If you are suffering from a respiratory disease and served in the Vietnam War or in other areas where agent orange was used, you are eligible for a free agent orange exam and could receive disability benefits to cover your health and living expenses. Because there is no definitive test that can prove exposure to agent orange, if you’re a veteran with respiratory cancer that served during a certain timeframe and in specific locations, it is assumed that you were exposed. As a result, you may be eligible for disability benefits from the VA.
Here at Woods and Woods, we are experienced in helping veterans build a case to prove their need for disability benefits. We can also help with appeals if you have been denied in the past or feel that you aren’t receiving adequate benefits based on the severity of your condition.
In this article about cancers caused by Agent Orange:
- What Types of Cancer Are Caused by Agent Orange?
- What Are Respiratory Diseases?
- What Are the Symptoms of Respiratory Cancer?
- What Are the Causes of Respiratory Cancer?
- How Do I Qualify for Benefits Because of My Respiratory Cancer?
- What to Expect at Your Agent Orange Registry Health Exam
- What Is the Average Compensation for Agent Orange VA Disability?
- Why Hire a Veteran’s Benefits Attorney?
- What To Do If Your Claim Is Denied
What Types of Cancer Are Caused by Agent Orange?
Agent orange has been linked to a number of serious illnesses, denoted as agent orange secondary conditions, including many types of cancer and other respiratory diseases. While the literature is always changing, here is a list of cancers that have been shown to have some link to agent orange:
- Soft tissue sarcoma
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL)
- Hodgkin lymphoma
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), including hairy cell leukemia and other chronic B-cell leukemias
- Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS), a precursor of multiple myeloma
- Respiratory cancers (lung, bronchus, trachea, larynx)
- Prostate cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Bladder cancer
While there may be other agent orange related cancers that may still be added to the list in the future, these are the ones that the American Cancer Association has listed as of 2021.
If you are wondering if your particular type of cancer might have been caused by exposure to agent orange, but don’t see it listed here, we are happy to provide you with a free consultation to see if you have a case. For example, you may be wondering, can colon cancer be caused by agent orange? While it is not on the current list of presumptive agent orange diseases, you may still have a legitimate claim to some degree of benefits.
What Are Respiratory Diseases?
Respiratory diseases are extremely common and can be caused by many different things. Because of the complexity of the lung system, there are a variety of respiratory diseases that affect different areas of the lungs. A respiratory disease is classified as an illness that affects the airways and other structures of the lungs.
Here is a list of the most common respiratory diseases:
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Chronic Bronchitis
- Lung Cancer
- Cystic Fibrosis/Bronchiectasis
- Pleural Effusion
While not all of these conditions have links to agent orange exposure, all forms of respiratory cancers, including lung cancer, have been shown to have some connection to agent orange. Veterans with respiratory cancer should undergo an agent orange health exam to help them determine if there is a service-related cause of their condition.
If you’ve contracted respiratory cancer from agent orange, the bottom line is that you may be eligible for disability benefits from the VA.
One of our VA disability lawyers goes over the Agent Orange Presumptive Conditions list in this video:
What Are the Symptoms of Respiratory Cancer?
One of the challenging aspects of respiratory cancer is that many people in the early stages do not exhibit any symptoms. Oftentimes, there are only symptoms after the cancer has spread, which can make treatment more challenging. The earlier you can catch your cancer, the better chance you have of surviving. Here are the top symptoms to look out for and speak to your doctor about:
- A lingering cough that won’t go away or gets increasingly worse
- Coughing up blood or rust-colored mucus
- Chest pain that makes deep breathing or laughing more difficult
- Hoarseness in your voice
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling weak or tired with regularity
- Chronic bronchitis or pneumonia
- Sudden onset of wheezing
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While any of these individually may not be an indication of respiratory cancer, if you notice multiple of the above symptoms that persist, speak to your doctor right away.
If your cancer has spread, you may notice any of the following:
- Bone pain
- Changes in your nervous system (headaches, dizziness, loss of balance, numbness in limbs, or seizures), which would indicate cancer in the brain
- Yellowing around the skin of the eyes, indicating cancer has spread to the liver
- Swelling lymph nodes around the neck or above the collarbone
What Are the Causes of Respiratory Cancer?
While many respiratory diseases are genetic, they are also often caused by workplaces or other environmental factors. The number one cause of the majority of respiratory diseases, including cancer, is smoking. The carcinogenic substances in cigarettes cause almost immediate damage to the lungs, but at first, the lungs are often able to repair this damage. Over time, however, they begin to lose the ability to repair this damage which can lead to more serious illness and cancer.
Other substances that contain carcinogens can cause similar damage, but don’t necessarily require extended exposure. Dioxin, which is present in agent orange can cause immediate, permanent damage to the lungs and other parts of the body.
While there are many other potential causes of lung and other respiratory cancers, all of the causes are not always known, this is why it is crucial that if you are a veteran that was exposed to agent orange, your cancer may be classified as an agent orange secondary connected condition.
