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VA Disability Rating for Multiple Myeloma

Posted by Berry Law on May 6, 2022 in Disability Ratings

Some Veterans may have been exposed to harmful chemicals during their service. Certain branches have tasks that require the use of chemicals and substances harmful to the body.

Most people take the necessary precautions to be safe from any harmful side effects. However, even in the cases where people take the measures needed to protect themselves, Veterans may end up with disabilities or illnesses caused by the harmful chemicals.

One illness that is caused by exposure to harmful chemicals is multiple myeloma. In cases where a Veteran has the evidence to make a service connection for their multiple myeloma, they can gain benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Key Takeaways:

  • You’ll understand what multiple myeloma is
  • You’ll know the symptoms of multiple myeloma
  • You’ll learn about Agent Orange and its effect on Veterans
  • You’ll learn how to appeal for a higher disability rating

What Is Multiple Myeloma?

Multiple myeloma is a type of cancer that affects a particular type of white blood cell known as plasma cells.

It can be a deadly form of cancer since the function of plasma cells is to make antibodies to fight off infections. The cancerous plasma cells grow in the bone marrow and can cram our healthy cells.

Multiple myeloma can grow slowly over time. Because of this, some patients do not find treatment immediately necessary but rather have close monitoring of the growth of the cancerous cells. Such slow growth may not cause any signs or symptoms immediately either.

However, if the cancer needs treatment, there are multiple ways in which patients are able to seek treatment.

What Causes Multiple Myeloma?

There can be many factors that contribute to the growth of multiple myeloma. The primary way people get multiple myeloma is through exposure to chemicals.

To some Veterans, this can be a concern. Some military branches require service members to work with hazardous chemicals, even if proper precautions are taken.

Here is a list of certain toxic chemicals that have been known to cause multiple myeloma:

  • Dioxins (such as in Agent Orange)
  • Benzene
  • Solvents
  • Fuels
  • Pesticides
  • Engine exhaust

The first chemical, dioxin, may cause some Veterans to worry since this was a prevalent chemical that the military used in Vietnam. There are still many Vietnam Veterans affected by Agent Orange and the use of certain chemicals. 

What Are the Symptoms of Multiple Myeloma?

There are common symptoms across patients who have multiple myeloma.

Most of the symptoms include pain in the bones and back, fatigue, and infections. Here are a few more that a Veteran may experience:

  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

Sometimes, a Veteran may feel no symptoms at all. This usually occurs in cases where multiple myeloma develops slowly to the point that a patient may not even recognize it.

If a Veteran begins to feel any of these symptoms and they are persistent over time, they should see a doctor. A VA medical center will be able to diagnose the symptoms to determine whether or not it is multiple myeloma.

Agent Orange and Multiple Myeloma

There are still many Veterans alive today who served during the Vietnam War.

During the Vietnam War, different chemicals and herbicides were used to clear debris and brush in the surrounding environments of Vietnam. These chemicals had a specific purpose of clearing out brush and other forest environments in order to prevent the enemy from hiding. 

Little did the military know about the harmful side effects of being exposed to Agent Orange. Agent Orange was used from 1962 to 1971, which means many soldiers served during that time and would have been exposed to it.

If you are a Veteran who suffers from multiple myeloma and you served during the Vietnam War, Agent Orange may have caused it.

Later in the article, we will get into how making a claim for a disability or illness caused by Agent Orange differs from other claims made by Veterans through the VA. You should know that there is a presumption for Veterans to make a claim if they suffer from multiple myeloma and they served in the Vietnam War.

Veterans exposed to Agent Orange and have symptoms of multiple myeloma should contact their doctor and schedule a test to see whether or not they have multiple myeloma. From there, they should contact an attorney with experience with the VA to make a claim that will get the benefits that the Veteran deserves.

How To Prove Agent Orange Caused Multiple Myeloma

In some ways, proving that a Veteran’s service caused multiple myeloma is more straightforward than other claims that Veterans may make.

The VA presumes that Agent Orange caused certain illnesses and disabilities if a Veteran served during the Vietnam War and was exposed to it.

All the Veteran has to do is prove they were exposed to Agent Orange and have a current diagnosis of multiple myeloma.

The VA has specific qualifications for Veterans who served during the Vietnam War and who they presume were exposed to Agent Orange:

  • Served in Vietnam from January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975. This can include onshore visits and work on ships offshore.
  • Served on or near the Korean demilitarized zone between April 1, 1968, and August 31, 1971.
  • Served in the Air Force and regularly operated a C-123 aircraft that sprayed Agent Orange over Vietnam from 1969 to 1986.

If you are a Veteran that meets these qualifications and suffers from multiple myeloma, you are entitled to benefits from the VA.

How To Appeal for a Higher Disability Rating

Many Veterans that make a claim through the VA end up with a disability rating that is lower than what they were expecting. 

This happens all too often with the VA. Sadly, Veterans overlook many things that they are not even aware of that keep them from getting the rating they want.

When the VA gives a Veteran a low disability rating, they have the opportunity to appeal the VA’s decision.

One thing to note is that Veterans must get onto the appeal process quickly after the VA makes its initial decision. This is because there is a deadline of one year for a Veteran to appeal. If they miss this one-year deadline, they will have to reopen the claim and start the whole process over again.

If you are a Veteran and are in need of benefits, you will not want to wait. This will only significantly increase the time it takes to receive your benefits.

The appeal process is notoriously difficult and cumbersome. In many ways, it is more complicated and takes longer than the initial claims process.

This is where an experienced attorney comes to the aid of Veterans. Veterans should not go about the appeal process alone. They may make the same mistakes that keep them from getting the benefits they deserve.

Most of the time, a VA denial or low disability rating results from the lack of evidence that they need to find a claim convincing. 

When this happens, it is up to the Veteran to gather the necessary evidence and data to prove to the VA that they deserve a higher disability rating. The VA makes many mistakes because so much detail surrounds disability rating.

Gathering service records, medical records, or buddy statements can be significant steps toward making a practical appeal.

An experienced attorney familiar with the VA’s process, such as Berry Law, will know what the VA is looking for if they are to make a different decision concerning a Veteran’s disability rating.

Conclusion

Because multiple myeloma can be caused by exposure to chemicals such as Agent Orange, certain aspects of the claims process are more accessible than other forms. All the Veteran has to do is show that they have a current diagnosis of multiple myeloma and that they served during the Vietnam War and were exposed to Agent Orange.

The VA gives various ratings depending on the severity of the symptoms and the evidence that the Veteran can compile. In instances where the Veteran feels as though they deserve a higher rating, they should contact an attorney so that they can start the appeal process immediately.

For more information on VA benefits and compensation, visit our website.

Sources:

Multiple myeloma – Symptoms and causes Mayo Clinic

Do You Have Myeloma?