Veterans diagnosed with small cell carcinoma are eligible to apply for disability benefits through VA. Whether you are awarded with compensation depends on one of two things: if you can prove a service connection for your condition, or if you’ve been exposed to carcinogens or pollutants that were prevalent in a number of incidents or periods of time over the the last century, such as ionizing radiation from atomic bomb testing or Agent Orange in Vietnam.
What is Small Cell Carcinoma?
Small cell carcinoma (AKA small cell lung cancer or SCLC) is a type of respiratory cancer that most often occurs in the lungs, and is often called oat cell cancer. It causes the growth of malignant cells in your lung tissue and accounts for about 10-15% of all lung cancer diagnoses. Large cell lung cancer, on the other hand, accounts for most lung cancer diagnoses. It’s important to note that not smoking, or quitting smoking, is the best way to avoid developing small cell carcinoma.
Small cell carcinoma has a number of risk factors, including smoking first and foremost, exposure to secondhand smoke, radiation therapy, a family history of lung cancer, and exposure to carcinogens like radon gas, asbestos, arsenic, beryllium, chromium, and nickel.
Symptoms include shortness of breath, coughing up blood, chest pain, wheezing, hoarseness, trouble swallowing, loss of appetite, tiredness, and swelling. The cancer may also metastasize, or in other words, spread to other parts of the body.
Small cell carcinoma is a fast-spreading cancer, which has two main effects, one being that in about 70% patients diagnosed with it the cancer will have metastasized, and the other being that it responds well to chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Prognosis depends on the stage of the cancer at the time of diagnosis, and small cell carcinoma also has a tendency to return at some point after it’s been successfully treated.
VA grants 100% disability benefits to veterans who are diagnosed with active respiratory cancer that has a proven service connection. This means you must provide evidence of a current diagnosis, an in-service event, exposure, or accident, and a link between the diagnosis and the in-service incident. You will likely be asked by VA to complete a C&P examination with a VA physician before your rating is determined. Once your cancer goes into remission, your rating will likely be changed to accommodate for your present level of disability.
Small Cell Carcinoma as a Presumptive Condition
Some veterans may not need to prove a service connection, if they have participated in a number of particular military exercises or events that led to their exposure of known carcinogens. Small cell carcinoma, for instance, is included on the Agent Orange Presumptive List, meaning any veteran diagnosed with small cell carcinoma, and who served in the Vietnam where they may have been exposed to Agent Orange are assumed to have a service connection.
The same goes for “atomic veterans,” or those who participated in “radiation risk activities,” such as nuclear bomb testing, the occupation of Japan after WWII, or a number of other instances involving exposure to ionizing radiation. At this time, veterans diagnoses with small cell carcinoma who have been exposed to burn pits in Afghanistan or Iraq post-9/11 are not presumed to have a service connection.
Assistance with your Small Cell Carcinoma Claim
If you need assistance building a claim, or filing an appeal, to get VA disability benefits for small cell carcinoma, you can reach us at 844-VET-LAWS or fill out our online form.