Mesothelioma Frequently Asked Questions for Veterans
Statistics show that veterans are more prone to ailments and chronic conditions during their golden years, and one emerging disease is mesothelioma. Health professionals tie the cause of mesothelioma directly to active service. Fortunately, you can apply for compensation after a mesothelioma diagnosis.
Since you are at no fault for getting this disease, you can benefit from trust fund claims and disability payments after filing a compensation claim.
This guide will help you know your medical, legal, and financial options if you have mesothelioma by answering all questions associated with the disease. Please keep reading to learn more.
What is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that affects the lining of vital internal organs such as the lungs, heart, and abdomen.
A malignant (cancerous) tumor usually develops on the outer surface of these organs, leading to severe chest pain, abdominal pain, shortness of breath, rapid weight loss, and fatigue.
The two most common types of mesothelioma are pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma. The pleural type affects the lining of the lungs, while peritoneal mesothelioma affects the tissue in the abdomen.
Health statistics indicate approximately 3,000 new cases of patients diagnosed with mesothelioma annually. Veterans make up about 30% of all new diagnoses, equivalent to 900 victims yearly.
The average age of mesothelioma diagnosis is usually 65 years or older, the median average age of most veterans.
Since mesothelioma is a rare condition, healthcare practitioners often misdiagnose it. Fortunately, research is ongoing on this disease, and medical experts continue to unravel its mystery.
What Causes Mesothelioma?
According to medical experts, prolonged asbestos exposure is the primary cause of mesothelioma. 8 out of 10 patients with mesothelioma develop the disease because of asbestos exposure.
The condition develops when a person inhales microscopic asbestos fibers. These fibers travel to the linings of the lungs and heart or settle in the stomach when swallowed.
The embedded asbestos fibers damage the mesothelial cells on your lungs, heart, and abdomen, resulting in inflammation and scarring.
Over time, cancerous tumors develop on the damaged tissue, leading to the development of mesothelioma.
Another possible cause of mesothelioma is exposure to erionite. Erionite is a fibrous volcanic mineral belonging to a group of minerals called zeolites.
In terms of chemical composition, asbestos and zeolites are similar. They are silicate minerals, explaining why erionite exposure could also cause mesothelioma.
Some studies also claim that radiation treatments for other cancers can increase the risk of developing mesothelioma. Radiation can damage your DNA cells and trigger uncontrolled cell growth in the pleura, leading to mesothelioma.
Signs and Symptoms of Mesothelioma
The signs and symptoms of mesothelioma will only start appearing after the growth of tumors in your lungs, heart, or abdomen.
Common symptoms for pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma include:
- Dry cough
- Extreme fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Night sweats
- Respiratory complications
- Abdominal pain
- Chest pain
- Pleural effusion (accumulation of fluid in the chest)
- Difficulty swallowing
- Unexplained weight loss
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of appetite
The signs and symptoms of mesothelioma are similar to other common diseases. For this reason, correctly diagnosing the disease can be a challenge.
Since mesothelioma is a rare condition and symptoms are similar to other ailments, many healthcare practitioners often misdiagnose it.
Besides, it has a long latency period of 20 to 50 years, meaning it might take time before you start noticing the symptoms.
Nevertheless, do not hesitate to consult a physician as soon as you notice the symptoms mentioned above. Ensure you discuss your asbestos exposure history with your doctor.
Early diagnosis can help prevent the progression of the disease through aggressive surgical treatment options.
Who is Most at Risk for Mesothelioma?
Anyone can get mesothelioma, but the risk of developing the disease increases with age. People aged 45 years or older are at more risk of developing mesothelioma.
The average diagnosis age is 65 years, and research shows that 2 out of 3 people with mesothelioma are 65 years and above.
Male veterans are more likely to develop mesothelioma compared to female veterans. The probable reason for this is that many men usually work in jobs with heavy asbestos exposure, increasing the risk of developing mesothelioma.
Veterans are at risk of developing mesothelioma because of their previous jobs during active service.
Service members in the military work in various sectors that heavily expose them to asbestos. Examples of military occupations that are at high risk for asbestos exposure include:
- Engine mechanic
- Aircraft mechanic
- Fire control technician
- Power plant operators
- Naval shipyard workers
- Hull maintenance technician
- Construction workers
- Industrial workers
All these occupations expose service members to deadly asbestos levels, increasing the risk of mesothelioma.
