You may have seen news reports about bile duct cancer affecting many veterans who served in Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and other Southeast Asia countries. I have started to notice this cancer in veterans with whom I have spoken recently.
The more technical term for bile duct cancer is cholangiocarcinoma. Cholangiocarcinoma is an extremely rare form of cancer in the United States. But, it is fairly common in Southeast Asia and affects many people who live in Vietnam and Thailand.
Veterans who served in Southeast Asia and developed bile duct cancer often have questions about whether that cancer is service connected. In this article, I will discuss how bile duct cancer could be service connected and whether Vietnam veterans receive a presumption of service connection for bile duct cancer.
VA benefits cover conditions that are connected to a veteran’s military service. This not only includes conditions which develop as a result of combat or noncombat duties. It also covers veterans for conditions which develop as a result of most things they do during their military service.
One of the risk factors for bile duct cancer is liver fluke infections. Liver flukes are very prevalent parasites in that region of the world. An individual can be infected with these parasites by eating raw or under-cooked fish
Many veterans ate raw or under-cooked fish to supplement their diet while they were serving in Southeast Asia. If you eat these infected fish, then the parasite can infect you.
Even when you are infected with this parasite, it is often a relatively low-level infection. A lot of times there are hardly any symptoms of it. Because of that, veterans usually do not know for many years that they have been infected.
Over time, this parasite causes a chronic inflammation of the bile duct tissues. That chronic inflammation can result in cholangiocarcinoma.
Unfortunately, this is a cancer that usually is not detected very early. Because of that, it is often very serious or terminal for the person who is diagnosed.
Do I get an Agent Orange presumption that my bile duct cancer was caused by my service in Southeast Asia?
Many Vietnam veterans receive the presumption that they were exposed to Agent Orange during their military service. For veterans exposed to Agent Orange, VA presumes that certainly conditions are service-connected. There is a whole list of diseases and conditions that are presumptively service connected to service in Vietnam.
The important thing to remember is that the conditions are presumptively related to Agent Orange exposure, not service in Vietnam. Bile duct cancer is not currently one of the conditions which VA presumes to be caused by Agent Orange exposure.
If you are making a claim either for VA benefits for bile duct cancer, you will need to establish service connection. VA will not grant you the presumption of service connection since bile duct cancer is not on the Agent Orange list.
This will require actual evidence in the form of medical evidence that there is a nexus between your military service and your development of the bile duct cancer. This can be done, but just be sure not to assume that VA is going to service connect your cancer based on your service in Vietnam alone.
If my spouse passed away from bile duct cancer, can I file a claim for VA benefits?
Yes. Unfortunately, bile duct cancer can be a terminal disease. Some veterans who develop bile duct cancer from their service pass away before they file a claim for benefits.
When a veteran dies from a condition that is service connected, the veteran’s spouse can file a claim for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits. This article discusses DIC benefits in more detail.
What if VA denies my bile duct cancer claim?
It is possible that VA may deny your claim even if you produce evidence of service-connection. Do not give up. You will want to consider filing an appeal of that denial.
Many veterans find it helpful to have someone assisting them with fighting a VA denial. Our firm provides free consultations to veterans who have questions about their VA claim and have appealed or are considering appealing a denial. This allows you the opportunity to get answers to your questions and figure out whether we could help you.
This article describes how our free consultation process works. If you would like to start that process, there are two easy ways to do that. You can call our office at (770) 214-8885 or you can complete and submit our free consultation request form.
Travis Studdard is an attorney who focuses on representing veterans in VA disability compensation claims. He regularly writes about issues that are important to veterans and their families.
You can subscribe to his Veterans Disability channel on YouTube.