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RI Veterans: Did you know? 31 March 22 – John A. Cianci

by John A Cianci, Department Veterans Service Officer, Italian American War Veterans (ITAM)

Gulf War Veterans Must Know Information: Understanding VA Presumption for Rare Respiratory Cancers Related to Burn Pits

Last month the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced its intention to add nine rare respiratory cancers to its presumption list of service- connected conditions for any veteran who has manifested respiratory cancers to any degree at any time during or after separation from service in the Southwest Asia theatre of operations.

This was announced on March 1, 2022, as part of Comprehensive and Overdue Support for Troop (COST) of War Act of 2021.

What are the nine respiratory cancers now being considered by VA for presumptive service connection for someone exposed to burn pits?

  • Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the larynx – A type of throat cancer, and the most common cancer in the larynx.  SCC usually results from prolonged exposure to carcinogens.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma of the trachea– A  fast-growing cancer that arises in the lower portion of the trachea, penetrating the mucosal lining of the airway as it grows.
  • Adenocarcinoma of the trachea – A rare type of tracheal cancer that is usually present in the lower third of the trachea.
  • Salivary gland-type tumors of the trachea – These types of tracheal tumors are very rare, comprising less than 0.1 percent of respiratory tract cancers.
  • Adenosquamous carcinoma of the lung – Relatively rare subtype of non-small-cell lung cancer, defined by malignancy containing components of lung adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.  It is extremely difficult to diagnose preoperatively.
  • Large cell carcinoma of the lung – A form of non-small cell lung cancer that tends to grow more quickly and spread more aggressively than other forms.  It is also a catch-all diagnosis for other types of large lung cancers that cannot be categorized into specific subgroups.
  • Salivary gland-type tumors of the lung – Uncommon neoplasms of the lung, representing less than one percent of all lung tumors.
  • Sarcomatoid carcinoma of the lung – A rare subtype of lung cancer.
  • Typical and atypical carcinoid of the lung – Typical carcinoids account for around nine out of 10 carcinoids of the lung.  These carcinoid tumors often grow more slowly than other cancers and rarely spread beyond the lungs.  Atypical carcinoids are much less common and tend to grow more quickly.

What does “presumption” mean for burn pits?

VA will presume that a veteran was exposed to certain harmful chemicals or environmental hazards if they have qualifying service in the Southwest Asia (SWA hereafter) theatre, (i.e.,  served in a specific area during a defined timeframe).

For VA benefit purposes, the SWA theater of military operations refers to the following areas at any time between August 2, 1990, and the present:

·      Iraq

·      Kuwait

·      Saudi Arabia

·      Neutral zone between Iraq and Saudi Arabia

·      Bahrain

·      Qatar

·      The United Arab Emirates

·      Oman

·      Gulf of Aden

·      Gulf of Oman

·      Waters of the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, and the Red Sea

·      Airspace above these locations

This includes veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003-2010) and Operation New Dawn (2010-2011).

According to the VA fact sheet on presumption disability benefits, VA presumes that certain disabilities were caused by military service. This is because of the unique circumstances of a specific Veteran’s military service. If a presumed condition is diagnosed in a Veteran within a certain group, they can be awarded disability compensation.

If you have any of the aforementioned listed respiratory cancers, you should file a claim for disability benefits using VA Form 21-526EZ. If the veteran had their claim previously denied should also file a supplemental claim, VA Form 20-0995, https://www.va.gov/find-forms/about-form-20-0995/.

VETTIP – Filing a supplement claim could be worth thousands of dollars retroactive since the new ruling will be considered as new relevant evidence to reopen previous claim.

The evidence you will need to support your claim are military records showing you served in the SWA theatre of military operations. Documentation should include a copy of your DD214 for the time period you were in SWA. 

If you DD214 does not have information to document your service in any of the above locations, fill out the VA Form 21-4138, also known as Statement in Support of Claim, https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-4138-ARE.pdf detailing the timeframe you were there. In the statement the VA obtains verification of your service in SW theatre from the Joint Services Records Research Center (JSRRC); the VA has a duty to assist claimants in substantiating a claim for VA benefits.

If you’re the surviving spouse, child, or parent of a service member who from any of the aforementioned cancers, get a tax-free monetary benefit called VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (VA DIC), an estimated $1400 a month, and medical coverage.  You must file Application for Dependency and Indemnity, VA Form 21P-534a, https://www.va.gov/find-forms/about-form-21p-534a/.

