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Melanoma and Veterans Disability

Melanoma and Veterans Disability

Melanoma, a type of skin cancer, is a significant concern for many veterans. Its connection to military service and subsequent eligibility for VA disability benefits is a topic of importance for both veterans and healthcare providers. Leah Bucholz provides valuable insights into this issue. She explores the nature of melanoma, its causes, and its implications for veterans seeking disability benefits.

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Understanding Melanoma

What is Melanoma?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that originates in melanocytes, the cells responsible for producing melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color. According to the Mayo Clinic, melanoma commonly develops in areas of the skin frequently exposed to the sun, such as the arms, back, face, and legs. It can also occur in less common sites like the eyes and internal body parts such as the nose or throat. The exact cause of melanoma remains unknown, but exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun or tanning beds is a significant risk factor.

Risk Factors

The primary risk factor for melanoma is exposure to UV light. Limiting UV exposure is crucial in reducing the risk of developing this cancer. Individuals with higher sun exposure, such as those deployed in sunny or tropical environments, are at greater risk. This makes military personnel, particularly those serving in equatorial regions, more susceptible to melanoma.

Melanoma and Veterans Disability

The PACT Act and Presumptive Conditions

The passage of the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act has significant implications for veterans. The PACT Act has added 20 new presumptive conditions related to burn pits and other toxic exposures, including melanoma. Under this legislation, veterans who served in certain locations, such as Southwest Asia during the Gulf War, are presumed to have been exposed to environmental toxins, thereby simplifying the process of claiming disability benefits for conditions like melanoma.

Medical Literature on Melanoma in Veterans

Research consistently shows an increased risk of skin cancer among military personnel. A systematic review published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology in June 2018 examined skin cancer risk among US military personnel. The review of nine studies found an increased incidence of skin cancer, including melanoma, among military personnel. The studies highlighted that increased sun exposure during military service contributed to higher rates of skin cancer compared to non-military populations.

Other Relevant Research

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also addressed UV radiation’s impact, emphasizing that UV rays are strongest at the equator, where military personnel are often deployed. Another study published in StatPearls discussed the malignant transformation of melanocytes due to UV radiation exposure. The research highlighted that military personnel are an often-overlooked group with unique UV exposure risks, placing them at higher risk for melanoma.

VA Resources and Benefits

VA.gov and Melanoma

The VA provides extensive resources for veterans, including information about melanoma and its connection to military service. The VA considers various types of melanomas as presumptive conditions, including melanomas of the skin, eyes, and mucosal melanomas, which originate in the tissues lining internal areas of the body. This classification simplifies the process for veterans to claim disability benefits for these conditions.

Service Connection and Sun Exposure

Veterans’ claims for melanoma-related disability benefits consider their lifetime sun exposure. For instance, a veteran who served many years in sunny environments, such as on a ship’s deck in the Navy, may have a higher risk of developing melanoma. The VA evaluates each case based on individual exposure history, ensuring fair consideration of all contributing factors.

Additional Considerations

Other Skin Cancers

While melanoma is a primary concern, other types of skin cancer, such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, are also relevant for veterans. These cancers, along with the scars they leave, can be service-connected, providing additional avenues for veterans to receive disability benefits.

C&P Exams for Skin Cancer

Veterans undergoing Compensation and Pension (C&P) exams for skin cancer should be prepared for thorough evaluations. These exams assess the extent and impact of the cancer, including any scarring, to determine the appropriate level of disability benefits.

Conclusion

Melanoma poses a significant risk for veterans, particularly those with extensive sun exposure during their service. The recent PACT Act and other VA resources have made it easier for veterans to access disability benefits for melanoma and other related conditions. By understanding the risk factors, available research, and VA resources, veterans can better navigate the process of obtaining the benefits they deserve.

Also read: New 2024 GERD VA Disability Ratings Updates

At Prestige Veteran Medical Consulting, a veteran-owned company, we specialize in Independent Medical Opinions (IMOs) known as Nexus letters.

Our purpose is to empower YOU, the veteran, to take charge of your medical evidence and provide you with valuable educational tools and research to guide you on your journey.

Understanding the unique challenges veterans face, our commitment lies in delivering exceptional service and support.

Leveraging an extensive network of licensed independent medical professionals, all well-versed in the medical professional aspects of the VA claims process, we review the necessary medical evidence to incorporate in our reports related to your VA Disability Claim.

Prestige Veteran Medical Consulting is not a law firm, accredited claims agent, or affiliated with the Veterans Administration or Veterans Services Organizations. However, we are happy to discuss your case with your accredited VA legal professional.

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Danielle McClaskey

Client Relations Specialist U.S. Navy Veteran

In her active-duty service in the United States Navy, Danielle undertook a variety of responsibilities, ranging from essential administrative duties to providing crucial medical care. Her multifaceted contributions played a pivotal role in enhancing her fellow service members’ operational effectiveness and well-being.

As a disabled veteran, she developed a profound understanding of the unique challenges faced by her fellow service members. Now, in her civilian role, Danielle is a valued member of the Prestige Veteran Medical Consulting team, where she continues to leverage her extensive background and educational achievements to provide exceptional support to veterans.

