Mesothelioma Veterans Benefits
We’ve all seen the mesothelioma commercials on television, but what is not said in those commercials is how mesothelioma affects the veteran population. Did you know that over 30 percent of all mesothelioma cases occur in veterans? Why? All branches of the military used asbestos, and asbestos is still used in many other countries where our military serves. For these reasons, veterans are more likely to develop asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma.
The risk is actually highest for the Navy because asbestos was used on ships and in shipyards from 1935 to 1975. All military transportation vehicles—ships, aircraft and tanks—contained asbestos.
Mesothelioma is a malignant, asbestos-related cancer that forms in the lungs and abdomen. The disease has no cure, and there are about 3000 new cases in the U.S. each year. About 75 percent of those are military and tradesmen who worked in shipbuilding, factories and construction. Asbestos is a mineral and was was used as an insulation and fireproofing material. Even after there was medical evidence that asbestos might be harmful and toxic, the military continued its widespread use.
Symptoms of mesothelioma are shortness of breath, chest pain, weight loss, cough and fatigue. Treatment involves the typical cancer treatments: radiation, chemotherapy or surgery.
Veterans with mesothelioma qualify for several types of VA disability mesothelioma benefits for asbestos-related illnesses. Treatment can occur at any VA medical facility, and free travel services are available for veterans to go to either the Boston VA or the Greater Los Angeles VA centers. These are the two leading VA facilities in mesothelioma cancer.
Standard VA disability compensation is available for the veteran, or a surviving spouse, child or dependent parent. The VA rates the disability on a percentage scale of 0 to 100, depending on the disease claimed and its severity. The VA will award a 100% disability rating when the impairment is severe enough to prevent the veteran from working. Additionally, the VA offers Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) to a survivor if the veteran died while on active duty or in training, or from a military-connected disease like mesothelioma.VA also offers a Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) as a higher rate benefit to veterans or survivors for specific health conditions like amputations and mesothelioma. VA also offers secondary benefits related to hospitalization, convalescent homes, housing and insurance.
A veteran’s disability claim must connect the mesothelioma with military service. In particular, veterans who served from 1940 to 1980 are at highest risk, but so are veterans who served later, because it took the military decades to remove all the asbestos from their vehicles. Additionally, Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans were potentially exposed to asbestos while serving overseas and being exposed to damaged building debris. There is even a potential that military men could have brought home asbestos dust on their clothing, potentially exposing their household in a secondary exposure situation.
The VA has several types of disability claims that can be filed. For mesothelioma, veterans should file a post-service disability claim; it is used for illnesses that present after military service has concluded. It can take many years for mesothelioma to present as a disease. Under this claim type, the category Exposures to Hazardous Materials fits asbestos exposure and asbestos-related diseases.
Regarding eligibility, you must have an asbestos-related disease and must be able to show that your exposure to asbestos occurred while you served in the military. It is important to note that you can’t just claim asbestos exposure; you must claim a specific disease condition. You must also have been discharged honorably (dishonorable discharges do not qualify for benefits). The VA will need details regarding where you were stationed and details of your military occupation or specialty. More than likely, the VA will conduct their own medical exam to evaluate your claim for VA disability mesothelioma benefits.
You can apply online or work with one of the VA representatives at your local VA office or over the phone. If you’re a veteran and you suspect or know you have mesothelioma, you are entitled to health care and special VA disability mesothelioma benefits, including survivor benefits for your family.
Many veterans find that working with a lawyer helps to navigate the VA’s complex process. The VA will not allow lawyers to work with veterans unless the law firm and lawyers are fully accredited as VA claim agents.
We are accredited and we have helped many veterans with the VA process, which can be complex and confusing. We will help you file the right claim, and can help if you’ve already been denied disability. We can also help you get the highest possible VA disability rating—as close to 100% as we can. The VA definitely recognizes mesothelioma as service-related and we can help you gather the supporting material you need to file your claim.