Written by: Devin Golden
Veterans and Mesothelioma
Veterans account for more than 30% of all mesothelioma cases in the United States. The link between veterans and mesothelioma traces back to the military's heavy reliance on asbestos. Fortunately, nearly all veterans with mesothelioma are eligible for financial and health benefits.
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Important Facts About Veterans and Mesothelioma
- At least one-third of mesothelioma cases involve veterans.
- The VA offers benefits (compensation and health care) to veterans with mesothelioma.
- Veterans can get state-of-the-art treatment through the VA.
- Surviving loved ones can also apply for compensation.
- Veterans mesothelioma cases can lead to legal claims.
How Mesothelioma Became a Health Concern for Veterans
The rise of asbestos reached its peak in the 1960s and 1970s, aided by a boom in the middle of the 20th century. Asbestos was considered a savior among commercial and industrial leaders due to its fire-resistant and durable properties.
Once the United States entered World War II, the country moved quickly to increase its military capacity. It ramped up production of Navy ships, aircraft and vehicles. All were insulated and fire-proofed with asbestos.
Unfortunately, the military’s use of asbestos is why veterans represent the largest group of Americans diagnosed with mesothelioma.
When disturbed, asbestos turns dangerous. Fibers break apart from the source and enter the air, where people can unknowingly inhale or ingest them. These fibers can reach the protective lining of the lung cavity or abdomen. This can lead to fibers irritating cells and causing mutations.
Methods of Exposure for Veterans
The military used asbestos on ships, aircraft, vehicles and more — anywhere at risk of fire. Military personnel serving in these settings or constructing them were at risk of exposure.
Veterans who served aboard Navy ships, Air Force planes and Army barracks were also exposed to disturbed, loose fibers. Marines and Coast Guard members who worked onboard ships and in shipyards faced similar risks.
Veterans who served overseas may have been exposed from buildings. Damage to old buildings is one of the more common asbestos exposures for these veterans.
The military’s use of asbestos persisted until the 1980s. The volume of the mineral produced for the military led to a generation of veterans exposed to asbestos. This caused a significant rise in mesothelioma among veterans.
Select Your Branch to Learn More About Your Exposure to Asbestos
Types of Benefits for Veterans With Mesothelioma
The Department of Veterans Affairs provides several benefits and assistance for veterans who develop mesothelioma. These VA mesothelioma benefits include:
- Monthly compensation from disability or pension
- Access to treatment with a specialist
- Free health insurance
- Financial benefits for surviving loved ones
Compensation for Veterans With Mesothelioma
As a veteran with mesothelioma, you can receive compensation from the VA. The first step is filing a VA claim, and the best way to do so is by speaking with a VA-accredited claims agent.
There are three options to receive veterans compensation. The most common is VA Disability Compensation. Another benefit that provides veterans compensation for mesothelioma is VA Pension. The last is for surviving dependents of deceased veterans.
VA Disability Compensation
VA Disability Compensation is a tax-free monthly payment for mesothelioma veterans exposed to asbestos during their military service. In your claim, you must explain to the VA that at least 50% of your occupational exposures to asbestos occurred during your military service.
VA Pension provides financial help to wartime veterans who were exposed primarily before or after their service. Monthly payments are based on your income, but out-of-pocket medical costs and travel expenses can be used to increase your payment.
Compensation for Surviving Loved Ones
When a veteran passes away due to mesothelioma, the VA offers financial help for surviving dependents (spouse, children and parents). There are two types of VA compensation for family members: Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC); and Survivors Pension.
VA Health Care and Treatment
Mesothelioma patients should prioritize finding treatment. Fortunately, there are multiple VA hospitals that offer treatment for veterans with mesothelioma. These hospitals feature specialists from highly regarded cancer centers, and they are part of the VA healthcare system.
There are at least three VA hospitals with mesothelioma specialists. Each collaborates with a top-ranked mesothelioma cancer center:
- Boston VA Medical Center (Brigham and Women’s Hospital)
- West Los Angeles VA Medical Center (UCLA Medical Center)
- Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston (Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center)
These hospitals offer veterans a chance to undergo surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and other therapies. They can improve your survival chances and quality of life.