VETTIP – Surviving spouse, child, or parent of a service member who has died from any of the cancers, complete the form and mail it to :

DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS PENSION INTAKE CENTER
P.O. BOX 5365
JANESVILLE, WI 53547-5365 

Ensure to maintain a copy and proof of mailing ( Recommend mailing priority mail and attaching the proof of mailing to the copy of the claim mailed for proof of mailing. 

Do not get discouraged by the VA telling you verbally you are not eligible. The Italian American War Veterans of the US (ITAM hereafter), has assisted two widows in the last 18 months who the VA told them verbally by phone or in person, the widow was not eligible. 

After two widows contacted ITAM, they completed the application for DIC and mailed it to the VA. Shortly thereafter, both widows received verification they were eligible, and VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation was approved by the VA.

What if a veteran was exposed to burn-pits and has a different cancer, or died from cancer?

The veteran or family should file service-connected disability or cause of death from exposure to burn-pits since the aforementioned cancers are presumption, however, other cancers must go thru the normal VA claim process. 

Example, breast cancer is not on the presumption list.

The majority of soldiers drank water from plastic water containers. The bottles came from cases of water exposed to the harsh desert condition. 

Moreover, burn pits in the Middle East burned thousands of plastic water bottles at a minimum. When plastic water bottles are burned, it releases dangerous chemicals such as hydrochloric acid, sulfur dioxide, dioxins, furans, and heavy metals, as well as particulates. These emissions are known to cause respiratory ailments and stress human immune systems, and they’re potentially carcinogenic.

The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) successfully argued and won that toxic exposure was just as likely the cause of breast cancer for Dr. T.D. Russell, veteran who served in Iraq, https://www.dav.org/learn-more/news/2016/toxic-exposure-iraq-causes-breast-cancer/.

Originally her claim was denied, however, she did not give up. 

According to the DAV article, Russell’s oncologist brought up an eye-opening study. Plastic disposable water bottles that were used on a massive scale in Iraq for all U.S. personnel contain chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA), which can become very harmful when exposed to intense or even moderate heat over periods of time. In Iraq, pallets of water are stored and moved around the country for days or weeks before being consumed, usually left in intense heat and direct sunlight.

Plastic bottles with recycling symbol “1” are polyethylene terephthalate (PETE or PET) and are generally considered OK to use if stored out of the sun at moderate temperatures. The plastic bottles are also not to be reused.

According to Johns Hopkins University researcher, Dr. Rolf Halden, chemicals called phthalates are sometimes added to plastics to make them flexible and less brittle.

“Phthalates are environmental contaminants that can exhibit hormone-like behavior by acting as endocrine disruptors in humans and animals,” Halden said. “If you heat up plastics, you could increase the leaching of phthalates from the containers into water and food.”

One of the most common effects is cancer, especially breast cancer.

“Of the five women I went through residency with, two of us deployed to Iraq,” Russell said. “Both of us developed breast cancer.”

Finally in 2016 the VA linked Russell’s breast cancer to her service in Iraq. 

Bottom line, veterans or their families with cancer or who have died from cancer could be entitled to thousands of dollars in benefits, to include free college education for their children. 

Veterans should become knowledgeable on his or her benefits. Moreover, educate oneself understanding the VA claim process. 

If you have an event, meeting, other pertinent veteran information, or email questions or help needed, contact the Italian American War Veteran Service Officer, John A Cianci, itamri4vets@gmail.com, ITAM Office 1-(401)677-9VET(9838)

RESOURCES

AARP offers a free career center for veterans, http://campaigns-aarp-org-stage.targetclose.com/veteran-job-center . The center offers a free course, Veterans Career Advantage,  job search tool for companies seeking veteran employees, a link to access what a good resume looks like, and other tips for veterans seeking employment. 

DISCOUNTS

Restaurants

Applebee’s – Military Discount … With more than 2,000 locations, Applebee’s is a family grill restaurant. Applebee’s gives 10% off for active duty and veteran. Last verified 07/31/2028

Denny’s – Hartford Ave, Johnston offers 10% discount for veterans and active duty . Denny’s is a table service diner-style restaurant chain.  Last verified 07/31/2028 (PS I had breakfast there on Saturday).

Outback Steakhouse – 10% Discount to active and veterans. Last verified 07/28/2021

99 Restaurant & Pub – The 99 Restaurant & Pub offers a 10% military discount to members of Veterans Advantage. Available at select locations only. Bring valid military ID

Retailers

Advance Auto Parts – 10% for Active Duty, Veterans, and families. Last verified 07/28/2021

Bass Pro Shops –  Offers a 5% discount to active-duty military, reservists, and National Guard. Sign up and verify your status online or bring your military ID when you shop at your nearest Bass Pro store (source).

