Amendment Would Force VA to Provide Bladder Cancer Benefits to Vets Exposed to Agent Orange

Bladder cancer may soon (and finally) be recognized as a condition caused by exposure to Agent Orange during military service. On July 22, 2020, the U.S. Senate amended the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to include a provision that expands the list of conditions associated with exposure to Agent Orange.

What does this amendment mean for veterans with bladder cancer?

The amendment adds bladder cancer, hypothyroidism (low thyroid function), hypertension, and Parkinsonism to the list of health conditions for which the Veterans Administration (VA) must provide disability benefits and care.1,2

The legislation was sponsored by U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) with bipartisan support. Without this amendment, veterans and their families can be denied disability benefits and healthcare for these medical conditions. Bladder cancer will not be covered until the NDAA passes both houses of Congress.

Other conditions currently linked to Agent Orange

Other health conditions acknowledged as probably caused by exposure to Agent Orange during military service and currently covered by the VA include:2

  • Chronic B-cell leukemia
  • Hodgkin’s disease
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Prostate cancer
  • Lungs, larynx, trachea, and bronchus cancers
  • Soft tissue sarcomas
  • AL amyloidosis
  • Chloracne
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Ischemic heart disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Peripheral neuropathy, early-onset
  • Porphyria cutanea tarda, a rare liver disease

Where veterans and survivors can find help

If you think you were exposed to Agent Orange, you should tell your doctor. Your doctor can help you get cancer screenings and monitor you for early symptoms.

You may also request a VA Agent Orange Registry health exam. You do not need to have an illness or be enrolled in the VA health system for this. It is a free exam that can alert you to Agent Orange-related health problems. You just need to have served in a location where the military used Agent Orange. The sites and years of service include:3

  • In Vietnam, 1962-1975
  • Near the Korean Demilitarized Zone, 1967-1971
  • On Thai Air Force Bases, 1962-1975
  • On C-123 airplanes, 1969-1986
  • Any location if you tested, moved, or sprayed herbicides

Contact your local VA environmental health coordinator to enroll in the VA Agent Orange Registry health exam.4

Qualifying for disability benefits

If you have a health condition you think may have been caused by Agent Orange, you may qualify for healthcare and disability benefits. You need a medical record that shows you have an Agent Orange-related illness. You also need a military record showing service in a location exposed to Agent Orange. It can take the VA more than 100 days to process your claim. Contact the VA for help filing a claim for these benefits.5,6

Contact the VA Office of Survivors’ Assistance

If you have an illness you believe was caused by Agent Orange but it is not on the VA’s list of approved conditions, you can still file a claim. You will need to show evidence that the condition may be related to Agent Orange exposure and that it began or got worse due to your military service.5

The VA provides benefits and healthcare to spouses and dependent children of veterans who died as a result of an Agent Orange-related illness. Contact the VA Office of Survivors’ Assistance to apply for these benefits.7

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