VA Disability Benefits for Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance
Monoclonal gammopathy of uncertain significance, or MGUS, occurs when plasma cells grow out of control. Veterans may be exposed to certain toxins during their service which can later cause them to develop monoclonal gammopathy. Continue reading to learn more about VA disability benefits for monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance.
What is Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance?
As mentioned above, monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance is an abnormal plasma disorder. With this disorder, an abnormal protein (i.e., monoclonal protein) is in a person’s blood. This protein is formed with bone marrow.
While this condition does not necessarily cause specific symptoms, it can lead to serious diseases, such as certain forms of blood cancer. Complications from MGUS can include:
- Multiple myeloma
- Light chain amyloidosis
- Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia
Causes of Monoclonal Gammopathy: Who is At Risk?
As with many conditions, the chance of getting monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) increases with age. However, infection, immune system problems, and environmental factors can also play a role.
Warning Signs of Serious Health Conditions Linked to Monoclonal Gammopathy
- Fatigue and weakness
- Nerve pain
- Changes in vision or hearing
- Bleeding or anemia
- Swollen lymph nodes, liver or spleen
Diagnosing Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance
Testing is usually necessary to confirm that abnormal proteins are in the blood. Blood testing and urine screening can be performed to diagnose a person with monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance. Additionally, electrophoresis, a lab test which separates proteins based on size and other factors, can also be informative for doctors when diagnosing monoclonal gammopathy.
Treating Monoclonal Gammopathy
As some people who have monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance experience no symptoms or harm, treatment may not always be necessary.
People with monoclonal gammopathy may need to attend checkups often to ensure that their monoclonal gammopathy has not led to a more serious condition. Physical exams and routine blood work may also be necessary.
Getting VA Service Connection
In order to be awarded service connection for any disability, veterans usually need to submit:
- A diagnosis of the condition; AND
- An in-service event, illness, or stressor which caused or contributed to the veteran’s disability; AND
- A nexus which links the veteran’s disability to their service
With monoclonal gammopathy, this can get complicated, as monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance itself, when asymptomatic, receives a non-compensable rating. This means that if a veteran is seeking benefits for a condition caused by monoclonal gammopathy, they will also need provide a diagnosis for that condition as well.
Veterans may become service connected for monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance, and then seek secondary service connection for conditions caused by their already-service-connected condition. In this instance, the veteran will need to submit:
- A diagnosis of the condition caused by MGUS; and
- Evidence linking the secondary condition to the MGUS
For example, if a veteran develops lymphoma after being diagnosed and service-connected for monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance, they may be able to establish service connection for lymphoma as secondary to their monoclonal gammopathy.
Honoring Our PACT Act: Presumptive Service Connection for Monoclonal Gammopathy
In August 2022, the Honoring Our PACT Act added monoclonal gammopathy to the list of presumptive conditions for veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange during their military service.
Agent Orange was an herbicide used by the United States during the Vietnam War. Agent Orange was made up of 2,4-D, 2,4,5-T and its contaminant TCDD, which is a highly toxic byproduct of producing Agent Orange.
The Honoring Our PACT Act created a presumption of service connection for veterans diagnosed with monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance who served “with active military naval, air, or space service” in any the following locations and time periods:
- The Republic of Vietnam between January 9, 1972 and May 7, 1975;
- Thailand, at any US or Thai base, January 9, 1972 and June 30, 1976;
- Laos between December 1, 1965 an September 30, 1969;
- Cambodia, specifically at Mimot or Krek, Kampong Cham Province, between April 1969 and April 30, 1969;
- Guam or American Samoa or in the territorial waters thereof between January 9, 1962 and July 30, 1980;
- Johnston Atoll island or Johnston Atoll the ship between January 1, 1972 and September 30, 1977
If a veteran receives a diagnosis of monoclonal gammopathy and served in one of these locations, they should be eligible for presumptive service connection. Presumptive service connection places less burden of proof on the veteran, as VA presumes that the condition is linked to Agent Orange exposure.
How Does VA Rate MGUS?
VA uses Diagnostic Code 7712 to assign a rating for monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance. Under this code, veterans with asymptomatic soldering or MGUS will receive a 0 percent rating.
While a 0 percent rating can be discouraging, the rating is important because it establishes service connection. This means that if a veteran develops another condition linked to monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance, they can seek secondary service connection for that secondary condition. Additionally, even though a 0 percent rating is noncompensable, it may entitle the veteran to other VA benefits.
Importantly, the rating criteria also notes that current validated biomarkers of asymptomatic monoclonal gammopathy are acceptable for the diagnosis of multiple myeloma as defined by the American Society of Hematology and International Myeloma Working Group. If a veteran is diagnosed with symptomatic multiple myeloma, they can receive a 100 percent rating.
How CCK Can Help Veterans with Monoclonal Gammopathy?
If you are a veteran who has been diagnosed with monoclonal gammopathy, the experienced veterans’ advocates at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick may be able to help. We can help build your case or appeal for VA disability benefits for monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance, as well as any secondary disabilities linked to MGUS. If you need help with your appeal, call our office today for a free case evaluation.
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