Resources for Veterans
- The U.S. Air Force is further investigating why service members who worked with nuclear missiles have had higher rates of cancer, according to a new report.
- The study aims to obtain data on all missile community members who served between 1976 and 2010. It has also led the Air Force to change the way the service tracks occupational hazards at missile bases.
- The VA explains that approximately 50,000 cases of cancer are reported annually in the VA Central Cancer Registry.
- Veterans can obtain free help by filing for health care and disability benefits from “accredited representatives, also known as service officers, according to the VA. Representatives can also be obtained through veterans service organizations (VSOs). These types of organizations include: Amvets, Disabled American Veterans, The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Vietnam Veterans of America
The continued examinations are following a preliminary review which was launched in response to many service members falling ill, The Associated Press explains, adding, that the Air Force’s initial findings of cancer numbers wont be made public until at least a month from now, however, its initial assessment revealing additional investigations was revealed on Monday.Read More
The U.S. Air Force spoke with reporters at a Dec. 1 briefing and revealed that “four locations in the underground launch control capsules where the missileers worked had unsafe levels of PCBs — oily or waxy substances that have been identified as a likely carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency. Decontamination of those sites is underway.”
Following reports from “scores of those current or former missile launch officers” who worked in the nuclear missile community, speaking out about their health issues, “medical teams have conducted thousands of tests of the air, water, soil and surface areas inside and around each of the Air Force’s three nuclear missile bases.”
The three bases are listed as Montana’s Malmstrom Air Force Base, North Dakota’s Minot Air Force Base and Wyoming’s F.E. Warren Air Force Base.
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Although current data reveals air, water, and soil in the area is currently safe, questions have been raised as to missile launch officers from earlier years have had exposure. For instance, there has been no update on this type of information regarding the silos and underground control capsules that were dug back in the 1960s.
Col. Tory Woodard, commander of the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, told AP News, “We can’t go back and test to fully quantify what was there in the ’90s or 2000s, or even the ’50s and ’60s.
“But we can use this data to help us inform what those risks might have been.”
According to Military.com, a presentation from the Air Force Global Strike Command shared with the news outlet on Friday revealed the Air Force is “also looking at veterans who served at older Titan II and Minuteman II bases, including Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota; Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona; Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota; Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri; McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas; and Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas.”
“While the Space Force Guardian’s presentation a year ago looked primarily at rates of non-Hodgkin lymphoma among missileers who served, primarily, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Air Force officials now acknowledge the problem could be more widespread than initially thought,” Military.com explains.
Woodward told Military.com, “This is a large multi-phase study pulling from multiple DoD, VA, national and state databases to include electronic medical records, cancer rates, and cancer indexes and death indexes.
“The study is not looking at only non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma … We want to make sure that we’re not missing any other cancers. So, we’re really as we do this, we’re looking for 14 common cancers, to make sure that we look at all those rates of cancers.”
Additionally, AP News explains that the study aims to obtain data on all missile community members who served between 1976 and 2010.
The study has also led the Air Force to change the way the service tracks occupational hazards at missile bases.
Resources For Veterans With Cancer
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers various tools to assist veterans and their families with all-things health related.
With regard to disability benefits, the VA explains, “VA disability compensation (pay) offers a monthly tax-free payment to Veterans who got sick or injured while serving in the military and to Veterans whose service made an existing condition worse.
“You may qualify for VA disability benefits for physical conditions (like a chronic illness or injury) and mental health conditions (like PTSD) that developed before, during, or after service. Find out how to apply for and manage the Veterans disability benefits you’ve earned.”
As for assistance with military exposure, as “veterans may have been exposed to a range of chemical, physical, and environmental hazards during military service,” the VA offers information on potential exposures that may be linked to a variety of health problems, including different types of cancer.
Free health evaluations are also offered to eligible veterans who may have been exposed to the following:
- Chemicals (including Agent Orange and contaminated water)
- Radiation (from nuclear weapons and X-rays, etc. )
- Air Pollutants (such as burn pit smoke or dust)
- Occupational Hazards (for example: asbesto or lead)
- Warfare Agents (chemical and biological weapons)
The VA explains on its website, “VA’s health registry evaluation is a free, voluntary medical assessment for Veterans who may have been exposed to certain environmental hazards during military service.
“The evaluations alert Veterans to possible long-term health problems that may be related to exposure to specific environmental hazards during their military service. VA has established several health registries to track and monitor the health of specific groups of Veterans. The registry data helps VA understand and respond to these health problems more effectively.”
Veterans may be eligible to take part in one ore more of the following health registries:
- Agent Orange Registry
- Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry
- Gulf War Registry (includes Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn)
- Ionizing Radiation Registry
- Depleted Uranium Follow-Up Program
- Toxic Embedded Fragment Surveillance Center
Additionally, the VA explains that approximately 50,000 cases of cancer are reported annually in the VA Central Cancer Registry.
“In 2010, the three most frequently diagnosed cancers in the VA health care system were prostate, lung/bronchus, and colon/rectum cancer according to a 2017 study. This list is similar to cancers observed in American men,” the VA’s website states. “In 2021, bladder cancer was added to the list of presumptive conditions related to Agent Orange exposure, joining chronic B-cell leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, prostate cancer, respiratory cancers (including lung cancer), and some soft tissue sarcomas.”
“VA’s National TeleOncology Program provides cancer care virtually, connecting patients and providers across great distances. The program delivers cancer screenings, diagnoses, and treatment for Veterans through telemedicine technology,” the VA adds.
Additionally, veterans can obtain free help by filing for health care and disability benefits from “accredited representatives, also known as service officers.
Representatives can also be obtained through veterans service organizations (VSOs). These types of organizations include:
- Disabled American Veterans
- The American Legion
- Veterans of Foreign Wars
- Vietnam Veterans of America
Living with Cancer
Life doesn’t slow down for a cancer diagnosis, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It’s important to remember that a cancer diagnosis does not mean the end of your life. In fact, our experts say that prioritizing your overall well-being and continuing to do the things that you love can be very beneficial because studies have shown that patients who are able to stay upbeat and positive often have better treatment outcomes.
According to Dr. Dana Chase, a gynecological oncologist at Arizona Center for Cancer Care, it doesn’t even really matter what you do as long as it makes you happy. So, if that means continuing direct and write like Jensen, then that’s exactly what you should do.
“We know from good studies that emotional health is associated with survival, meaning better quality of life is associated with better outcomes,” Chase previously told SurvivorNet.
“So working on your emotional health, your physical well-being, your social environment [and] your emotional well-being are important and can impact your survival. If that’s related to what activities you do that bring you joy, then you should try to do more of those activities.”
Questions for Your Doctor
If you are battling cancer and are feeling open to working during treatment, consider the following questions for your doctor first.
- What’s the current prognosis of my cancer?
- What are the potential side effects of my recommended treatment?
- Will the side effects affect my ability to travel to my job or will remote work be more optimal?
- How long is my treatment expected to last?
- If I cannot return to work as normal, what financial resources are available while I take a leave of absence?
Contributing: SurvivorNet Staff