The A - Z Guide: Veterans VA Disability Benefits
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Veterans Disability

Prostate Cancer    The Vietnam Veteran    Agent Orange

Residual Ratings   Erectile Dysfunction   Watchful Waiting

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The veteran diagnosed with prostate cancer has a tough decision to make.

Will he choose to treat the cancer or will he decide to live with it? The need for treatment is hotly debated and has been for years. One thing is for sure...treatment leaves most men impotent and with urinary incontinence for life.

For the Vietnam veteran the decision becomes more complex. A diagnosis of prostate cancer in the RVN vet is a "presumptive" condition and the VA cedes that due to the veterans exposure to agent orange, the cancer is service connected and rated at 100% disabling.

Once treated the cancer is gone and the 100% rating for cancer is no longer applicable. VA then turns to the "residuals" of treatment to rate the veteran. Residuals are secondary effects related to the surgery or radiation that occurred to "cure" the prostate cancer. The usual residuals are incontinence (leaking, requiring the use of pads or "adult diapers") and impotence (erectile dysfunction).

The usual rating for the residuals will fall between 20% and 60% and often require appeal to reach a proper decision.

Interestingly, the veteran who chooses "watchful waiting" and does not get treated will retain the 100% rating until he dies...usually death comes from another cause, not the cancer.

How does that happen? Simple...a diagnosis of cancer calls for 100%. Once treated the cancer is gone. The veteran can't be rated for 100% if the cancer isn't there. With watchful waiting the cancer remains intact and the 100% rating is required.

The decision must be made in close consultation with a physician you trust. Keep in mind that there is no rush to have anything done after a diagnosis of prostate cancer. Take plenty of time to read and study and to talk to your family. Whatever you decide will be the right decision for you.

 Surgery No Better Than Waiting For Most Men With Prostate Cancer

Over the course of the study almost half of the 731 men who chose to participate died. But only 52, or 7 percent of the total, died from prostate cancer. There was no significance difference in the number of deaths among the patients assigned to waiting versus surgery.

Open prostatectomy (prostate surgery) risks

Watchful Waiting  (active surveillance)

The Genitourinary System

§4.115b  Ratings of the genitourinary system—diagnoses.

Note: When evaluating any claim involving loss or loss of use of one or more creative organs, refer to §3.350 of this chapter to determine whether the veteran may be entitled to special monthly compensation. Footnotes in the schedule indicate conditions which potentially establish entitlement to special monthly compensation; however, there are other conditions in this section which under certain circumstances also establish entitlement to special monthly compensation.

4.115 - Nephritis
4.115a - Ratings of the Genitourinary System - Dysfunction
4.115b - Ratings of the Genitourinary System - Diagnoses

7528 Malignant neoplasms of the genitourinary system 100%

Note: Following the cessation of surgical, X-ray, antineoplastic chemotherapy or other therapeutic procedure, the rating of 100 percent shall continue with a mandatory VA examination at the expiration of six months. Any change in evaluation based upon that or any subsequent examination shall be subject to the provisions of §3.105(e) of this chapter. If there has been no local recurrence or metastasis, rate on residuals as voiding dysfunction or renal dysfunction, whichever is predominant.

Jim Strickland  Published on VAWatchdog dot Org

It is widely known and accepted that men and women who served in Vietnam were exposed to a chemical that has caused significant health concerns. Whether you refer to it as Agent Orange, a defoliant, an herbicide or dioxin, anyone that served with their boots on the ground of the Republic of Vietnam received some dose of the chemical.

Over the years the Department of Veterans Affairs (the DVA or just "VA") has ceded that there are known health risks that stem from this exposure. During the decades following the end of that war, there has been a list of conditions that are presumed to have been caused, contributed to or aggravated by the exposure to Agent Orange.

