Bladder cancer is a health concern for many veterans. Exposure to Agent Orange, PFAS, and Camp Lejeune’s contaminated water is linked to this cancer, with approximately 3,200 veterans diagnosed annually.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recognizes bladder cancer as a presumptive illness, allowing veterans affected by this disease to access disability benefits more easily.
Bladder Cancer Symptoms
Early recognition of bladder cancer symptoms is crucial for timely diagnosis and effective treatment. These symptoms can be subtle and easily overlooked, so vigilance is key.
Common symptoms include:
- Hematuria: The presence of blood in urine, with or without pain.
- Urinary changes: Increased frequency or urgency of urination.
- Pelvic pain: Persistent pain in the pelvic area.
- Back pain: Lower back pain, on one side, can be indicative of bladder cancer.
Other symptoms, such as fatigue, weight loss, and swelling in the feet, may appear in advanced stages. Remember, other less serious conditions can mimic these symptoms. Therefore, a healthcare professional’s evaluation is vital for accurate diagnosis and treatment. Early detection improves the survival rate and expands treatment options.
Diagnosing bladder cancer typically involves a combination of tests and procedures:
- Urinalysis: This test checks for blood and other substances in the urine, often serving as the first indicator of a problem.
- Urine cytology: Examining urine samples under a microscope to identify cancer cells.
- Urine culture: Conducted to rule out the possibility of a urinary tract infection causing the symptoms.
- Cystoscopy: A procedure involving a cystoscope to inspect the inside of the bladder for tumors.
- Biopsies: Tissue samples are collected during cystoscopy for further analysis.
- Imaging tests: Ultrasounds, CT scans, or MRIs are used to determine if the cancer has spread beyond the bladder. Determining the extent of the cancer (staging) is critical for creating a treatment plan.
Advancements in medical technology have led to more precise diagnoses and better treatment outcomes for bladder cancer.
VA Disability Ratings for Bladder Cancer
The VA rates bladder cancer under Diagnostic Code 7528. This code is part of the rating schedule used to determine disability benefits for veterans. This specific code rates bladder cancer according to the following:
- Initial diagnosis and treatment phase: Upon diagnosis, veterans typically receive a temporary 100% disability rating. This rating reflects the significant impact of diagnosis, treatment, and recovery on the veteran’s life. This rating usually lasts up to six months following treatment completion.
- Post-treatment assessment: After six months, the VA re-evaluates the veteran’s condition. Treatment often leaves lingering health issues or complications. The focus at this stage is to assess these residual effects.
- Rating based on residual effects: The ongoing VA disability rating for bladder cancer is based on the severity of residual conditions. These long-term residuals may differ from those immediately following treatment and can include urinary incontinence, urinary frequency/urgency, and the need for intermittent or continuous catheterization. Each condition is assessed separately under the appropriate diagnostic code and assigned a rating based on its severity.
- Combining ratings for multiple symptoms: If there are multiple residual symptoms or conditions, each is rated separately. The VA then combines these ratings using its rating schedule to determine the veteran’s overall level of disability compensation.
- Special monthly compensation (SMC): In some cases, severe disabilities or special needs resulting from bladder cancer or its treatment might qualify the veteran for SMC. This is an additional benefit beyond the regular disability compensation.
- Regular reassessments: The VA may periodically reassess the veteran’s condition to adjust the disability rating if there is a change in the severity of the residual conditions.
The disability claims process can be complex and vary based on individual circumstances. Veterans are often advised to seek assistance from a VA representative or a qualified VA attorney to effectively navigate the process and ensure they receive the right support and compensation.
The Bottom Line
Remember, navigating the complexities of bladder cancer and VA benefits alone can feel overwhelming. That’s where Cameron Firm, PC, steps in. We’re a team of veterans and experienced legal professionals dedicated to helping veterans secure the benefits they deserve.
We understand the VA system inside and out and are passionate about fighting for your rights.
Don’t hesitate to reach out for a free consultation. We’ll help you navigate the claims process, answer your questions, and ensure you’re getting the full support you’ve earned.