Myelodysplatic syndrome (MDS) is a type of cancer, and which refers to a number of disorders related to cells in your bone marrow that produce malformed or malfunctioning blood cells. The different kinds of MDS are based on which types of blood cells—red, white, or platelets—are affected, with the most common being red blood cells. This leads to a shortage of them, causing anemia. For roughly one-third of patients, MDS can progress to a rapidly growing form of cancer acute myeloid leukemia (AML). This was why MDS was once referred to as pre-leukemia or smoldering leukemia.
Eligible veterans who have been diagnosed with MDS should be aware that the condition is linked to exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found at U.S. Marine Corp Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. This presumption of service connection takes the burden off of eligible veterans to provide a medical nexus linking their active diagnosis with their service record.
Background on Camp Lejeune Toxic Exposure
Service members and their family members who were stationed at Camp Lejeune for a certain period of time between the mid-1950s to the mid-1980s may have been exposed to several dangerous toxins in the local drinking supply. Such toxins include trichloroethylene (TCE), perchloroethylene (PCE), benzene, and vinyl chloride, which were either improperly stored or disposed of on or nearby the base.
Veterans who have been diagnosed with MDS and were on active duty for a period of no fewer than 30 days at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 may be eligible for additional healthcare benefits and compensation from VA. VA established a complete list of presumptive conditions so that veterans with certain diagnoses do not need to provide a medical nexus linking an active diagnosis to their service record. Some healthcare benefits also extend to affected family members of service members.
For more information on presumptive conditions related to toxic exposure at Camp Lejeune, you can read the following blogs:
- TCE exposure benefits
- Immune Disorders
- Aplastic anemia
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney Cancer
- Multiple Myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
- Parkinson’s disease
- Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS)
- All types of respiratory cancer
MDS Symptoms, Risk Factors, and Treatment
Symptoms of MDS may not appear right away, but common ones include:
- Shortness of breath
- Paleness caused by anemia, or low red blood cell count
- Thrombocytopenia, or easy bleeding and bruising caused by low platelet count
- Petechiae, or small red spots under the skin caused by bleeding
- Frequent infections caused by leukopenia, or low white blood cell count
Risk factors for MDS include older age, previous chemotherapy and radiation treatment, and exposure to certain chemicals like benzene.
It can be treated with blood transfusions, medications to variously help such things as blood cell production, immune system suppression, and fighting infections, as well as bone marrow transplant.
VA Disability Ratings for MDS
VA rates MDS under Diagnostic Code 7725 in 38 CFR § 4.117 Schedule of Ratings, The Hematologic and Lymphatic Systems. VA will assign a rating of 30, 60, or 100% based on the severity of your condition and the type of treatment needed. Chemotherapy treatments will cause your 100% rating to continue for 6 months after your final treatment, whereas a peripheral blood or bone marrow stem cell transplant would make a 100% rating continue for 6 months following the date of your initial hospital admission.
If your condition progresses to leukemia, you will then be rated based on a diagnosis of leukemia. If and when your condition improves, VA will reassess your condition and assign a rating based on the residuals of your MDS.
Assistance With Your Claim
The Camp Lejeune Act of 2012 and the Honoring Our Pact Act of 2022 have increased the benefits available to veterans and affected family members. Because of this, veterans are more eager than ever to collect the compensation due to them. And if family members have been affected, it also requires filling out a separate form: VA Form 10-10068: Camp Lejeune Family Member Program Application.
For assistance with your claim for MDS disability benefits, you can contact VA Disability Group PLLC at 844-VET-LAWS.