Agent Orange Study
Disability benefits for veterans exposed to Agent Orange continues to be a topic of importance to many Marrowforums members.
We recently removed a forum thread about a planned medical study of Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange. The medical center contacted us to explain that the study was not yet approved and not yet accepting applicants, and that information about it was not meant to be visible to search engines. The study web pages have since been removed.
News of the study will be shared at Marrowforums once the study is made public. In the meantime, you can find discussion threads about Agent Orange in the Insurance, Finances, Disability, Veterans Benefits forum.
Final ruling for AO19 is scheduled for May 2016.
"Proposed DC 7725 (Myelodysplastic Syndromes)
VA proposes to add a new DC 7725 for myelodysplastic syndromes because these conditions are relatively common in veterans and do not have a diagnostic code under which they can be appropriately evaluated. These syndromes, sometimes called “pre-leukemia” in the past, are a group of disorders associated with bone marrow dysfunction, in which healthy and mature red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets are not produced. Therefore, there may be a deficiency of any type of blood cell. About one-third of those with myelodysplastic syndromes progress to acute myelogenous leukemia in months or years. Some types of myelodysplastic syndromes are primary, in which there is no known cause for the syndromes, and others are secondary types, which develop after treatment with chemotherapy or radiation therapy for other diseases. The classification of these disorders is complex and differs among different medical organizations. Treatment depends in part on the specific disorder but also on many other factors. The mean overall survival time for these conditions is 6 months to 6 years.
VA proposes to evaluate myelodysplastic syndromes based on type and frequency of treatment and number of infections per 12-month period. VA also proposes to include in the evaluation criteria treatment with biologic therapy, either interferon alpha on an ongoing basis or erythropoiesis-stimulating agent (ESA) to boost red blood cell production. These treatments are used in some types of myelodysplastic disorders. VA proposes to provide evaluation levels of 100, 60, and 30 percent. VA proposes to assign 100 percent for either of the following: Requiring peripheral blood or bone marrow stem cell transplant, or requiring chemotherapy (including hypomethylating agents and immunmodulators, e.g., lenalidomide). VA proposes to assign 60 percent for either of the following: Requiring, on average, 4 or more blood or platelet transfusions per 12-month period, or infections requiring hospitalization, on average, 3 or more times per 12-month period. VA proposes to assign 30 percent for any of the following: Requiring, on average, 1 to 3 blood or platelet transfusions per 12-month period, infections requiring hospitalization, on average, 1 to 2 times per 12-month period; or requiring biologic therapy, either interferon alpha on an ongoing basis or erythropoiesis stimulating agent (ESA) for up to 12 weeks per 12-month period.
VA also proposes to add Note (1) stating that if this condition progresses to leukemia, to evaluate it as leukemia under DC 7703 and Note (2) stating that a 100-percent evaluation shall be assigned as of the date of hospital admission for peripheral blood or bone marrow stem cell transplant, or during the period of treatment with chemotherapy and shall continue with a mandatory VA examination six months following hospital discharge or, in the case of radioactive phosphorus or chemotherapy treatment, six months after completion of treatment. Note (2) would also state that any reduction in evaluation based upon that or any subsequent examination shall be subjectto the provisions of 38 CFR 3.105(e) and that, if there has been no recurrence, residuals will be rated under the appropriate diagnostic codes.
This will be interesting since I am a textbook case for this description (Proposed DC 7725 (Myelodysplastic Syndromes). Yesterday I saw a VA doctor to get my name and information in the VA records showing that I was exposed to Agent Orange, had MDS, a stem cell transplant and then a recurrence to leukemia. My primary objective was to get this in their database to contribute toward the study of MDS. The doctor was very good. I will be interested to see how my situation plays out with them. This was my first contact with the VA about anything.
I am a cold war veteran (1958-1962) and have no idea of what I was exposed to. I am 50% disabled so I am priority 1 for medical treatment and get all drugs free. VA doctors are a mixed bag. The best one found a 95% blockage in my LAD and fixed it after 6 other doctors over 4 years given the same symptoms ignored it. The worst was an oncologist who agreed that I had very high risk MDS and a transplant was my only hope. She then said the waiting list for transplants was so long that I would be dead by the time my number came up.
The proposal you attached is typical government speak. As I understand they will grant 100% disability from date of transplant for 6 months. At that time they will re-evaluate. Will they give 6 months retroactively? If the transplant was a success then you lose your disability. In my case I have chronic GVHD that does not really cause me any disability so I would be evaluated at 0%. They already provide all my drugs for free.
If you are cured from leukemia what would your basis for a claim be? If you have leukemia I would think your claim would be based on that. If not being treated for MDS then you have no claim for MDS.
To get a claim approved you need all three of these:
eligibility by your military service,
diagnosis of a "condition," and
evidence that the condition started during your military service or, if your condition was preexisting, that it was aggravated by military service.
From the VA proposal with cured MDS I am not sure how to address having a condition.
I have been successful in filing claims and helping others, so feel free to ask. You can get free help from your local VSO.
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