BJs Wholesale – Reduced membership fee. BJ’s offers all military personnel over 25% off their Membership. Last verified 07/28/2021

Lowes – Enroll in the Lowe’s Military Discount Program to activate your 10% discount

“Our way of saying Thank You” to our active duty, retired and military veterans and their spouses with a 10% discount on eligible items.

Verification of your military status is fast and easy through our partner, ID.me.

ID.me is our trusted technology partner in helping to keep your personal information safe.

GameStop – is offering a 10% in-store military discount on all pre-owned products, collectibles, and select new products. Available to current and former military members who bring any valid proof of service or when they verify through ID.me

Home Depot – Offers a 10% off military discount on regularly priced merchandise for in-store purchases for active duty, retired military, and reservists at participating locations. Customers are required to show a valid government-issued military ID card to redeem this offer.

Kohls – 15% discount offers for active military, veterans, retirees, and their immediate family members a 15% discount on purchases made on Mondays, in store only. In order to receive the military discount, eligible customers must present proper identification along with any tender type.

Jiffy Lube – HONORING VETERANS ALL DAY EVERY DAY!

We didn’t want to wait for Veteran’s Day to express our appreciation and gratitude for your service. That’s why every Team Car Care owned and operated Jiffy Lube® service center is offering our BEST discount of 15% OFF as a “Thank You” to the men and women of our Armed Forces for their service to our country. *Disclaimer*- I.D. required. No coupon is required. Excludes batteries and brakes, alignment, and diagnostic services. Available only at select locations listed below:

Tioque Ave, Coventry RI

Bald Hill Road, Warwick RI

Park Ave, Cranston RI

Michaels – offers a 15% off military discount on the entire in-store purchase including sale items for active duty, retired military, guard, reservists, veterans, and family members. How to get –

1.    Create an Account. Log in or create a Michaels Rewards account.

2.    Get Verified. Provide your military information to get verified instantly.

3.    Go Shopping! To use your discount online and in store, just sign into your account or provide your Michaels Rewards phone number at checkout.

O’Reilly Auto Parts – 10% discount on in store items for Active Duty, Veterans and families. Last verified 3/4/21.

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If you are a retailer and or a veteran aware of a business not listed above, please forward , itamri4vets@gmail.com:  the business’s name , location, and military and veteran discount offered.

If you have an event, meeting, other pertinent veteran information, or email questions or help needed, contact the Italian American War Veteran Service Officer, John A Cianci, itamri4vets@gmail.com, ITAM Office 1-(401)677-9VET(9838)

Veterans Administration News

Greetings GI Bill Beneficiary,  

A friendly reminder that Veterans Benefit Administration’s Education Service (EDU) will be hosting the first ever GI Bill® Summit on April 14, 2022, and you are invited to attend!  

This is YOUR opportunity to hear from EDU leaders to get your education benefits questions answered and get the latest updates on how we are modernizing your GI Bill experience.  

When: Thursday, April 14, 2022, from 12 p.m. – 1 p.m. EDT 

Where: Virtually via Facebook Live on VA’s Post-9/11 GI Bill Facebook page 

What: An hour-long event to get your GI Bill questions answered and learn more about: 

  • GI Bill modernization and what it means to you 
  • Monthly Enrollment Verification requirement 
  • How the expiration of COVID-19 benefit protections will affect you 
  • And much more 

For more information, see the GI Bill Summit flyer and RSVP for the 2022 GI Bill Summit HERE: https://2022gibillsummit.splashthat.com/   

We look forward to seeing you there!

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To read all columns in this series go to: https://rinewstoday.com/john-a-cianci/

John A. Cianci is a Veteran Service Officer. Retired, U.S. Army MSgt., Persian Gulf War and Iraq War combat theater.

Cianci, a combat disabled Veteran, served in Desert Shield/Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. His awards include Bronze Star, Combat Action Badge, Good Conduct, and others.

Cianci belongs to numerous veterans organizations – Italian American War Veterans, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign War, United Veterans Council of Rhode Island, and many more organizations. He is an active volunteer assisting veterans to navigate federal and state benefits they have earned. He is Department of Rhode Island Department Commander Italian American War Veterans and Veteran Service Officer.

He is a graduate of Roger Williams University (BS Finance), UCONN business school* (Entrepreneur Bootcamp For Veterans), Solar Energy International Residential, Commercial and Battery Based Photovoltaic Systems certificate programs, numerous certificates from the Department of Defense renewable energy programs, including graduate of the Solar Ready Vets Program.