The "Presumptive List"  isn't without its detractors and controversy. If a 63 year old Vietnam veteran is diagnosed with lung cancer this year, was it the long term effects of his pack a day cigarette habit that caused the disease or was it the effect of exposure to dioxin in 1967? While it's impossible to determine an answer to each individual case, the law is clear; The VA must default to a presumption that the tumor is connected to the RVN service and the award of benefits is mostly on autopilot with no proof of cause and effect required.

The same is true of prostate cancer. The veteran who has a history of Vietnam service and who is today diagnosed with prostate cancer will be awarded service connected disability benefits for the condition. Prostate cancer is presumed to be connected to the vet's RVN service and exposure to Agent Orange.

Whether a man is a Vietnam veteran or not, to think about prostate cancer is to accept that many of us are going to get the disease sooner or later. It's almost another rite of passage for men as they age.

Any discussion about the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer becomes contentious almost immediately. To screen via the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test or not to screen? Does the Digital Rectal Examination (DRE) of the prostate make for a better diagnosis or is it simply a test designed to make a man cringe? The PSA test tries to identify a trend of a rise in the level of the PSA marker that would indicate that there may be a problem while the DRE allows the examiner to feel hardened lumps that may be tumor.

If either of those tests are positive, the man is usually referred to a urologist who will then take a biopsy of the prostate gland itself. The biopsy process is also an imperfect diagnostic tool. Consider that the surgeon is trying to locate a tumor (or tumors) that may be the size of a BB in an organ that is the size of a walnut. He stabs at it with a needle, more or less blindly, in hopes of retrieving some few cells that can be diagnosed to show cancer or not. If he misses the tumor you may get a clean bill of health but still carry the cancer. If a good specimen is obtained, the tumor hit may be a low grade of cancer while the tumor missed may be a higher grade and much more aggressive.

If you're the Vietnam veteran (or any man) with a suspected or even a confirmed prostate cancer, you have a lot of decisions to make. Those decisions are hard enough but for the RVN vet they get even more convoluted...more on that in a moment.

The New York Times recently published a great article about the most recent international studies about men and their prostates.

The bottom line, according to columnist Tara Parker-Pope is that, "...two major studies from the United States and Europe found that P.S.A. testing — the annual blood test used to screen men for prostate cancer — saves few, if any, lives while exposing patients to aggressive and unnecessary treatments that can leave them impotent and incontinent."

The very words, "impotent and incontinent" are enough to strike terror into the hearts of the most decorated combat veteran. If the shouts of "incoming" didn't frighten you back then, those words surely will.

Is that what awaits us...erectile dysfunction and a change of diapers 6 times each day?

Maybe, maybe not.

Ms. Parker-Pope's article describes some of the more modern thinking about whether or not a man should even bother with screening. It's easy to accept that a man of age 70 or so who is diagnosed with prostate cancer may easily choose to leave it be. Most prostate cancers are very slow growing and take as long or longer than 10 years to cause a death. In that case, the treatments available...radical surgery and/or intensive radiation therapy may cause his death long before the 10 years has passed.

If you're younger than 70 but you have other health care issues that are likely to cause your demise, may wish to ignore the prostate cancer and avoid the side effects of treatments.

Choosing your treatment, should you decide to be treated, is ultimately one of the most important decisions you'll ever make. My mailbag is peppered weekly with veterans who have made successful recoveries after surgery and they are returning to work and those who are just miserable with a constant leakage they didn't anticipate.

It Can Be Done: Suing The Veterans Administration

Jeffrey A. Milman, Esq. Founding Partner at Hodes-Milman-Lieback-Mosier

VA Malpractice

There are nearly 25 million veterans living in the United States today. These brave men and women who defended our nation deserve compassion and care. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is responsible for providing health care and other benefits to these veterans and their dependents; however, in recent years a number of veterans associations and regulatory groups have drawn attention to substandard care and conditions at many VA hospitals.

