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Written By: Devin Golden

Veterans and Mesothelioma

Veterans account for at least 33% of all mesothelioma cases in the United States. If you’re a veteran diagnosed with mesothelioma, you’ve come to the right place. The Veterans Department at Mesothelioma Guide is the nation’s leading resource for veterans battling mesothelioma.

Retired LCDR Carl Jewett

Reviewed By

Retired LCDR Carl Jewett

VA-Accredited Claims Agent

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Important Facts About Veterans and Mesothelioma

  • Most veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma qualify for VA Disability Compensation.
  • Veterans with non-service-connected mesothelioma may qualify for VA Pension.
  • Surviving spouses and dependents of veterans who died from mesothelioma may qualify for Dependency & Indemnity Compensation (DIC) or Survivors Pension.
  • The VA has three VA hospitals providing expert mesothelioma treatment to those veterans who only have health insurance through the VA.
  • Mesothelioma Guide’s VA-accredited claims agent specializes in asbestos-related VA claims and provides free assistance in filing for VA benefits.

VA Benefits for Veterans With Mesothelioma

As a veteran diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma cancer, you have the option of filing for Disability Compensation or Pension. You may also qualify for VA Health Care, although you are not required to use it.

VA Disability Compensation

VA Disability Compensation is a tax-free monthly benefit paid to veterans with service-connected mesothelioma where the veteran’s primary exposure to asbestos was in the military. To qualify, veterans must submit an exposure summary letter to the VA demonstrating that at least 50% of your occupational exposure to asbestos took place in the military.

Upon approval, veterans with mesothelioma are awarded a 100% disability rating. As of December 1, 2022, single veterans with a 100% rating receive $3,621 per month, while married veterans receive $3,823 per month.

Additional financial support is available to veterans if they have additional dependents, are housebound, require the Aid and Attendance (A&A) of another person to perform activities of daily living, or if their spouse requires A&A.

It’s important to note that a veteran’s income and assets are not considered when evaluating their VA Disability Compensation claim.

VA Pension

VA Pension provides financial assistance to wartime veterans with non-service-connected mesothelioma who were primarily exposed to asbestos before and/or after their military service. VA Pension is means tested. Therefore, the veteran’s income must be below the income limit (called the MAPR, or Maximum Annual Pension Rate) established by Congress.

Pension payment amounts are determined by subtracting the veteran’s income from the appropriate MAPR, which varies depending on the veteran’s marital status, the level of aid the veteran requires, and their out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Aid and Attendance

Aid and Attendance (A&A) is a tax-free monetary benefit provided to eligible veterans who require assistance with daily living activities. It is a monthly amount paid in addition to the veteran’s disability compensation or pension payments.

The A&A benefit is designed to provide additional financial help to veterans who have a disability that makes it difficult for them to perform everyday tasks, such as bathing, dressing, or eating, without the help of another person.

A&A is designed to help offset the cost of hiring a healthcare provider. However, the veteran is not required to hire a caregiver to provide that A&A, as it can be provided free of charge by a family member or friend.

Veterans can also receive additional compensation if their spouse requires A&A.

VA Health Care

The highest priority for veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma is finding the best treatment centers for their type of mesothelioma. However, many veterans do not have private health insurance and only receive their healthcare through their local VA hospital or clinic.

Because the number of mesothelioma specialists in the country is very limited, most VA hospitals do not have a mesothelioma treatment program. Fortunately, there are multiple VA hospitals that offer treatment for mesothelioma that is on par with some of the best treatment programs in the country.

There are three VA hospitals with mesothelioma treatment programs. Each collaborates with a top-ranked mesothelioma cancer center:

Veterans with VA health care can seek treatment at any VA hospital without a referral. Therefore, veterans can travel to one of these VA hospitals and receive treatment at no cost.

When a veteran seeks treatment at one of these VA hospitals without a referral, the veteran is responsible for paying the travel costs to and from that hospital. However, if the veteran can get their VA doctor to write a referral to one of these VA hospitals, the VA will also cover the travel costs.

