Choroidal Melanoma; Source: Gabriel DonaldThe Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ has a troubling track record of refusing to award disability benefits to veterans in need. This is particularly true when it comes to Vietnam veterans. Veterans who developed bile-duct cancer after being exposed to parasite-infested water in Vietnam (link to “Dangerous Waters in Vietnam” article), for example, have been consistently denied benefits, and the same is true for veterans with illnesses related to Agent Orange exposure (link to “Shulkin Delays Approval of New Agent Orange Related Presumptive Conditions”).

While the VA has identified 14 Agent Orange-related conditions as presumptively service-connected, it has failed to acknowledge many more, including one that seems to have become endemic in the veterans’ community: Choroidal Melanoma.

Veterans Are 17 Times More Likely to Develop Eye Cancer

When Mark Rutz, a Vietnam veteran who was exposed to Agent Orange, lost an eye due to a rare and extremely dangerous form of eye cancer called Choroidal Melanoma, he and his wife, Beth, started doing some digging. What they found was shocking.

After filing a Freedom of Information Act request with the VA, they received documents which indicated that the occurrence rate of Choroidal Melanoma was 17 times higher in veterans than in non-veterans. To the Rutz’s, this statistic was a clear sign that Agent Orange was the likely cause.

Choroidal Melanoma May Be Linked to Agent Orange

Despite the high veteran-diagnosis rate discovered by the Rutz’s and the fact that Agent Orange is now definitively known to cause several types of cancer, the VA has been slow to consider adding Choroidal Melanoma to the list of presumptively service-connected conditions.

Earlier this year, the Blinded Veterans’ Association urged Congress and the VA to complete a study on the links between Agent Orange and Choroidal Melanoma, however the results of that request are unclear.

Lack of Presumption Makes It Hard for Veterans to Obtain Well-Deserved Benefits

Because the VA has not deemed Choroidal Melanoma service-connected, the veteran bears the exceptionally difficult burden of proving the connection between the cancer and Agent Orange exposure. While difficult, proving service connection without presumption is not impossible. We have been proving non-presumtive cancers are related to Agent Orange for many years. Without the presumption, you must find a good medical expert to provde the nexus, which is exactly what we do.  

How to Get the Benefits You Are Entitled To

If you have Choroidal Melanoma you should apply for benefits and submit a nexus opinion from your doctor. After all, you served, and you absolutely deserve your veterans’ benefits.

Unfortunately, many VA Regional Offices (“RO”) may deny the initial application or give you an unacceptable disability rating. Working with an experienced veterans’ law attorney to appeal the decision often leads to success. With decades of combined experience winning disability benefits for deserving veterans, we are confident that we can get you the benefits you are entitled to. If you aren’t happy with your RO decision, send us a note here or give us a call at (877) 629-1712 to see if we can help you win your appeal. 

Join The Conversation
Ronald Hepp 02/07/2018 02:43 PM
I am a Vietnam Vet ( 1966-7) we saw A.O. Sprayed from planes and also patrolled through the dead jungle it caused. In 1979 I had my left eye removed due to a malignant melanoma tumor. Doctors said it was very,very, rare for my age ( 34 ) at the time. Usually people in their 70's and 80's develop the eye cancer. Once everything about Agent Orange came out in the 80's I believe, I filed a claim with the V.A. which was denied of course ( 1993 ). I appealed and denied again in 1996. So here I sit today 20 yrs or so later, waiting to see if skin cancer will presumptive as it should be. Thx
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