Prostate cancer in the Vietnam veteran is a presumptive condition. If you choose watchful
waiting as your treatment, your 100% rating will continue uninterrupted.
There is no end to the 100% rating until you have definitive treatment such as surgery or radiation.
Once you have definitive treatment (surgery, radiation) your future rating will be modified
to reflect that your cancer is gone. Without cancer, you will no longer be rated at 100%.
Your rating will reflect the residual effects of treatment. Most veterans will have a 40% or
60% rating. Whether you have 40% or 60% will largely depend on how many pads or
adult diapers you soil each day, how many nighttime awakenings occur for you to
urinate and the degree of frequency and urgency you experience when you need to urinate.
Erectile dysfunction is rated as SMC-k (Special Monthly Compensation -k) condition.
It is paid separate from your overall rating. You must ask for the SMC-k benefit.
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Prostate Cancer and Agent Orange
Veterans who develop prostate cancer and were exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides during military service do not have to prove a connection between their prostate cancer and service to be eligible to receive VA health care and disability compensation.
About prostate cancer
Prostate cancer is cancer of the prostate, a small gland in the male reproductive system.
Some men may have urinary problems, but some men don't have symptoms early on. If you have any health concerns, talk with your health care provider.
The greatest risk factor for prostate cancer is increasing age. Other risk factors include having a father or brother with the disease and being African American.
Prostate cancer is often first detected with a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test or digital rectal exam. Talk with your health care provider about your risk and the pros and cons of screening.
VA benefits for prostate cancer
Veterans with prostate cancer who were exposed to herbicides during service may be eligible for disability compensation and health care.
Veterans who served in Vietnam, the Korean demilitarized zone or another area where Agent Orange was sprayed may be eligible for a free Agent Orange registry health exam.
Surviving spouses, dependent children and dependent parents of Veterans who were exposed to herbicides during military service and died as the result of prostate cancer may be eligible for survivors' benefits.
Research on prostate cancer and herbicides
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences concluded in its 1996 report Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 1996 and in future updates that there is limited/suggestive evidence of a positive association between prostate cancer and exposure to herbicides used in Vietnam.
A 2013 study conducted at the Portland VA Medical Center and Oregon Health and Science University found that Veterans exposed to Agent Orange are not only at higher risk for prostate cancer, but they are more likely to have aggressive forms of the disease. Read the abstract for the publication, Agent Orange as a risk factor for high-grade prostate cancer.
View more research on health effects of Agent Orange.
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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 many 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.
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