These hospitals offer state-of-the-art treatment options that provide more expertise and experience than many civilian mesothelioma treatment programs.

As an alternative to traveling to one of these VA hospitals, veterans can also request their VA doctor refer them to a civilian mesothelioma specialist. When a VA doctor provides this referral to a civilian doctor, the VA becomes responsible for covering the cost of the treatment provided by that civilian doctor.

VA Benefits for Surviving Dependents

When a veteran passes away due to mesothelioma, the VA offers several compensation programs to surviving dependents (spouses, dependent children, and parents). Surviving spouses may also qualify for VA-funded health insurance through the VA’s Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA).

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is a tax-free monetary benefit paid to eligible survivors of military members who died as a result of a service-connected disability or disease. This does not mean a veteran must have been approved for Disability Compensation for their mesothelioma before the veteran passed away. In fact, a surviving spouse can apply for DIC even if the veteran never filed a VA Disability Compensation claim.

Eligible recipients of DIC include surviving spouses, dependent children under 18 (or under 23 if attending school), and dependent parents.

The amount of DIC paid to eligible survivors varies based on their relationship to the deceased veteran. As of December 1, 2022, the base monthly rate for a surviving spouse is $1,562 per month but can be higher if that spouse is in need of Aid and Attendance, is housebound, or has dependent children.

Survivor Pension

Survivor Pension is a tax-free monthly payment paid to the surviving spouse and dependent children of a deceased wartime veteran. To qualify, the veteran must have served for at least 90 days on active duty, with at least one day during a wartime period.

The surviving spouse cannot have remarried before turning 57, and their income must be below an income limit set by Congress. The amount paid is determined by subtracting the surviving spouse’s income from the applicable income limit. These income limits vary depending on whether the spouse requires Aid and Attendance, is housebound, or has dependent children.

Aid and Attendance for Surviving Dependents

Aid and Attendance (A&A) is an additional compensation benefit paid to a surviving spouse who requires the assistance of another person to assist with activities of daily living. A&A is paid in addition to the spouses DIC or Survivors Pension amount.

The A&A benefit is designed to provide additional financial help to spouses who require assistance in performing daily tasks such as bathing, dressing and eating.

A&A is intended to alleviate the expenses associated with employing a healthcare professional. However, it is not mandatory for the spouse to engage a paid caregiver for this assistance, as it can be offered free of charge by a relative or a friend.

VA Health Insurance for Dependents

VA’s Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA) is a comprehensive healthcare program provided by the VA for a veteran’s spouse. Like most civilian health care plans, CHAMPVA covers a portion of the cost of medical services, hospital care, outpatient services and prescriptions.

Spouses are eligible to enroll in CHAMPVA if the veteran has a permanent 100% disability rating for a service-connected disability or disease, or if the veteran died as a result of a service-related disability or disease.

Burial Benefits

The VA provides several benefits to family members of deceased veterans for burial, funeral and plot expenses. Headstones, along with plaques for veterans interred in a columbarium or mausoleum, are provided free of charge and shipped anywhere in the world. The VA will also provide a military funeral honors team to play taps and present the next of kin with an American flag during the funeral service.

Eligibility and amounts of compensation for burial, funeral and plot expenses vary depending on several factors including whether the veteran’s death is service-connected, if the veteran was in receipt of disability compensation for a condition that did not cause the veteran’s death, and if the veteran is buried at a national or state veteran’s cemetery.

How to File a VA Claim for Mesothelioma

To file a mesothelioma VA claim a veteran or surviving dependent must, meet the basic eligibility criteria, submit the appropriate VA forms, supporting documentation and information, and provide the VA with medical records, most important of which is a pathology report from a biopsy.

