Eye Cancer

Data Suggests Veterans At Much Higher Risk Of Rare Eye Cancer Than Public

Eye Cancer

Records from the Department of Veterans Affairs suggest veterans are 17 times more likely to develop a rare eye cancer than the general population.

The numbers come from a Freedom of Information Act request from Mark Rutz where data from the agency showed surprisingly high rates of veteran developing Choroidal Melanoma. Rutz lost his eye from the rare cancer, which can spread quickly.

Rutz served in Vietnam in 1970-71, back when the government misled soldiers about the toxic risks associated with Agent Orange exposure, “I remember a guy going through basic in-doc in Vietnam, quacking up a quart jar of Agent Orange and drinking from it.”

VA has now acknowledged at least some of the cancers caused by Agent Orange exposure.

As for Choroidal Melanoma, about 6 in every million people are diagnosed in the US each year or about 1,900 cases.

When that rate is compared to the veteran population, approximately 126 veterans should be diagnosed with the condition each year, but that is not what the VA data show.

Between 2008 to 2010, over 2,000 veterans each year were diagnosed with the rare eye cancer. And while it is rare for civilians, noted above, it is certainly not rare for Vietnam veterans.

Since 2010, the numbers have gradually tapered off, possibly due to increased deaths of Vietnam veterans, according to Rutz.

In response to the surprising numbers, the Blinded Veterans Association asked Congress and VA to conduct research on any possible connection between Agent Orange exposure, similar toxins, and the rare cancer.

The disease has a high mortality rate irrespective of how patients choose to treat the condition. Between 30-50% of patients die within 10 years of diagnosis and treatment. Most die from metastases after the cancer spreads to other parts of the body.

A common complication of Choroidal Melanoma is liver cancer after the disease spreads.

Source: https://wfla.com/2017/09/04/va-records-veterans-17-times-more-likely-to-develop-rare-eye-cancer/

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  1. They’re going to let all us Viet-Nam vets die. They didn’t want us in Viet-Nam and they never wanted us back here neither.

    1. Hey TiredVet,

      You can find a sample letter under one of Ben’s prior articles he posted here at:

      Disabled Veterans Sample FOIA Letter
      By Benjamin Krause – January 14, 2011


      Hope this helps!

      1. I know in my case I never received most of my Medical records and would have to hire an attorney to file a court action to get mine. The FOIA officer that was in control of mine ran me around in circles and I was never able to obtain mine.

  2. Rather than asking the VA to research this for the next 10 years, the Blind Veterans Association should be pushing hard for congress to pass legislation presuming this cancer is service connected.

    The prevalence rate among Vietnam vets certainly supports it.

    By the time the VA gets around to acknowledging this may be service connected, most of the vets affected will be dead.

    Anyone surprised though that the VA has this information in veterans medical records?

    Anyone surprised it took a FOIA request to get it?

    The exact same thing happened with ALS in Gulf War vets. The VA had the data showing how prevalent it is/was in Gulf War vets, and did nothing about it until the data was leaked. If I recall correctly, legislation presuming ALS was service connected in Gulf War vets was passed within 6 months.

    The VA tried to make it appear they were concerned, but their hands were tied, yahdah, yahdah, yahdah….but it was the VA themselves who sat on the data for a long time. Most vets died before the VA would service connect them.

  3. “VA fighting to reduce growing problem of veteran suicides”

    “A TRAGIC and disturbing trend has developed throughout the Veterans Administration medical system. Veterans are traveling to the grounds of VA facilities and are resorting to suicide on VA property.

    VA Director David Shulkin has made curbing veteran suicides his top clinical priority. He said the VA needs to be better at seeking out and assisting at-risk veterans.

    Shulkin concluded there are a number of reasons veterans choose to end their lives at the VA. Shulkin said that every day he is notified of more and more occurrences of what are being termed “parking lot suicides” taking place at VA facilities.”

    1. “VA reassigns employees in wake of internal investigation”
      By Katie Moore / The Topeka Capital-Journal 9-5-2017

      Three high-level, Topeka-based VA employees have been reassigned in the wake of an internal investigation.

      Matt Eitutis, who was the acting executive director of VA member services, is now assigned to the Office of Administrative Operations and Management. Ryan Heiman had been an executive assistant for member services. He is now a health systems specialist. And Shane Kolbaba, who was the chief financial officer for member services is serving as a financial manager, VA press secretary Curt Cashour said.

      A fourth VA employee, based in Atlanta, was also reassigned as a result of the internal investigation. Angel Lawrence, who was the health eligibility center’s director, is now with the Office of Mental Health Operations, Cashour said.

    2. Well, shit, even a blind veteran can see why vets commit suicide at the VA. So the rodents with dubious parentage cannot deny its connection to the nest.

      How many veteran suicides go unreported as VA connected unless someone is well aware of the veterans history?

      1. If you noticed in the last line of my post where I quoted the author who said “Shulkin said that every day he is notified of more and more occurrences of what are being termed “parking lot suicides” taking place at VA facilities.”.

        That is every day this is occurring!!!

