SCHUMER: LONG ISLAND VIETNAM VET NOW BATTLING RARE TERMINAL CANCER LINKED TO HIS MILITARY SERVICE IS SEEING HIS COMPENSATION CLAIMS DENIED BECAUSE VA DOESN'T RECOGNIZE HIS CANCER AS 'VIETNAM RELATED'; SENATOR CALLS FOR IMMEDIATE INVESTIGATION TO DETERMINE IF LINK DOES EXIST; IF SO, VETERANS LIKE JERRY CAN GET THE BENEFITS THEY EARNED & DESERVE
While Serving Our Country in Vietnam, Vets Like Long Islander Jerry Chiano Swam in Vietnam’s Rivers & Ate Local Fish That May Now Be Linked to His Bile Duct Cancer; VA Does Not Recognize Bile Duct Cancer as a Service Related Illness And Denies Benefits Related To This Disease
Schumer Calls on ‘National Academies of Sciences, Engineering & Medicine’ to Launch a New, Groundbreaking Investigation To Determine Whether Exposure to Parasites During Vietnam War Is Associated with Bile Duct Cancer
Schumer: Vets Like Jerry Shouldn't Have To Wage Their Own War To Gather The Scientific Facts About This Cancer
After learning of a Long Island Vietnam vet battling a rare cancer that could be linked to his military service, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called for an immediate scientific investigation into the potential causality of bile duct cancer and whether it has been linked to parasites present in Southeast Asia’s waterways at the time of the Vietnam War. Schumer stood alongside Jerry Chiano, a Vietnam Veteran from Long Island, who was recently diagnosed with bile duct cancer. Schumer explained that Mr. Chiano does not receive service-related compensation for his cancer because it is not recognized as a service-connected illness by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
“Veterans, like Jerry Chiano, shouldn’t have to wage their own war to gather the scientific facts about bile duct cancer in order to receive earned benefits,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “Our brave service members fought to protect our freedom and it’s our obligation to care for them now that they’re home. Hundreds of veterans have been diagnosed with bile duct cancer over the past decade and many who may have it might not know they are at risk for it. It’s time for the feds to study whether this is more than a coincidence. I’m urging the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to immediately launch a new scientific study to examine whether a correlation exists between bile duct cancer and parasites known to live in the Vietnam region during the Vietnam War. We know that some parasites commonly found in South East Asia can lead to bile duct cancer if ingested, so if these parasites infected our veterans while defending our way of life overseas, they should be get the compensation they earned and deserve.”
According to Mr. Chiano, those serving in the Vietnam War often swam and bathed in the rivers and ate local fish. The Cancer Treatments of America has said that water-borne parasites, called liver flukes, are common in Asian countries and can infect the bile duct. Moreover, the CDC says that individuals can become infected by accidentally swallowing the parasite when ingesting contaminated water. Schumer said that the first step in establishing a presumption of service connection is for the VA to determine a causal relationship between these parasites and this cancer. Therefore, Schumer is urging the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to launch a study examining whether a correlation exists between bile duct cancer and these water-borne parasites. Schumer is also calling for a study examining whether a correlation exists between bile duct cancer and the range of chemicals known to be used during the Vietnam War.
"The Vietnam Veterans of America are proud to stand with Senator Schumer, and Jerry Chiano to call for an investigation into this rare cancer that is affecting veterans across the country. We need to start studying what causes this cancer so that we can try to save some lives. That includes making Vietnam vets everywhere aware that they could be at risk for this disease,” John Rowan, National President, Vietnam Veterans of America
"Even after battling exposure to Agent Orange and all the illnesses that come with it Jerry is still looking out for his Vietnam brothers back home. I can't thank Jerry enough for sounding the bell on this cancer to make sure other vets know they could be at risk and for our Senator, Chuck Schumer for hearing that bell and doing the right thing to get to the bottom of what's causing it," said Joseph “Big Joe” Ingino – Southern District Director – NY State Council, Vietnam Veterans of America
Schumer today visited the home of Jerry Chiano, a veteran and resident of Valley Stream who served in the Navy and was sent to Vietnam at 19 years old. Mr. Chiano had a tracheotomy due to cancer of the throat, which has been linked to Agent Orange. The cancer was diagnosed 20 years ago. More recently, Mr. Chiano has also been diagnosed with bile duct cancer but does not receive service-related compensation for this disease.