LCDR Carl Jewett
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LCDR Carl Jewett, USN, Retired

VA-Accredited Claims Agent

LCDR Carl Jewett, USN, Retired & VA-Accredited Claims Agent

“Filing for any kind of VA benefit can seem daunting and overwhelming, but I pride myself on making the entire process as easy to understand and as painless as possible. I make sure you know what forms to fill out, guide you in filling them out, help you gather other documentation, and submit your claim for you. Once your claim is submitted to the VA, if you don’t think the process was easy, then I haven’t done my job properly.”

Each VA benefit requires different forms and information to be submitted with the claim and eligibility criteria requires the veteran received a military discharge that is not dishonorable. Eligibility for veterans benefits for veterans with an Other Than Honorable (OTH) or Bad Conduct Discharge (BCD) are decided on a case-by-case basis.

Veterans and Asbestos Exposure

During the World War II era and through the Cold War, the United States significantly increased the production of ships, aircraft, and vehicles to support military operations. Asbestos was commonly used in the manufacturing of these assets due to its desirable properties. It was used in insulation, fireproofing, and as components in various mechanical and electrical systems. While asbestos was seen as a lifesaver due to its ability to prevent fires, it ultimately became a silent killer, exposing countless veterans to its toxic fibers. Because of the military’s widespread use of asbestos, military asbestos exposure was very common for veterans who served before the 1980s.

Why the Military Used Asbestos

Asbestos was so prevalent in the U.S. military due to its unique properties and the specific requirements of military applications. The following factors contributed to its widespread use:

    1
  • Fire resistance — Asbestos is an excellent fire-resistant material, which made it a valuable resource for the military. Asbestos was used to insulate and fireproof essential components, providing an extra layer of protection against fires.
  • 2
  • Heat resistance — Military machinery, such as engines and boilers, generate significant amounts of heat during operation. Asbestos possesses high heat resistance, making it an ideal material for insulating these systems.
  • 3
  • Durability and tensile strength — Asbestos is a robust and durable material that can withstand harsh conditions. Its tensile strength made it suitable for use in gaskets, seals, and other mechanical components requiring long-lasting materials capable of withstanding intense pressure, heat and wear.
  • 4
  • Cost-effectiveness — Asbestos was a relatively inexpensive material, making it an attractive option for large-scale military production. At the time, its affordability and availability made it a popular choice for various applications, ranging from insulation to brake linings.
  • 5
  • Versatility — Asbestos could be woven into fabrics, mixed into cement, or used in the form of loose fibers. This versatility made it suitable for a wide range of military applications, including insulation, fireproofing, and mechanical components.

Select Your Branch to Learn More About Your Exposure to Asbestos

Asbestos Exposure in Navy Ships and Shipyards

Of all the military branches, Navy veterans and shipyard workers faced the highest risk of asbestos exposure. The confined spaces and poor ventilation onboard Navy ships created the perfect environment for asbestos fibers to become airborne and easily inhaled. Asbestos was used extensively in the construction of these vessels, with applications ranging from insulation in boiler rooms and engine rooms to gaskets and seals in piping systems.

Asbestos Exposure in Other Branches

Asbestos was also used in the production of aircraft and vehicles. It was commonly found in brake linings, clutches, gaskets, and electrical insulation, among other components. Mechanics and other military personnel who maintained and repaired these assets were at risk of asbestos exposure due to the release of fibers during maintenance procedures.

Phillip LeClair
Military Icon

Phillip L.

U.S. Air Force Veteran

Phillip L., U.S. Air Force Veteran

“As an Air Force Instrumentation Repairman working on F-4 aircraft, I was unsure how I was exposed to asbestos when I was first diagnosed with mesothelioma. Only later did I learn that the F-4 was loaded with a lot of asbestos that I was regularly exposed to. I learned I was also exposed to asbestos from many of the buildings and hangers I worked in.”

VA Claims Expert for Veterans with Mesothelioma

Filing a VA claim for mesothelioma can be difficult and confusing. This process is made much easier by using the assistance of a VA-accredited claims agent. Working with a claims agent will make the process simple and straightforward, while also improving your probability of being approved.