Leticia

LETICIA

ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT

Leticia has been in the medical field for nearly 14 years. She has always had a passion for medicine and caring for her community. Leticia has spent the last 4 years caring for veterans and first responders with alcohol and substance abuse in a medical rehabilitation setting whilst continuing her education working towards a degree in software development.

Someday she hopes to develop medical software that further enhances the patient’s experience in medical care. Leticia has a deep respect and love for those who have served as she comes from a family of law enforcement and military veterans.

Alan Bucholz

ALAN BUCHOLZ, PA-C:

U.S ARMY VETERAN, CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER

Alan enlisted in the US Army as a combat medic, where he deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Influenced by his time as a combat medic, he attended the Interservice Physician Assistant program while on
active duty, was commissioned as an officer, and subsequently deployed to Afghanistan.  

Alan’s military and medical background inspired him to form Prestige Veteran Medical Consulting with his
wife, Leah Bucholz, a Physician Assistant and Army Combat Veteran.  He has devoted himself to using his
knowledge gained in the military as a medical professional to serve the Veteran community.

Alan Bucholz

ALAN BUCHOLZ, PA-C:

U.S ARMY VETERAN, CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER

Alan enlisted in the US Army as a combat medic, where he deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Influenced by his time as a combat medic, he attended the Interservice Physician Assistant program while on
active duty, was commissioned as an officer, and subsequently deployed to Afghanistan.  

Alan’s military and medical background inspired him to form Prestige Veteran Medical Consulting with his
wife, Leah Bucholz, a Physician Assistant and Army Combat Veteran.  He has devoted himself to using his
knowledge gained in the military as a medical professional to serve the Veteran community.

Julie Pereira

JULIE PEREIRA:

ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT

During her Active-Duty time in the US Navy as a Hospital Corpsman, Julie provided medical administration
and patient care services in the field, the hospital, and base medical office settings.  This military medical and
administrative background has given Julie the hands-on experience and extensive knowledge necessary to
provide unparalleled service to her fellow Veterans through the Prestige Veteran Medical Consulting team.

Julie’s educational achievements include a Bachelor of Arts with a minor in Human Services and a pre-nursing associate in arts and science.

Julie has been inspired by her firsthand knowledge of navigating the VA Benefits process. She has dedicated
most of her adult life to serving Veterans through her knowledge derived from her military and civilian medical
education and training.

Jennifer Januta

JENNIFER JANUTA

U.S ARMY VETERAN, CHIEF OPERATIONS OFFICER

During her Active-Duty service in the Army, Jennifer supported various research efforts centered on combat casualty care and Soldier performance. Her military background gave her unique insights into veterans’ distinct challenges, ultimately inspiring her to join the Prestige Veteran Medical Consulting team.

Jennifer’s educational achievements include a master’s in molecular biology from George Washington University and a master’s in data science from Texas Tech University. Jennifer wholeheartedly dedicates herself to utilizing her knowledge and expertise gained from 15 years of healthcare experience to impact the well-being of those who have served positively.

Alan Bucholz

ALAN BUCHOLZ, PA-C:

U.S ARMY VETERAN, CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER

Alan enlisted in the US Army as a combat medic, where he deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Influenced by his time as a combat medic, he attended the Interservice Physician Assistant program while on
active duty, was commissioned as an officer, and subsequently deployed to Afghanistan.  

Alan’s military and medical background inspired him to form Prestige Veteran Medical Consulting with his
wife, Leah Bucholz, a Physician Assistant and Army Combat Veteran.  He has devoted himself to using his
knowledge gained in the military as a medical professional to serve the Veteran community.

Leah - Meet the Team

LEAH BUCHOLZ, PA-C

U.S ARMY VETERAN, MEDICAL EXPERT & FORMER C & P EXAMINER

Meet Leah, the founder, and leader of our organization. ​​A combat veteran herself, she understands the unique challenges veterans face, making her mission about much more than running a successful business. It’s about the opportunity to provide a legacy of exceptional service for our heroes.​

​“It is essential to remember that there is no greater honor than caring for service members on the battlefield. Continuing to care for Veterans after separation is an opportunity that I have been afforded to extend that care in this new battlefield related to service-incurred disabilities.”

Her inspiration comes from years of military experience working alongside her fellow servicemembers, particularly key leaders who have influenced her journey, applying their wisdom to her path. She values her team deeply, most of whom are also disabled combat veterans, each member a trusted individual sharing her vision.

 “Driven by passion and purpose, I aim to create a sustainable change that empowers veterans and future generations.”

Leah’s journey hasn’t been without challenges. From overcoming and living with her service-related disabilities to navigating work-life balance, she’s learned to face each hurdle head-on with resilience.  Like many of her veteran brothers and sisters, her early background consisted of limited resources and opportunities. Her military service has helped shape her into a steadfast leader, offering relatable inspiration to others.

Join us in celebrating Leah, a compassionate leader, and resilient veteran, driving our mission to serve those who served our nation.