Is Mesothelioma Prevalent in Veterans?
Yes, mesothelioma is prevalent in veterans, particularly those who served between the 1930s and 1970s. The U.S. military extensively relied on asbestos products for insulation and fireproofing during that period.
From the navy to the air force, nearly every military branch used asbestos. After all, asbestos is an inexpensive, naturally occurring material.
Moreover, it has excellent heat-resistant properties and is highly durable, ideal for constructing ships, trucks, tanks, aircraft, and other vessels. Asbestos is also the material of choice for building army barracks and other buildings.
If you are a veteran with mesothelioma, you probably got it from asbestos exposure. Veterans account for 30% of all new mesothelioma cases in the United States annually.
Even after leaving active duty, you can still get mesothelioma from asbestos exposure, depending on your post-military career.
Many veterans choose to pursue careers in engineering, mechanics, and construction, further exposing them to asbestos and other potentially harmful materials.
The good news is that you can file for VA benefits and receive your rightful compensation. Veterans’ spouses and dependents are also eligible for various benefits associated with asbestos or mesothelioma exposure.
Is Mesothelioma Treatable?
Even though mesothelioma is an incurable disease, it is highly treatable. Veterans who develop mesothelioma from asbestos exposure during military service are eligible for VA benefits. You can use your VA benefits to pursue the various treatment options available.
Treatment options for mesothelioma include chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, and surgery. Paying for these medical services out-of-pocket can be expensive for patients, particularly when seeking effective treatment from a specialist.
Fortunately, veterans are eligible for medical assistance via various VA programs. You can file for benefits from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, which you can use to pursue a variety of healthcare services to treat mesothelioma.
Besides covering expensive treatments, these benefits can also cover potentially lost wages for veterans who opt to pursue a post-military career in any field. The VA department can also help you find specialized care for your condition via accredited hospitals.
Can a Veteran Receive Disability Compensation for Mesothelioma?
Yes, a veteran can receive disability compensation for mesothelioma if it is service-related.
The VA department acknowledges mesothelioma as a severe condition caused by asbestos exposure, and it has made various benefits available to compensate victims and help them with treatment. The primary objective of these funds is to help improve the quality of life of veterans.
You can file a claim and receive 100% disability compensation if you have mesothelioma. However, your condition must be service-related. You must prove that 50% of your asbestos exposure was during your time in the military to be eligible for VA benefits.
Disability benefits are monthly payments used to recompense patients. The amount disbursed depends on the level of disability.
Since the VA department considers mesothelioma 100% disabling, you are eligible for maximum monthly benefits ranging from $3,106 to $3,279, depending on your marital status.
Single veterans receive a lower amount than married veterans. Your benefits may increase depending on your number of qualified dependents.
How VA Disability Compensation Works
Understanding how the VA disability compensation process works is not complicated. The VA disability program pays monthly tax-free benefits to veterans who got sick, physically injured, or permanently disabled while serving in the armed forces.
If you had a pre-existing condition and your active service in the military made it worse, you are also eligible for disability compensation.
You may qualify for disability benefits for physical and mental conditions, ranging from chronic illnesses to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The U.S. Department for Veteran Affairs considers mesothelioma 100% disabling, so patients are eligible for the maximum benefits possible.
However, to receive your disability benefits, you must apply. The VA will also check if you qualify for compensation before entering your name into the payment system.
Fortunately, the application process is fast and straightforward. You can apply online through the VA website, via mail, or with an accredited representative to handle the paperwork.
Here are the steps to file for disability compensation:
Check if you are eligible by visiting the VA website
Gather all supporting documents, including medical records, hospital records, and supporting states from family members, friend, attorneys, clergy, and other professionals
Fill out the claim form
- Find out from the VA office if you need to submit additional supporting documents
Mesothelioma Compensation Eligibility
If you have mesothelioma, you might be eligible for disability compensation via the VA program. However, veterans must meet various minimum requirements to qualify for monthly VA benefits.
If you pass away, your spouse and dependents may also qualify for mesothelioma compensation. They can file for survivor benefits, including Survivor Pension, Dependency Compensation, and Indemnity Compensation.
Qualified dependents can file for military burial benefits, funeral honors, and headstone requests.