Our VA-accredited claims agent is a 24-year retired Navy veteran who specializes in asbestos-related VA claims. He has more than 14 years of experience assisting veterans with asbestos claims. He has helped hundreds of veterans with mesothelioma get approved for VA Disability Compensation, Pension and DIC.

You can get more information about veterans’ compensation for mesothelioma in our Mesothelioma Guide podcast with Commander Jewett. He explains how he is able to get veterans approved and expedite the process.

Frequently Asked Questions About Mesothelioma and Veterans

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As a Veteran With Mesothelioma, What VA Compensation Programs Am I Eligible for?

You may be eligible for Disability Compensation or Pension. If the majority of your occupational exposure to asbestos occurred in the military, then you should file for Disability Compensation. If you are a wartime veteran with mesothelioma, and the majority of your asbestos exposure occurred in your civilian jobs, then you should file for Pension. Once you qualify for Disability Compensation or Pension, you could also qualify for additional compensation if you are housebound or need the Aid & Attendance (A&A) of another person to perform activities of daily living.

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Is There a Time Limit Associated With Filing a VA Claim?

No, there is no time limit. However, if your claim is approved, the VA will back pay you based on the date you file your claim. Therefore, you should file your claim or file an Intent to File (ITF) with the VA as soon as possible. For a surviving spouse filing for DIC, there is a 1-year time limit after the veteran’s death to file the claim and still get back paid to the date of the veteran’s death. In this case, no Intent to File is required. However, if the DIC claim is not submitted in that year, then the back pay will only be paid to the date the claim was submitted.

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My VA Claim for Mesothelioma Was Denied. What Are My Options?

If your Disability Compensation claim was denied, you can file an appeal. There are three available options:

  • Higher Level Review Appeal – You request another more senior VA rating representative to review your claim and render a new decision. In this case, you may not submit any new evidence.
  • Supplemental Appeal – It is identical to the Higher Level Review, except you are allowed to submit additional evidence for consideration.
  • Board Appeal – You request to have your claim decided by a VA judge.

Of these, the Higher Level Review and Supplemental Appeal options take the least amount of time and a decision is usually made in as little 3-4 months, whereas Board appeals can take up to two years.

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How Can I Have My VA Claim Expedited?

You can expedite your claim by filing a Fully Developed Claim (FDC). An FDC is a claim in which you submit – with your original claim form – all the necessary forms, supporting documentation and information necessary for the VA to make a decision on your claim. By doing so, your claim will be expedited through the system. Your claim can be expedited even further if you are over the age of 85 or have a terminal illness (usually defined as a life expectancy of less than one year).

Sources & Author

  1. About VA Health Benefits. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Retrieved from: https://www.va.gov/health-care/about-va-health-benefits/. Accessed: 09/23/2020.
  2. Veterans Asbestos Exposure. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Retrieved from: https://www.va.gov/disability/eligibility/hazardous-materials-exposure/asbestos/. Accessed: 09/24/2020.
  3. Veterans Compensation Benefits Rate Tables. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Retrieved from: https://www.benefits.va.gov/COMPENSATION/resources_comp01.asp#FNB. Accessed: 08/16/19.
  4. VA disability compensation. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Retrieved from: https://www.va.gov/disability/. Accessed: 10/15/18.
  5. Eligibility for Veterans Pension. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Retrieved from: https://www.va.gov/pension/eligibility/. Accessed: 08/16/19.
  6. VA Pension Rates for Veterans. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Retrieved from: https://www.va.gov/pension/veterans-pension-rates/. Accessed: 08/16/19.
  7. Are VA disability compensation and VA pension the same? U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Retrieved from: https://iris.custhelp.va.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/935/~/are-va-disability-compensation-and-va-pension-the-same%3F. Accessed: 08/27/19.
Devin Golden

About the Writer, Devin Golden

Devin Golden is a content writer for Mesothelioma Guide. He produces mesothelioma-related content on various mediums, including the Mesothelioma Guide website and social media channels. Devin's objective is to translate complex information regarding mesothelioma into informative, easily absorbable content to help patients and their loved ones.