connected either directly or as a secondary condition. They are also considered presumptive conditions under certain circumstances.
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In this article about lymphatic cancers:
- What is lymphoma?
- VA rating for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Lymphoma and toxic-exposed veterans
- How to get a VA rating for lymphoma
What is lymphoma?
Lymphoma is a type of cancer that begins in white blood cells, which are part of the lymphatic and immune systems. Lymphatic cancers are classified as either non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
What is the difference between non-Hodgkin’s and Hodgkin’s lymphoma?
Both Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma affect a type of white blood cell known as the lymphocyte. Diagnosing a patient with Hodgkin’s or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma requires the use of a microscope to determine if a specific cell, called the Reed-Sternberg cell, is present or not. A lymphocyte containing the Reed-Sternberg cell indicates the patient has Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which is a rare form of cancer.
People without the Reed Sternberg cell are diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which is among one of the most common cancers in the U.S.
This article will focus on non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
VA rating for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
Veterans who believe their lymphoma diagnosis is a result of military service may receive VA disability benefits if they can prove the connection–called a medical nexus.
The VA rates non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at 100% while it is active and while the veteran is in treatment. The VA requires a reexamination 2 years after treatment ends to determine a new rating based on any residual symptoms from the cancer and its treatment.
Sometimes treatments for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma have side effects–or what the VA calls residuals. For example, a veteran with cancer receives chemotherapy and radiation and experiences infertility as a result. The residual condition is eligible to receive a VA rating.
The most common category of non-Hodgkin lymphoma is B-cell lymphoma, which is named after the type of cell that is affected. About 85% of all non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas are B-cell. The rest affect the T-cells.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of the types of lymphomas (also labeled leukemias):
|B-cell lymphomas||T-cell lymphomas|
|Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL)||T-lymphoblastic lymphoma/leukemia|
|Follicular lymphoma||Peripheral T-cell lymphoma|
|Chronic lymphocytic leukemia||Cutaneous T-cell lymphomas|
|Small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL)*||Adult T-cell leukemia|
|Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL)||Angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma|
|Marginal zone lymphomas||Extranodal T-cell lymphoma|
|Burkitt lymphoma||Enteropathy-associated intestinal T-cell lymphoma|
|Lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma (Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia)||Anaplastic large cell lymphoma|
|Hairy cell leukemia||Peripheral T-cell lymphoma|
|Primary central nervous system (CNS) lymphoma|
|Primary intraocular lymphoma (lymphoma of the eye)|
Lymphoma and toxic-exposed veterans
Lymphoma is often linked to exposure to toxic substances, which is the case for many military service members. The VA includes lymphoma as a presumptive condition related to exposure to Agent Orange, burn pits, radiation, and contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. Presumptive service connection means the VA acknowledges the contaminant is the likely cause of a veteran’s condition and removes the burden of proving the medical nexus–or connection between the condition and military service–for the veteran.
Lymphoma and Agent Orange
Lymphatic cancer is among many health issues that have been linked to exposure to Agent Orange, a toxic herbicide the U.S. military used during the Vietnam War. Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and Hodgkin’s Disease are both among the presumptive conditions related to Agent Orange for veterans who served in certain locations.
Lymphoma in atomic veterans
Veterans exposed to radiation during their time in the service–whether from toxic waste, equipment, or weapons–can be presumptively service connected for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma as well as Hodgkin’s disease and receive disability benefits.
Links between burn pits and lymphoma
Many of our most recent veterans were exposed to smoke and other environmental contaminants from burn pits during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as other locations. The U.S. military used these areas of open land to dispose of waste by burning them in the open air.
The VA only recently started acknowledging presumptive connections related to burn pits for cancers and other serious conditions including lymphoma cancer of any type.
Lymphoma and water contamination at Camp Lejeune
For nearly 40 years, people who served, lived, and worked at Camp Lejeune were exposed to water contaminated with harmful toxins and have since developed multiple cancers and other serious health problems, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The VA recognizes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and seven other conditions as presumed to be connected to exposure to the water at Camp Lejeune.
In addition to VA disability benefits, veterans who served at Camp Lejeune for more than 30 days between Aug. 1, 1953, and Dec. 31, 1987, and suffer from lymphoma, are qualified to sue the federal government and seek a financial payout. The lawsuits are also open to civilians who lived, worked, or were otherwise exposed to the water on the base.
How to get a VA rating for lymphoma
The first step to receiving a rating for lymphatic cancer is to file a claim with the VA. It is important to have all of your forms needed and to respond to the VA in a timely manner.
Contact the team at Woods and Woods to file your claim or appeal a rating decision. The consultation is free and so is your claim. If you are appealing, you don’t pay anything unless you win your case.
All of our attorneys are VA-certified. Call us and join the thousands of veterans we have helped to receive the VA disability benefits they deserve.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Hodgkins and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma originate in a type of white blood cell known as the lymphocyte. The primary difference between Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is the type of cancer cell that grows in the lymphatic system.
While lymphoma is a common type of cancer found in veterans, it is one of many cancers related to military service. The VA Schedule of Ratings lists multiple cancers that are eligible for VA disability benefits directly, on a secondary basis, or as a presumptive condition.