Q1: I was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer last year. Since then, I've had surgery and undergone radiation treatment. I now have meds I must take daily for the rest of my life and the possibility of the cancer to resurface. I also struggle with controlling my anger/patience. I'm with US Air Force special operations and have been perfectly healthy for the past 9 years. I had a physical in January of 2015, went to US Army Ranger School a couple months later, had another physical, and the cancer was discovered. Needless to say, I came in the military healthy, and leaving not so healthy. I plan on getting out next year and was just curious if I would be eligible for any type of disability?
A1: Document this and everything else. Get a copy of your complete medical file. Anything you were treated for in service is deemed service connected up to one year after discharge. I suggest you get with a VSO on base and start building a claim. (PD) 3/24/2016
A2: Answer one is a good one. You are correct that if you did not have the thyroid cancer when you entered the service and it occurred on active duty then you will be service connected for the residuals of the thyroid cancer if they have removed the thyroid and/or it has gone into remission. I would also get an Independent Medical Opinion in my Service Medical Records of any and all residual diagnosis of the secondary conditions to thyroid cancer. The next thing that I would get a diagnosis on is the anger/patience. If you are a combat veteran it is a good chance that this might be a residual of trips to a combat zone. Or if your live has been in danger. The other thing to do is to get a diagnosis on active duty and file for a disability rating prior to separation. The other thing is that if you have disabilities for thyroid cancer, PTSD/Anxiety/ Depression you may have enough to request a PEB for an Honorable Discharge due to disabilities incurred on or aggravated by active duty. Your career NCO/Officer and/or Family Support Center should have someone to counsel you on your options. (CP) 3/25/2016
A3: It sounds like your cancers were discovered while you were serving. Your emotional symptoms sound like PTSD. Both wound be conditions eligible for VA disability status. You should see a Service Officer certified by one of the primary veterans organizations (VFW American Legion, etc) to get help filing a claim. Don't do it yourself. Trained help will get you through the claims process in the most efficient manner. Good luck to you and thank you for your service. (KCS) 3/27/2016
A4: I have fought with the VA for 15 years because of the cancer I have. I even went to Waco in front of the board and showed them I was sprayed in Vietnam. Their question was "What was I sprayed with?" If I can't tell them what I was sprayed with than it would be denied. You can't win. Get a lawyer. (GLE) 4/4/2016
A5: All answers sound accurate and I am adding a few comments for clarity. I had my thyroid removed within 1 year of discharge but VA denied despite a well documented history because of the language used in my claim. For best chances of obtaining a rating, have your records reviewed by a Veteran Service Organization before leaving service, especially for thyroid cancer and endocrinopathy (which is presumed service connected and requires no burden of proof). Also, file a disability claim with VA now to obtain a rating prior to leaving the military. Finally, instead of pursuing a discharge, consider pursuing a medical disability discharge. Your challenge will be the resistance by DoD to acknowledge a pensionable rating or disability discharge. If you are functional, then your service will find disabilities but with no impact on ability to perform duties. Finally, copy every medical document, every physical, lab, X-ray report as well as mobilization orders, overseas TDY/TDA and evaluations. (SH) 4/4/2016