To qualify for disability compensation, you must meet the following requirements:
- You have an existing illness, in this case, mesothelioma
- You were serving actively in the armed forces
At least one of these conditions must be true to qualify for compensation:
- You developed your disease while serving
- You had a pre-existing condition, and your active service in the military made it worse
- You have a service-related disability
Will Surviving Dependents Still Receive VA Benefits?
Yes. Your surviving dependents, including your spouse, children, and parents, are eligible for VA benefits. They may have to show evidence they depended on you.
VA benefits surviving dependents are eligible for include Dependency Compensation, Indemnity Compensation, and Survivors Pension.
Medical Options for Mesothelioma via VA
Coping with mesothelioma can be a stressful experience for anyone. The good news is that you can get the medical assistance and support you need through the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
If you are a veteran with mesothelioma, you can get affordable healthcare services through the VA. Some of these services are free, and the VA can assist you in finding a mesothelioma specialist whenever you need one.
The Department of Veteran Affairs has partnered with the best mesothelioma specialists and surgeons in the country to ensure patients receive optimum treatment and care services.
The three VA-accredited clinics that treat veterans with mesothelioma include the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center, the VA Boston Health Care System, and Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston.
Mesothelioma healthcare services offered by VA-accredited hospitals include:
- Regular check-ups
- Radiation treatment
- Mesothelioma surgeries
- Mental health services
- Clinical trials
Legal Options for Veterans with Mesothelioma
As you know, the only proven cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure. Prolonged exposure to this naturally occurring material can be harmful to your health.
Regrettably, many companies continue to produce and sell asbestos despite the numerous dangers associated with it.
If you got mesothelioma because of asbestos exposure during your active service, you could file a claim for compensation against the manufacturing company.
Your claim will remain valid regardless of whether you developed the disease during your time in service or not.
As a veteran with Mesothelioma, you have two main legal options. You can file a lawsuit against the negligent asbestos company or file for disability benefits from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
You can also submit asbestos trust fund claims with the help of an experienced mesothelioma attorney.
Many veterans opt to file for disability compensation since it is straightforward. Initiating a lawsuit against an asbestos company can be a long and protracted court battle.
You may struggle with your healthcare expenses and might not receive the medical help you need because of the long case.
Will I Have to File a Lawsuit Against the U.S. Government or Military
No. You won’t be filing a lawsuit against the U.S. government or the military for mesothelioma claims. After all, the government or the military is not at fault for your condition.
Legal claims for asbestos exposures that occurred during your active service are usually against the companies producing and selling asbestos to the government and the military.
The same applies to asbestos exposures in civilian jobs. You can only sue the company that produces and sells asbestos products to your civilian employer.
These companies are fully aware of the potential dangers of asbestos. Still, they continue to produce and sell them instead of offering substitute products that are less harmful but just as effective as asbestos.
To qualify for maximum VA benefits, you must prove that 50% of your asbestos exposure was during your time in the military, leading to you developing mesothelioma.
A doctor can produce a detailed report showing your clinical history based on diagnostic results and the information you provide during the medical examination.
Where to Find an Experienced Attorney for Your Case
Finding a lawyer to assist you with your mesothelioma compensation case should be straightforward. Regrettably, this is not always the case. Some veterans go through numerous challenges getting the assistance they need.
Enlisting an inexperienced attorney can derail your case and deprive you of your rightful compensation.
Fortunately, Mesothelioma Guide is here to help. They can connect you to a reputable lawyer with vast experience in handling veteran mesothelioma cases.
They work under the Veteran Assistance Network, and their primary goal is to help you get the much-needed assistance in filing a mesothelioma claim.
Their areas of expertise include assisting veterans in:
- Applying for VA pension
- Applying for VA disability compensation
- Finding a qualified mesothelioma attorney
- Finding a qualified mesothelioma healthcare specialist
- Applying for VA health care services
- Filing for Aid & Attendance benefits
- Filing for Housebound benefits
They assist spouses and dependents file for survivor benefits, including Survivor Pension, Dependency Compensation, and Indemnity Compensation.
They assist dependents file for military burial benefits, funeral honors, and headstone requests.
Their role as Veteran Assistant Network is also to explain to veterans, their spouses, and dependents on asbestos trust funds and how they can benefit from related lawsuits.
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