  4. Post from LeftAngle on TapaTalk Veterans Benefits Network!

    “Linking Eye Cancer Claims to Service in Vietnam”

    “In 2006, I discovered I had an Ocular Melanoma in my left eye. I applied for service connection in 2009. After many denials, I requested a hearing in 2012 which won me my case.

    My evidence was simple and it was supplied by the VA itself.

    If you served in Vietnam, have an eye cancer and are having difficulty proving service connection, read on:”


  5. I have been diagnosed with “high pressure” and (“possible”) “glaucoma” in my eyes by a optometrist at the Lake Baldwin VHA, Orlando, Fl.!
    Today’s “blog” is unsettling to say the least.
    Questions are swirling around in my head.
    Am I being diagnosed correctly?
    Did the “eye injury” I received in Vietnam have anything to do with the (“possible”) “glaucoma”?
    Can a optometrist be specialized enough to diagnose this “rare form of eye cancer”? (My wife has already caught him NOT knowing certain eye conditions! And what causes it!)
    Questions, Questions, Questions.

    Like the vet said, on camera, “We’re screwed!”

    1. Hey Elf,

      I read through a number of claim denials on google after searching the combination of words “Choroidal Melanoma Veterans Administration”. A number of them stated that the Veteran was first diagnosed with Choroidal Melanoma at a six month follow up for possible glaucoma.

      You really should see a qualified doctor not a VA half wit. A real doctor not connected to the VA if you want a proper diagnoses.

      1. Seymore,
        The problem I see with outside healthcare providers is, they “refuse to go against” anything VA healthcare providers say!
        Plus, it’s hard to pay for outside healthcare when on a limited budget! The “cost” some of these outside healthcare providers want is staggering!

      2. The one thing that make a diagnoses more reliable from an outside provider who is not connected to the VA is that they can be held responsible for a bad diagnoses.

        Where as a VA doctors cannot be held responsible.

      3. @Crazy elf, @Seymore Klearly – – – I know how to get around the issue of the buddy / buddy Physicians not going against each other. First, you’ll have to in laymen terms, learn all that you can about what your medical condition means, how it effects you, and learn the lingo. This last thing is critical. As people, and measured against how people think, what they value, and how they’re impressed; is that Physicians are impressed when you REALLY know about your condition, plus, knowing the latest cutting edge treatments, findings, problems, etc.. In other words, know you stuff, be knowledgeable. Most Doctors who know that you know about your medical condition, will be more than likely, not concerned with the other Doctors opinion. A second opinion should be just that, another opinion, separate from the first Physicians findings. Another thing is to make sure that all medical testing are of the conclusive types. Conclusive tests are those that state without any doubt, is that a person has such and such. Of all, the most important thing is to be up to date, on the medical condition that your seeking a second opinion on. Let the second Doctor know your educated in this specific condition.

        Now for costs. As many of you know, Medical Premiums, Co-Pays, Deductibles, and straight up paying out of pocket has skyrocketed. And, for someone to have medical procedures and tests done with out insurance isn’t financially feasible. The bill(s) would be so high compared to the monthly income to an individual.

        @Crazy elf, I know first hand how this feels. And, I’d hope that one day, there would be other accesses to health care besides the VA. And, being a Biologist, this concerns me to the core.

    2. Ask to see an ophthalmologist next time. You don’t HAVE to be comfortable with an OD monitoring you. Most of them are great, but if you have problems, you will need an MD anyhow. That advice is coming from someone who worked as an eyecare professional for over a decade. You’ve only got one set of eyes.

  6. Oh…but why not just try some extra doses of new VA wonder-drug ~ecstasy~ for that rare eye cancer? Maybe the VA will determine Vets have no need for eyesight anyway when ~ecstasy~ opens all our minds to the agent orange chakra? Rat Bastards!

    1. namnibor,

      I must point out that while individuals within VA behave much like rodents of dubious parentage that when addressing topics including the totallity of VA that a “horse” is more appropriate.

      There is an economic theory based on an ancient farm practice (which was abandoned long ago) called Horse and Chicken Economics (HCE). The beast of burden, the horse (our government) was thought to be a good way to feed (take care of) the chickens. We The People are the chickens in HCE.

      The way HCE was conceived was to feed the horse ALL of the oats ($$$) with assurances from the horse that enough of them would pass through it to feed the chickens. The horse promises in HCE to spread it around evenly and widely. If for some reason the horse cannot accomplish this then the normal corrective action is to feed the horse more oats.

      VA is the horse and you and me brother are the chickens. The question of course is, am I just kicking a dead horse?

      1. @Dennis — Our metaphoric horse that is indeed being kicked while already deadbeat, the AFGE herd, require a one-way trip to that metaphoric glue factory, where in my Midwest farm lore, is what happens in our failed horses in the HCE, no extra oats and no three strikes then out. Glue seems to be an effective deterrent…except the VA AFGE herd might just try to sniff it rather than participate in it’s ingredients.

      2. “Rodents Of Dubious Parentage” – ‘Rat Bastards”…yeah, I’m a bit slow today but I finally got it…really clever there. Coffee exited nostrils once it sunk-in.

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