The Department of Veterans Affairs is planning a large-scale epidemiologic study to determine whether Vietnam-era veterans stationed in Southeast Asia are more likely to develop an aggressive liver cancer linked to common parasites from the area. The study follows a small pilot program by researchers at the Northport VA Medical Center, which tested 50 local Vietnam combat veterans and found 12 had a history of liver fluke parasite infestation.
According to an article in Newsday, the high rate of positive results raised concerns among Vietnam vets who wanted additional answers from the VA. The liver fluke is a tiny parasitic worm, “virtually unknown in America but rampant in Southeast Asia. Humans are infected by eating undercooked freshwater fish in which the parasite lives.” The parasite can survive for decades within a human host, causing chronic irritation, which in some cases leads to “cholangiocarcinoma, a bile-duct cancer that often kills within months of diagnosis.”
When results of the smaller study were released, VA spokesman Curt Cashour wrote in an email “VA is not aware of any studies that show that bile-duct cancer occurs more often in U.S. Vietnam War Veterans than in other groups of people.” Yet, veteran John Ball, who served in Vietnam from July 1966 to August 1967, said he agreed to do the study because his friend Jim Delgiorno, a fellow veteran, had been diagnosed with a rare liver cancer linked to flukes and had died shortly thereafter. Ball entered the study and tested positive for past infestation. Other veterans who served with Delgiorno are also concerned, including one suffering from cirrhosis, who says he seldom drinks. The Newsday article also mentions that one vet who tested positive in the study had recently undergone surgery to remove cancerous cysts from his liver.
At Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban, we are encouraged to see the VA take proactive steps to determine whether a link exists. On its face, this seems to be the “delay, deny, defend” approach the VA took to the problems with Agent Orange and Camp Lejeune water. But time will tell. And getting answers is going to take time. Results of the larger study are expected in two years. In the meantime, the VA must do more to inform Vietnam-era vets of the risks and get them the health screenings and care they need.
The VA benefits attorneys at Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban have more than 200 years of combined legal experience. For more information on how we can help with your appeal, call 866-866-VETS or contact our office online.
Thank to Mr. Spencer I was able to get my VA disability claim re-reviewed and given another chance to receive disability. By far he is one of the most professional lawyers I have ever dealt with. So Veterans if you are looking for help with your VA disability claim I would suggest that you hire Macari, Russotto, Spencer, & Balaban. Thanks again for everything.
— Alfred Daye
As a disabled veteran trying to navigate the complexities of the Veterans Administrations regulations, I turned to the law firm of Marcari, Russotto, Spencer and Balaban. They helped me understand what I needed to do and prepared and presented to the VA an excellent presentation of my case. I recommend them for your legal needs.
— Harry Johnson
I was very satisfied with the excellent and professional manner the law firm handled my claim. I highly recommend any veteran who needs help with his or her claim to use Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban P.C. Special thanks to Mr Spencer for being very professional and courteous during the appeal process. Again Thanks to the entire firm for a job well done!
— Luther Henderson
My husband & I highly recommend this law form to any veteran trying to navigate the endless red tape of the VA. We turned to Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban to handle my husband's appeal and could not have been happier. We enjoyed open and consistent communication regarding our case. Any questions we had were answered immediately.
— Michele DeZayas
Amanda Medina-Morales was our point of contact and she kept us up to date on the progress of our case. It was a pleasure and relief knowing that someone truly competent and professional was handling this and fighting for us.
— Michele DeZayas