Congressman Jon Runyan (R-NJ) led a bipartisan group of Representatives asking that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) allow veterans access to a specific type of medical treatment that is already available to non-veteran federal health care beneficiaries. Provenge, a 2010 Federal Drug Administration-approved cutting-edge prostate cancer drug is in use by the Department of Defense to successfully treat late stage prostate cancer. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has also ensured access to this drug for seniors and low-income individuals. Currently this drug is not available to veterans.
"Veterans as a group are one of the highest at-risk groups for developing prostate cancer and I find it absolutely deplorable that our nation's veterans are being denied treatments that are readily available to other Federal health care beneficiaries," said Congressman Runyan. "It is very tough for me to understand how a group who has sacrificed so much for the United States could be denied this critical health care coverage. I have asked Secretary Shinseki to take a close look at offering this critical prostate cancer treatment to veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs. It is my sincere hope to work closely with the Secretary in making sure veterans have access to all approved prostate cancer treatments."
In 1996 the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences determined that there was a relationship between exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides used during Vietnam and prostate cancer. Due to this finding and the number of veterans with prostate cancer, the VA updated their position on treatment. In fact, the VA decided that veterans with prostate cancer who were exposed to these herbicides should be placed in a different class for benefits. This includes the possibility of becoming eligible for disability compensation, health care benefits and survivor benefits.
Congressman Runyan is Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs (DAMA) and Co-Chairs the Congressional Men's Health Caucus and the Congressional Prostate Cancer Task Force. Attached is the letter that was sent to Secretary Eric Shinseki, the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.