Counting Veterans Cancer Act Passes Senate Amendment Vote, Closer to Becoming Law

Counting Veterans’ Cancer Act Will Prevent Tens of Thousands of Veterans’ Cancer Cases from Going Unreported

Today, Senators Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) announced the successful addition of the Counting Veterans’ Cancer Act as an amendment to the annual Senate Veterans Affairs funding bill. The bipartisan legislation will ensure veterans’ cancer cases are fully accounted for in national cancer registries. Under current reporting laws, it’s estimated that each year, tens of thousands of cancer cases among veterans are missed by the central registries that form the foundation of national cancer research.    

“Collecting and centralizing cancer data empowers doctors and scientists to develop treatments that save lives. It’s essential that veteran cancer cases are comprehensively reported, and this legislation will ensure veterans are included in life-saving cancer prevention and research efforts,” said Sen. Kelly.  

“Far too many veterans suffering from cancer are left uncounted by national cancer registries,” said Sen. Tillis. “It is crucial that veteran cancer cases are accurately reported so doctors, scientists, and other health care providers can provide the best care and treatments to our veterans, and this legislation will provide the necessary changes to ensure veteran cancer cases are properly identified and reported.” 

“Speaking as a cancer registrar, a veteran, and a breast cancer survivor it is vital to include data for all veterans diagnosed with cancer in the US cancer surveillance system. The Senate passage of Senators Kelly and Tillis’ legislation will enrich cancer data quality and foster improved disease outcomes, targeted community outreach, and prevention efforts for our veterans and in our communities,” said Christena Vallerga, Certified Tumor Registrar and National Cancer Registrars Association member from Gilbert, AZ

“The cancer registry community is thankful to Senators Kelly and Tillis for championing this vital legislation. Now, with passage by the Senate we look forward to its consideration by the House. The Counting Veterans’ Cancer Act will help ensure all veterans receive the highest quality cancer care they need and deserve,” said Lori Swain, Executive Director of the National Cancer Registrars Association

“We applaud the Senate passage of Senators Kelly and Tillis’ legislation. Finding a solution to data sharing challenges is our goal, because the US cancer surveillance reporting system cannot serve its full purpose when the largest integrated health care system in the United States is not fully included in our national cancer surveillance system. Ensuring that all military personnel are reflected in our national cancer statistics is critical to our understanding of cancer not only among our veterans, but also as a nation. Including these individuals in the data moving forward will contribute to a more accurate picture of cancer in the US. The senate passage of the Kelly-Tillis bill is a major step towards a more meaningful and complete picture of cancer in the United States,” said Betsy Kohler, Executive Director of the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries


State cancer registries collect data on cancer type, severity, treatment, and outcomes, which is then submitted to two national registries: the Center for Disease Control’s National Program of Cancer Registries (NPCR) and National Institute of Health’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program (SEER). Data from these registries are the basis of cancer tracking, prevention, and control research.   

While individual state laws require new cancer data to be reported to state registries, only some VA medical facilities report data to their relevant state registries. It is estimated that tens of thousands of cases are missed each year by central cancer registries because of a lack of VA reporting. Consequently, the national registries miss a significant portion of veteran cancer data. The Counting Veterans’ Cancer Act would require Veterans’ Health Administration facilities to share cancer data with state cancer registries, which would guarantee their inclusion in the national registries.    

The Counting Veterans’ Cancer Act amendment was added to the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Act, which is currently under consideration by the Senate as part of a package of annual appropriations bills. 

Click here for full bill text.