A half century after serving in Vietnam, hundreds of veterans have a new reason to believe they may be dying from a silent bullet — test results show some men may have been infected by a slow-killing parasite while fighting in the jungles of Southeast Asia.
Liver flukes can cause bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma), a cancer of the biliary duct system, which includes the gallbladder, bile ducts, and certain cells inside the liver.
Endemic in the rivers of Vietnam, the worms can easily be wiped out with a handful of pills early on, but left untreated they can live for decades without making their hosts sick. Over time, swelling and inflammation of the bile duct can lead to cancer. Jaundice, itchy skin, weight loss and other symptoms appear only when the disease is in its final stages.
The VA study, along with a call by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York for broader research into liver flukes and cancer-stricken veterans, began after The Associated Press raised the issue in a story last year. The reporting found that about 700 veterans with cholangiocarcinoma have been seen by the VA in the past 15 years. Less than half of them submitted claims for service-related benefits, mostly because they were not aware of a possible connection to Vietnam. The VA rejected 80 percent of the requests, but decisions often appeared to be haphazard or contradictory, depending on what desks they landed on, the AP found.
The number of claims submitted reached 60 in 2017, up from 41 last year. Nearly three out of four of those cases were also denied, even though the government posted a warning on its website this year saying veterans who ate raw or undercooked freshwater fish while in Vietnam might be at risk. It stopped short of urging them to get ultrasounds or other tests, saying there was currently no evidence the vets had higher infection rates than the general population.
“The VA rejected 80% of the requests.” As usual, the VA stopped short of encouraging Vietnam veterans to get ultrasounds that could detect inflammation from the parasites. They say they need more “research” before they can make a determination one way or another. The MSN article states that one veteran, after being denied 3 times, was finally able to get assistance, and is doing better.
They said the same thing about the damage from Agent Orange for decades until pressure forced them into changing…and there are still effects from that chemical on the children of affected US veterans that have by and large not been fully addressed. Or the constant fight to get help for those who drank the contaminated water at Camp LeJeune that hasonly recently at least partly been resolved.
Veterans should not have to engage in a pitched battle for survival with their own nation.