Steps for Veterans with an MPN filing for VA Benefits
Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) does not recognize myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs) as a service-related illness due to exposure to Agent Orange/Dioxin. As a result, most benefit claims filed by veterans who were diagnosed with essential thrombocythemia, polycythemia vera or myelofibrosis have been denied, at least initially. Until the VA includes MPNs on their ‘presumptive’ list of service-related illnesses, veterans must appeal and continue to fight their battle on a case-by-case basis.
It is important to note, there are cases of veterans with an MPN having been approved by the VA on appeal. MPN Advocacy & Education International urges veterans to pursue their claims and continue to push the VA, even if the initial request was denied. In addition, please add your name to our database so that you can continue to get updates on MPN Advocacy & Education International’s efforts to have MPNs placed on the ‘presumptive’ list-click here to join our database.
The following information has been compiled by MPN Advocacy & Education International to help veterans seeking VA compensation.
Start the Process:
A crucial first step for any veteran who believes they have an illness related to exposure to Agent Orange during their military service is to schedule a meeting with their local VA Environmental Health Coordinator. Keep in mind some VA offices have more staff and resources available to them than others, which is why we believe compiling this information in advance will help you better navigate the process of filing a claim.
Summarize Your Story:
A short, 1-2 page summary of your diagnosis, your military service, the details of your exposure to Agent Orange Dioxin and/or other chemicals, the specific duties performed during service. You can attach any additional documentation to the summary.
Ask Your Doctor(s) for a Letter:
A vital piece to any claim for benefits related to an MPN diagnosis is creating a nexus-a connection between the diagnosis and the exposure to Agent Orange/Dioxin. This is also known as the Shedden Element, where veterans seeking benefits must prove (1) the existence of a present disability; (2) in-service incurrence or aggravation of a disease or injury; and (3) a causal relationship between the present disability and the disease or injury incurred or aggravated during service.
If your doctor believes your illness is more than likely due to your exposure to Agent Orange or other chemicals, ask him/her to write a letter describing your diagnosis (including dates), a brief statement as to why they believe it could be service related, including any tests done to eliminate a genetic predisposition for the disease. This does not have to be more than one page. We have seen approved cases with a paragraph letter from their hematologist.
Many letters from physicians have included an explanation of the patient’s exposure to the chemicals and the fact that MPNs can have a delayed onset.
“Myelofibrosis is not a disease that arises quickly after exposure, but it affects each patient differently and may take decades to appear. It is likely the MF arose as a result of patient’s exposure during his military service.” (hematologist letter in a case where benefits were approved on appeal)
Research Other Claims:
The VA has a site where you can search benefit claims made by veterans, including cases that were granted for MPNs However, please note this site covers all benefit claims made by veterans for service-related illnesses, the more specific in your search terms the better.