This epidemic of substandard care can have a detrimental effect on the victim’s quality of life, and may even result in permanent injury or even death. If you believe that you or someone you love may have a VA hospital medical malpractice claim, the lawyers at Hodes Milman Liebeck Mosier can help.

Our experienced team has the knowledge and resources to assist you in taking legal action against the Veterans Administration under the Federal Tort Claims Act, a process that can be unduly confusing and complex without the guidance of an attorney with particular experience in filing malpractice claims on behalf of veterans.

VA malpractice is medical malpractice, and victims are entitled to appropriate compensation for their hardship and suffering.

Prostate Cancer

It's reported that 1 in 6 men in America will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. In 2008, 186,000 men will be diagnosed and over 28,000 men will die of the disease. Risk factors are age, ethnicity, family history, and lifestyle. African-American men are 61% more likely to develop prostate cancer and 2.5 times more likely to die from the disease.

The Vietnam Veteran and Prostate Cancer

Most references that provide information about prostate cancer don't list military service in Vietnam or other exposure to Agent Orange as a risk factor.  This seems incongruous when we know that Vietnam era veterans constituted the largest group of veterans in Census 2000, accounting for 8.4 million people or 31.7 percent of the total veteran population.

The Prostate Cancer Foundation touts itself as, "the world’s leading philanthropic organization for funding prostate-cancer research" yet makes no mention of Vietnam veterans.

At the web site for the National Cancer Institute, no mention of either Agent Orange nor the Vietnam veteran is found. Following the trend, The Mayo Clinic and Medline Plus choose to ignore the Vietnam veteran.

The Institute of Medicine points out that, "Since Update 2004, however, new evidence has emerged that service in Vietnam itself may be associated with a higher risk of prostate cancer. Although the explanations for that are unclear, the possibility needs to be taken into account in interpreting studies that bear on the relationship of Agent Orange exposure to prostate cancer."

"Veterans exposed to Agent Orange have higher rates of prostate cancer recurrence"

Prostate Cancer Treatment

Robotic Surgery


Side Effects (VA Term; Residuals)

Prostate Cancer; You should know:

When the Vietnam veteran is diagnosed, he will be rated at 100% throughout treatment. The treatment may take 6 months or so. At the end of the treatment it's usually determined (by PSA) that the veteran is cancer free.

If the veteran no longer has prostate cancer, the rating must change. The veteran is then reexamined and rated on "residuals" or after-effects of treatments.

The after effects are usually some combination of leakage and erectile dysfunction. The veteran is normally rated at 40% or 60% depending on how severe the leakage is, usually measured by the number of absorbent pads necessary per day.

ED is rated under the Special Monthly Compensation category of SMC-k, "Loss of a creative organ". Veterans must remember to ask for this benefit.

The Rating

7528 Malignant neoplasms of the genitourinary system...100%

Note--Following the cessation of surgical, X-ray, antineoplastic chemotherapy or other therapeutic procedure, the rating of 100% shall continue with a mandatory VA examination at the expiration of six months. Any change in evaluation based upon that or any subsequent examination shall be subject to the provisions of Sec. 3.105(e) of this chapter.

If there has been no local reoccurrence or metastasis, rate on residuals as voiding dysfunction or renal dysfunction, whichever is predominant.

Voiding dysfunction:  Rate particular condition as urine leakage, frequency, or   obstructed voiding  Continual Urine Leakage, Post Surgical Urinary Diversion,   Urinary Incontinence, or Stress Incontinence: 

Requiring the use of an appliance or the wearing of absorbent materials which must be changed more than 4 times per day 60% 

Requiring the wearing of absorbent materials which must be   changed 2 to 4 times per day 40% 

Requiring the wearing of absorbent materials which must be changed less than 2 times per day 20%

Urinary frequency: Daytime voiding interval less than one hour, or; awakening to void five or more times per night 40% 

Daytime voiding interval between one and two hours, or; awakening to void three to four times per night 20% 

Daytime voiding interval between two and three hours, or; awakening to void two times per night 10%