Chronic B cell leukemia, also known as chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), is a type of cancer that affects the white blood cell count. There are two main types of B-cell leukemia, known as prolymphocytic leukemia and hairy cell leukemia. The most common form of this chronic cancer is one that causes the body to produce too many white blood cells. The more blood cells accumulate, the more it will affect everything from vital organs to the immune system. Someone with this serious form of cancer will have difficulty fighting off even minor infections due to a weakened immune response.
Common symptoms for chronic B-cell leukemia include:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Persistent weakness
- Frequent infections/illnesses
- Enlarged liver or spleen
- Red spots on the skin
- Bone tenderness
- Weight loss
Chronic B cell leukemia can easily be confused with other variations of leukemia, as they all share similar traits and symptoms. The while blood cells that turn cancerous will quickly begin to build in either the bone marrow, blood, or spleen. Only a trained medical professional can tell one form of leukemia from the other.
Agent Orange and Chronic B Cell Leukemia VA Benefits
In the past few decades, there has been a growing body of research devoted to how certain types of chemicals can cause cancer. The National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society have acknowledged that outside factors can potentially make a person more high-risk, depending on the nature of their exposure. After collecting and analyzing fa variety of evidence from across the country, it became clear that some service members developed cancer during active duty.
The VA has taken the studies into consideration and declared in 2003 that there was a clear link between exposure to herbicides that might lead to chronic lymphocytic leukemia. The most famous of these chemicals is Agent Orange, a popular herbicide used from 1962 to 1975 to reduce the amount of vegetation in Vietnam.
In order to file for disability due to chronic B cell leukemia, veterans would need to have the following information to support their claim:
- A recent diagnosis of chronic B cell leukemia from their doctor
- A description of the events leading up to the cancer
- A medical nexus (written opinion) written by your doctor that states your cancer was caused due to your time in the military
Leukemia is generally considered one of the more straightforward causes to file for disability, provided that you would have been exposed during your time overseas. Because Agent Orange is so closely linked to this type of cancer, it can be easier to prove the service connection than other chronic conditions that may have originated at a different point after the service.
Please note that you do not need to have been exposed to Agent Orange while on a military operation. For instance, if you experienced toxic exposure during your free time or days spent off base but while still overseas.
Compensation & Pension (C&P) Exams for Chronic B-Cell Leukemia
Once you have your paperwork in hand, you’ll submit it to the VA Regional Office (RO) where it will be reviewed. From there, you’ll likely receive a response asking you to follow-up with a Compensation & Pension (C&P) exam. During this exam, a VA doctor will examine your cancer cells and B lymphocytes. They might run blood tests and analyze your stem cell or T-cell count.
The VA doctor is not there to improve your blood counts or treat the leukemia cells — that is the job of your primary doctors. The VA doctor is there to confirm whether you have Chronic B Cell Leukemia and if it was caused by your time in the military. If there was clear exposure to Agent Orange during your time overseas, then this is likely to be an open-and-shut matter. In the case of a secondary connection though, the case may be more difficult to process.
After analyzing everything from your red blood cells to lymphoid tissues, the VA doctor will write up their findings and send to the RO. If the RO denies your claim based on the findings of the VA doctor, you can appeal through the Appeals Modernization Act (AMA) in one of three ways:
- By requesting a higher authority review your case
- By requesting a different reviewer at the RO
- By submitting additional evidence and requesting a new review
B-cell lymphoma can be a complicated topic for anyone to test and process. The AMA gives you the chance to either gather additional supporting documents to support your claim (e.g., CLL blood tests, biopsies, etc.) or to request a blood disorder specialist review your information to assess its validity.
How does the VA Rate Chronic B-Cell Leukemia?
The VA rates chronic B cell leukemia, including Chronic lymphocytic leukemia, at 100, so long as the cancer is both active and the patient is undergoing treatment. This rating will apply to the person for 6 months after the last treatment.
After the six-month time period is over, the cancer will be reevaluated based on the individual. If many of the symptoms of abated after the leukemia treatment, then the CLL may be rated lower than 100. Regardless of whether it’s early-stage or late-stage cancer though, it’s important for veterans to get the benefits they need to allow them to focus on recovery.
What if I need VA Disability Benefits Help?
In that case, do not hesitate to contact our highly experienced team at Hill & Ponton! We have represented veterans for over 20 years. Don’t wait any longer – you don’t have to do this alone! Contact us here for a free VA case evaluation!