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Last updated on November 5, 2020

What Does the VA Provide for Veterans with Cancer?

November 22, 2019

Veterans with cancer have a separate process of filing for claims than those filing for a standard VA disability claim. With new improvements and programs to the system, Veterans have an easier time getting the help they need.

Rates of Cancer in Veterans

According to the VA Central Cancer Registry, cancer cases are reported by veterans at a rate of more than 40,000 annually. In fact, veterans make up around 3% of the cancer cases in the United States.

Veterans of operations in the Middle East have been especially susceptible to higher cancer rates over the past three decades due to exposure to burn pits, well fire smoke, nerve gases, and pesticides. Gulf war veterans cancer tends to be significantly elevated in regards to brain cancer due to these exposures. 

Veterans of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom have also seen a rise in health issues, including cancer, in those who were most exposed to the massive burn pits. In these pits are many chemicals and other items illegal to burn in the U.S. that emit harmful smoke and vapors.

Getting Financial Assistance from the VA for Cancer

Unfortunately, despite what many believe to be sufficient evidence, the VA has not put cancer on the “presumed” list of ailments for veterans of the Gulf War, OIF, or OEF.* Therefore it is still up to the veteran to provide enough evidence for a service-connection to their cancer. 

Fortunately, this is still possible to do once you have received your diagnosis. By presenting the VA with the proper evidence of your exposure to any number of hazardous conditions you have a fair chance at an accepted claim.
If you can establish a service-connection to any cancer diagnosis received during or after your time in the military you may be eligible to receive compensation benefits from the VA. 

In order to provide proper financial assistance for veterans with cancer, the VA automatically grants a 100% rating for approved claims in which the cancer is considered active. This automatic rating is only temporary, however.

Once the cancer is considered in remission or is shown to be fully removed for six months, the 100% rating will be readjusted. The veteran will be re-examined to determine what the residual effects of their treatment are, and often a 40%-60% rating is then assigned. In cases where cancer returns, the rating will once again climb to 100%. 

The Quality of VA Cancer Care

In a recent report published by the Institution for Population Health Improvement at the University of California Davis, it was found that patients using VA Care in California experienced better outcomes than those using other care providers. 

This is excellent news for veterans who have long experienced frustrations with the VA. But with the reforms passed in early 2019 along with these promising reports about VA Care, it is encouraging to know that things are improving. 

The study by the IPHI found that the VA was excellent at diagnosing cancer early, which is of great importance to successfully treat the condition. Early detection increases the likelihood of long-term survival substantially. 

Also, the VA was shown to provide treatment more in accordance with recent scientific research than other providers. The overall quality of care was rated higher for veterans than those on Medicaid or private insurance. This is all despite the fact that this study was conducted before the latest VA reforms decreased wait times.

With wait times shorter than before, it is hopeful that the care provided by the VA for veterans with cancer will improve even more. 

Taken all together, this means that the cancer centers for veterans provided by the VA are some of the better places to receive treatment these days. 


As of this writing, cancer remains the second-highest cause of death in the United States. With such a large number of veterans suffering from cancer, it is more important than ever that the VA steps up to provide proper care and benefits. 

Thankfully, in cases of service-connected cancer diagnoses, the VA has shown that it is willing to provide financial assistance to our veterans while continuing to improve their care. 

If you are suffering from service-connected cancer, be sure to file your claim to receive the help you deserve. 

*Veterans exposed to Agent Orange, Radiation, or Mustard Gas can receive a “presumed” service-connection when diagnosed with cancer

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