Resources for Veterans with Bladder Cancer
There are some risks that increase your chances of getting bladder cancer. Some risks cannot be avoided, like being male or being an advanced age. Other risks are environmental, like contact with chemicals, and these can also increase your risk of developing cancer. Your military service may have exposed you to unsafe chemicals, and this exposure could lead to health problems.1
What harmful chemicals are used by the military?
Harmful chemicals can be found in herbicides, unclean water, lead, and radiation. Herbicides, in particular, have been used by the military, and the government and health organizations are now aware that these are carcinogens, meaning that they can contribute to developing cancer.2-3
Chemicals used in the Vietnam War
Herbicides like Agent Orange and Agent Blue were used in the Vietnam War.4 Studies show that both Agent Orange and Agent Blue are carcinogens. 1,5
Did serving in the military cause my bladder cancer?
A 2016 report showed that bladder cancer is linked to Agent Orange and/or herbicide exposure. However, bladder cancer is not on the VA’s list of presumptive conditions related to Agent Orange, meaning that the VA hasn’t recognized Agent Orange as a cause of bladder cancer.4 There is enough evidence to suggest that herbicides can cause bladder cancer, and Agent Orange is linked to other cancers, too.3-6 The VA’s list of presumptive conditions is reviewed regularly, and bladder cancer advocates continue to work to get bladder cancer added to that list.
How do I know if I was exposed to Agent Orange?
The military used cancer-causing herbicides in many countries. These include the United States, Vietnam, Korea, and Thailand.7-8 Exposure also could have occurred where these chemicals were stored. The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) website has a list of exposures to Agent Orange by location.7
What if I think I was exposed to another cancer-causing chemical while in the military?
If you served in another war or are concerned about other chemicals, the VA has a list of military exposures.2 It provides information about military-related health conditions.
What should I do if I was exposed to chemicals in the service and I have bladder cancer?
You may be able to get disability benefits from the VA. You have to file a claim through the VA. You must prove your illness is caused by something you encountered while in the military. If the VA agrees with your claim, you could get compensation and also get health care. If you were exposed to Agent Orange specifically, you could get an Agent Orange exam.6,8
What is an Agent Orange exam?
This exam looks for problems caused by chemical exposure. It is performed by a VA doctor and is free if you qualify for the exam.5 You can reach out to a VA environmental health coordinator for an appointment. Coordinators are listed in the directory of environmental health coordinators.9
How do I file a claim with the VA?
Veterans can reach out to Veterans Service Organizations (VSO) for help. Their expertise and support can help tremendously when filing a claim.8 Some of these VSOs include:
- Vietnam Veterans of America
- American Legion
- Disabled American Veterans
- Military Order of the Purple Heart
- Paralyzed Veterans of America
- Veterans of Foreign Wars
The claim can be made online on the VA eBenefits website.8,10 You must gather all documents proving why your medical condition was caused by your time in the military. The Vietnam Veterans of America self-help guide has in-depth instructions for filing a claim.8
What if my claim is denied?
You can appeal the decision. Unfortunately, the appeal process can take a lot of time, so it’s important to be prepared. Working with a VSO can help you with both your initial application and the appeal process, if needed.
Additional benefits may be available
Veterans may qualify for state benefits. There are also benefits from the Social Security Administration.8 You can talk to your local Social Security Administration office or ask for help from a VSO.
Survivors of veterans may be able to get benefits
If your loved one served in the military and died from an illness caused by military chemical exposure, you may get benefits as a survivor.8 The benefits overview section of the VA website explains how to go about this process.11
There is help out there
Navigating the process of filing a claim with the VA is time-consuming and oftentimes confusing, but there is help out there. Reaching out to a VSO is a great first step in getting the help you deserve, and talking to others who have been through the process can help you get a better idea of what to expect. Are you a veteran with bladder cancer who has filed a claim with the VA? If you are comfortable, we welcome you to share your experience in the comments section below to help others be more prepared.
Did you know that May is Bladder Cancer Awareness Month?