Vietnam veterans with cholangiocarcinoma get help filing claims with the VA in commemoration of Veterans Day

Navigating how to file claims with Veterans Affairs can be daunting when diagnosed with a rare disease such as cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer). That’s why the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation hosted a webinar featuring volunteer Lourdes Rocha and is resharing the recording for Veterans Day to raise awareness and provide support for Vietnam veterans.

Vietnam veterans fought in perhaps the most controversial war in American history and deserve full benefits for their service,” said Cindy Thomas, Foundation staff member. “While this webinar was recorded in 2020, the information is just as relevant today to help veterans with cholangiocarcinoma get full federal health and disability benefits. Providing a webinar on their behalf to honor their service this Veterans Day is the least we can do.”

Vietnam veterans were exposed to two different risk factors regarding developing cholangiocarcinoma during their service in Vietnam. The risk factors are exposure to liver flukes and dioxin, which is in Agent Orange. Although exposure to the liver fluke in Vietnam is mainly through eating raw, undercooked salted, or fermented fish, there are cases that have been contracted through cross-contamination. 

The VA has approved claims for liver fluke exposure and herbicide exposure. In some cases, the VA will state the Agent Orange Studies by the National Academy of Sciences as reasons not to recognize cholangiocarcinoma. However, research shows due to the rarity and other factors regarding cholangiocarcinoma, Agent Orange Studies are flawed. 

In some cases, the VA will deny service connection because the veteran did not show symptoms in the service or within a year after discharge. The veteran did not have to have symptoms in the service or within a year after discharge for this to be service-connected. In the majority of cases, this cancer is asymptomatic and in most cases takes 30 to 40 years to develop

Because of those aforementioned issues, Rocha provides instruction to help veterans file claims since service connections must be established on a direct basis. This requires a nexus opinion linking military service to bile duct cancer because the VA has a history of both granting and denying veterans’ claims for service connection for cholangiocarcinoma. However, in cases where service connection is granted, VA recognizes the connection between service in Vietnam and the later onset of the disease. 

If you are a Vietnam veteran, know a Vietnam veteran who has cholangiocarcinoma, or you are the spouse of a veteran who has passed away from cholangiocarcinoma and experienced problems with your VA claims/appeals, please contact Cindy Thomas at Please include your claim/appeal status and a brief history of your claim process.


Everyone at CCF would like to thank our veterans for their service.  We're sharing this webinar from 2020 to continue to raise awareness.