Bile duct cancer, also called Cholangiocarcinoma, is a rare disease in which malignant cancer cells form in the bile ducts. There are three types of bile duct cancer: 1) perihilar, which is most common; 2) distal (where the duct passes into the pancreas); and 3) intrahepatic. According to the VA, one risk factor for bile duct cancer is past infection with tiny parasitic worms called liver flukes, which are found in the fresh waters of Southeast Asia. Individuals can become infected by eating fish or ingesting water that has these parasites. Once eaten, the liver flukes grow to adulthood inside the human biliary duct system. The irritation and scarring caused by liver fluke infection can lead to bile duct cancer. According to the VA, two parasites are commonly involved: opisthorchis verrini, which is found in Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam, Thailand, Lao People's Democratic Republic, and Cambodia; and: clonorchis sinensis, which is common in rural areas of Korea and China. The VA says that veterans who ate raw or undercooked freshwater fish during their service in Southeast Asia, such as Vietnam War Veterans, might have been infected. However, the VA says it 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. Schumer noted that Mr. Chiano has said that, while serving in Vietnam, he and other service members often swam in the rivers, bathed in the rivers and ate local fish.
According to media reports, like the Chicago Tribune, hundreds of Vietnam veterans have been diagnosed with bile duct cancer. According to Dr. Ralph Erickson, Chief Consultant of Post-Deployment Health Services at the VA, approximately 700 patients with bile duct cancer have passed through the agency’s medical system in the past 15 years. According to reports, the number of benefit claims for bile duct cancer has increased six fold since 2003. In 2015, 60 benefit claims for bile duct cancer were submitted to the VA and nearly 80 percent of those were denied.
Schumer pointed to the VA’s process for acknowledging service-related illnesses. For instance, at one time Parkinson ’s disease was not considered service-related among Vietnam War veterans but now it is. In 2009, the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine published a study on veterans and Agent Orange. The study suggested limited evidence that exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides during the Vietnam War were associated with an increased chance of developing Parkinson’s disease. Subsequently, later that year, the VA announced that Parkinson ’s disease would be added to the list of conditions connected to exposure to herbicide agents.
Similarly, Schumer said that the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine should launch a study on the correlation between exposure to the pesticides like those present in Vietnam, and bile duct cancer. Schumer said this research is the first step needed to eventually have the VA cover bile duct cancer as a service-related illness. Second, Schumer said that this research will prove critical as Americans are diagnosed and can more readily assess their likelihood of risk.
A copy of Schumer’s letter is below:
President Marcia McNutt
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001
Dear President McNutt,
I am writing on behalf of Jerry Chiano, my constituent from Long Island, who was diagnosed with a rare form of terminal cancer after serving dutifully in Vietnam. Mr. Chiano has Cholangiocarcinoma, more commonly known as bile duct cancer, which has been linked to hazardous chemicals and water-borne parasites known to be present in Vietnam and the greater Southeast Asia region.
It is estimated that 8,000 Americans are diagnosed with Cholangiocarcinoma each year. As you might know, there are three types of bile duct cancer: 1) Perihilar, which is most common; 2) distal (where the duct passes into the pancreas); and 3) intrahepatic. Very often, bile duct cancers are found after the disease has advanced too far for surgery or treatment, meaning that the vast majority of those who are diagnosed the disease will die. Cholangiocarcinoma is not common among young or middle-aged Americans, but 60% of cases occur in adults 65 years and older – the Vietnam veteran generation.
Although the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) (Mar 17, 2017) claims that “the exact cause is unknown”, it also claims that “exposure to hazardous chemicals such as dioxins and PCBs polychlorinated biphenols, amongst other chemicals, have been linked to an increased risk of developing bile duct cancer”. In addition, the CTCA also claims that water-borne parasites called liver flukes (such as Clonorchis sinensis and Opisthorchis viverrin) that are common in Asian countries can infect the bile duct and cause cancer.
?I request that the National Academy of Sciences commission research to determine whether a correlation exists between exposure to phenoxy herbicides like those present in Vietnam, and any of the three forms of Cholangiocarcinoma. I also request a separate study to determine any link between Clonorchis sinensis, Opisthorchis viverrin and any other water-borne parasites known to be associated with the three forms of Cholangiocarcinoma. This research will prove critical as Americans are diagnosed and can more readily assess their likelihood of risk.
I appreciate your prompt attention to this matter.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator
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