VA Ratings for COPD
You can get VA Disability Benefits for COPD, Chronic Bronchitis, Emphesyma, and other service-connected lung injuries.
How Do I Qualify for Benefits Because of My Respiratory Cancer?
If you suspect that you have agent orange related lung disease, you must first get a diagnosis from your doctor from the list of presumptive diseases causes by agent orange exposure.
You also must meet one of the following qualifications:
- Service in Vietnam, for any length of time, between 1962 and 1975
- Blue Water Veterans: veterans who served aboard small river patrol boats in the waterways of Vietnam
- Navy veterans that served on a boat less than 12 nautical miles from the Vietnam/Cambodia demarcation line
- Service in or near the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between September 1st, 1967, and August 31st, 1971
- U.S. Army or Airforce Veterans who served in the Royal Thai Air Force on bases in Thailand between February 28th, 1961, and May 7th, 1975
- Veterans that flew or worked on C-123 aircraft between 1969 and 1986
- Any veterans who may have been exposed to herbicides during any military operation, including transport and spraying of the herbicide for military purposes.
If you have respiratory cancer and meet any of the above specifications, the VA will assume agent orange exposure and you will most likely qualify for some degree of disability benefits. If you do not yet have a diagnosis or are unsure of how to get this, you can undergo an agent orange registry health exam to determine your eligibility.
What to Expect at Your Agent Orange Registry Health Exam
The VA provides free access to a health exam for all veterans with potential exposure to agent orange, as delineated by the specifications noted above. If you fall into any of those categories and have health concerns, you schedule your free health exam to get entered into the VA agent orange registry, which will aid in your application for benefits and allow you to get updates as they are known.
The exam is completely free with no co-payment and enrollment in the VA’s health care system is not necessary. The exam will not confirm agent orange exposure as there is no reliable test to prove you were exposed, nor will your doctor be able to tell you exactly how much disability compensation you qualify for. However, the exam will help you get a diagnosis for your health concerns and help you connect your respiratory disease to your military service. Exam eligibility is also based on your memory of your time in the service and not your military records.
You can receive additional exams as necessary to diagnose new problems as they develop. Family of veterans are not eligible for these exams, however, as agent orange exposure is not believed to be contagious.
The exam will include a full physical, any necessary blood tests, imaging, x-rays or other procedures required to provide a diagnosis. The doctor will also ask for your health history and any known or suspected exposure to agent orange. When a diagnosis is reached, you will be provided with an agent orange respiratory cancer doctor letter.
What Is the Average Compensation for Agent Orange VA Disability?
The compensation for agent orange exposure varies greatly depending on the severity of your health condition. How much you are compensated is determined by the rating that you are given by the VA. The ratings range from 0% to 100% going up in 10% increments. The higher your rating, the more disability insurance you are guaranteed each month. These ratings are based on how debilitating the VA deems your condition and familial status. Because of this, there is no average claim for agent orange-related respiratory cancers as it will depend on when the cancer or other disease is discovered and how much it affects your ability to work.
Here is a video of one of our Veterans Disability Lawyers teaching you how to use our VA Disability Combined Ratings Calculator.
Why Hire a Veteran’s Benefits Attorney?
Navigating the bureaucracy of the VA can be extremely challenging and many of our clients have been denied their full benefits because of simple errors. We can also help you build a more compelling case to ensure that you are getting the maximum amount of benefits that you are eligible for.
Initial claims are often wrongly denied and require a complicated appeals process, which we can help you with. Our services are also offered on a contingent basis, meaning that we only make money if we win. There will never be any out-of-pocket expenses, we merely take a percentage of back pay owed. All future payments belong solely to the veteran and their family. Call us today for a free consultation to determine if we might be a good fit for you.
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What To Do If Your Claim Is Denied
If your initial claim is denied, we can help. Often these claims are denied incorrectly and require an appeals process. If you are a veteran that is suffering from agent orange respiratory cancer and were exposed to agent orange, you have a legal right to disability benefits from the VA and we will help you claim those life-saving benefits.
At Woods and Woods, the Veteran’s Firm, we’ve helped thousands of veterans with their VA disability applications and appeals. We’ve been adding staff and lawyers during the Covid pandemic to serve disabled veterans better in difficult times.
Call us today to discuss your VA disability appeal or your first application. The call is free and we won’t charge you a single fee until we win your case. We even pay for the postage for all of the documentation you send to our office. You can look for a VA disability attorney near you or call us and join the thousands of veterans living off of VA disability thanks to Woods and Woods.
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Just because the VA has given you a VA rating for your conditions doesn’t mean you’re done. You can still develop more conditions as you age, or your existing conditions can worsen. Let’s go over your file to make sure you’re getting all that you should from the VA.
They certainly can, but if you can prove you were in one of the presumptive areas at the right time, it doesn’t matter if you smoke. It’s still worth looking at your file, because many veterans exposed to jet fuel, fires, burn pits, and other chemicals are getting VA disability even if they smoke. We just need to prove that your condition is at least as likely as not as they say in the VA.