VA Health Insurance
The VA offers free health insurance for veterans with mesothelioma, so long as the cancer is service-connected. If the veteran’s mesothelioma diagnosis is not service-related, then eligibility is dependent on other factors, such as income or service.
Typically, if you qualify for Disability Compensation due to mesothelioma, then you’ll also qualify for free and complete VA health coverage. However, its use is voluntary.
Your VA health insurance plan meets the Affordable Care Act (ACA) health coverage requirement. However, you can sign up for private insurance if you want and use that coverage instead.
If you’re eligible for VA Health Coverage, you are not required to use it. You don’t even have to sign up for it. You also don’t have to sign up for VA health coverage in order to get your VA Disability Compensation claim approved.
Additional Mesothelioma Compensation Options for Veterans
Veterans with mesothelioma are not restricted to just VA benefits. Asbestos caused this cancer, and victims of asbestos diseases can take legal action. Veterans are no different.
The additional compensation options include lawsuits and asbestos trust funds. Mesothelioma lawyers for veterans can explain which type of compensation fits your case.
Common Myths About Veterans Compensation for Mesothelioma
One misconception is that veterans with mesothelioma must file their lawsuits or other legal claims against their country. The military purchased asbestos from companies that mined, produced and sold it, making billions in profit. Many companies knew asbestos was dangerous, yet they sold it to the military without providing any warnings.
Another incorrect assumption is that veterans must choose either VA compensation or legal claims. As a veteran with mesothelioma, you can file a VA disability claim and receive payments from the at-fault asbestos companies simultaneously.
VA Expert for Veterans With Mesothelioma
Veterans Service Representatives (VSRs) are free of charge to help you with VA claims. They’re experienced at filing with the VA and guiding your claim through the rigorous process.
Filing a VA claim for mesothelioma can be tedious and confusing. This is especially true if you’re filing for Disability Compensation, as you must explain where your asbestos exposure occurred. For this reason, the experience and knowledge of a VSR is invaluable.
Working with a claims agent will improve the probability that you get approved. It also removes stress from you and your family.
We can put you in touch with our VSR and claims agent, LCDR and Navy veteran Carl Jewett. He has more than 12 years of experience assisting mesothelioma veterans with VA claims. He has helped thousands of veterans with mesothelioma get approved for VA Disability Compensation, Pension and DIC. He can also recommend one of the top mesothelioma lawyers for veterans.
You can get more information about veterans compensation for mesothelioma in our Mesothelioma Guide podcast with Commander Jewett. He explains why VSRs like himself can get you approved quickly.
Common Questions About Mesothelioma and Veterans
Why are veterans at such a high risk of mesothelioma?
Asbestos can withstand heat and fire, which made the mineral tremendously valuable to the military. The Armed Forces used it to protect Navy ships, Army barracks, Air Force planes and other necessities. However, the connection between asbestos and mesothelioma didn’t surface until after asbestos was a staple of military service.
Which branch of the military has the most asbestos exposure?
The Navy has the highest rate of mesothelioma among all military branches, which means this branch’s members were subjected to the most asbestos exposure. Naval ships faced a significant risk of catching fire while at sea, which is why asbestos coated most of the ships. Asbestos was a shield used to prevent fires.
What can veterans do if they get mesothelioma?
Veterans with mesothelioma can receive different types of benefits for their diagnosis. Filing a VA claim for compensation provides monthly financial assistance. Another helpful benefit is VA healthcare, which can reduce medical costs and give veterans access to specialized treatment. Veterans can also file legal claims to increase their compensation.
Can surviving loved ones get VA benefits for mesothelioma?
The VA provides monthly compensation benefits for specific surviving loved ones. Depending on the nature of the veteran’s cancer, specifically how they were exposed to asbestos, loved ones may qualify for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) or Survivors Pension. Survivors of the deceased veteran can also file for wrongful death compensation.
Sources & Author
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- VA disability compensation. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Retrieved from: https://www.va.gov/disability/. Accessed: 10/15/18.
- Eligibility for Veterans Pension. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Retrieved from: https://www.va.gov/pension/eligibility/. Accessed: 08/16/19.
- 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.
- 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.