Mesothelioma VA Benefits, Compensation & Treatment: The Complete Guide
You can keep reading to learn more about VA Benefits, Compensation, and Treatment.
Mesothelioma among Veterans
Mesothelioma is cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Although the disease develops slowly, it spreads rapidly and is almost always fatal.
Many of the 3,000 Americans diagnosed with the cancer mesothelioma each year are military veterans. Mesothelioma is a rare but deadly cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.
How did veterans Get Exposed to Asbestos?
The VA estimates that as many as 30 percent of all mesothelioma cases are related to military service. Cancer used to be rare until doctors began diagnosing it in greater numbers among veterans exposed to asbestos during their service.
In the 1940s and 1950s, the U.S. Navy used asbestos-containing products on ships because the material was lightweight and withstood extreme heat. The Navy did not warn sailors about asbestos exposure until 1970, and many are now suffering from mesothelioma.
It's Time to Claim Benefits
Veterans with mesothelioma may be eligible for disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). These benefits are available to veterans who have cancer caused by asbestos exposure during their time in the military.
Veterans need to know about these benefits because they're entitled to them. Many people don't realize it, but the VA has specific criteria for veterans with mesothelioma and other cancers caused by asbestos exposure.
What Are Mesothelioma VA Benefits?
The VA offers several different benefits for veterans with mesothelioma, depending on their status, needs, and other factors.
For example, service members exposed to asbestos but who have not received a mesothelioma diagnosis may be eligible for medical monitoring through the VA Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry.
This program provides free health screenings for veterans who served in areas exposed to toxic chemicals such as asbestos or burned trash in open pits.
In addition, you may be eligible for mesothelioma VA benefits from the Department of Justice (DOJ) if your asbestos exposure occurred during active service.
Mesothelioma VA Benefits are determined on a case-by-case basis but typically include:
- Monthly payments through Disability Compensation
- Access to free health care treatment at any VA hospital
- VA disability benefits for dependents such as your spouse or children
- Widow's pension for spouses of deceased veterans
- A burial allowance for funeral expenses
- Access to specific VA services, like transportation and home improvement loans
Who Is Eligible for Mesothelioma VA Benefits?
Veterans who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis, and other asbestos-related diseases may be eligible to receive VA benefits. The VA recognizes these diseases as service-connected conditions and has established specific eligibility criteria:
You must have been a veteran of the U.S. military, including active duty or reserve status.
You must have been exposed to asbestos while serving in the military.
- You have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related condition, such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, or asbestosis.
The VA has granted disability compensation to thousands of veterans who served in the U.S. armed forces before 1980.
Many of the beneficiaries got exposed to asbestos during their service and now have a mesothelioma diagnosis.
The VA recognizes that veterans suffered unnecessary exposure to danger from asbestos throughout much of the 20th century.
The body supports them in their battle against asbestos-caused diseases like mesothelioma by offering specialized health care and financial assistance through the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA).
How to Apply for Mesothelioma VA Benefits
Veterans with mesothelioma can receive VA benefits, but it's important to know that the process for applying for these benefits can take up to a year. That's why it's so important to apply as soon as possible.
Gather proof of service in the United States Armed Forces
First, you should find proof of military service in records and documents that verify when and where you served. You should also make copies of any evidence that shows how you had exposure to asbestos during your time in the military.
This information is important in proving that your mesothelioma was caused by asbestos exposure while serving in the military.
Find medical evidence to support your claim
This can be in a doctor's letter or report verifying that you were diagnosed with mesothelioma and details about how this diagnosis came about and what treatment plan the doctors developed for you.
Review the VA's benefits eligibility requirements
The VA has strict eligibility requirements for veterans seeking medical benefits. To qualify, you must have been discharged honorably from the military or active duty and not dishonorably or under other than honorable conditions.
Verify your income and asset levels
Income and asset levels determine how much financial assistance you get from the VA for your medical treatments. If you don't reach the maximum limits, you may qualify for monetary assistance from the VA.
The income limits are updated every year and vary by state. For example, in 2021, a veteran cannot earn more than $34,638 per year to be eligible for monetary assistance from the VA. However, if you are disabled and have a dependent spouse or child, your income threshold can increase by $5,848 per dependent per year.
Determine your status and how long you served the country
To submit a claim for benefits, you must have served in the U.S. military. You must have also been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.
The amount of compensation you receive will depend on how long you served and whether or not you were on active duty or in reservist status. Furthermore, if you were deployed abroad, this could also affect your compensation amount.
The VA defines an eligible veteran as someone who has served 90 days of active duty, one day of which must have been during wartime. If you got discharged due to a disability, you do not need to meet the 90-day requirement.
Request a VA disability claim form
After determining your eligibility status, request a VA Form 21-526EZ Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs by calling toll-free at 1-800-827-1000 or visiting va.gov/vaforms/.
Submit VA Form 21-526EZ
When filing an initial claim, it is critical to provide as much information as possible to avoid issues and delays with the VA processing your application. Include all service records, medical records, employment history, and information about dependents who may be eligible for survivors' benefits.
Also include any information that may establish eligibility for other veterans' benefits, such as medical care, vocational rehabilitation, or health insurance.
Provide detailed information about your mesothelioma diagnosis and treatment plan
You should provide as much information as possible, including details about your medical condition, symptoms, and what types of treatment you've received or will receive. You also need to include proof of your military service (for example, a copy of your discharge papers).
Have your doctor fill out a portion of the forms
There are four sections to the form. The first two ask for information about you, your military service, and your contact information. In Section 3, you will provide details about your mesothelioma diagnosis and medical treatment plan. Section 4 asks your doctor to verify your diagnosis and treatment plan. Below is an overview of each section of the application form.
Submit all necessary documents for VA benefits for mesothelioma
After submitting your application, the next step is to provide documentation to support your claim. This can include:
- Medical records from the date of diagnosis
- Pathology reports and copies of biopsy results
- Copies of x-rays, CT scans, and other imaging results
- Surgical and treatment history
- Hospital discharge summaries and rehabilitation records
- Correspondence with doctors or other medical providers
- Records of employment as a civilian or military service member in an asbestos occupation
Include a copy of your DD 214 discharge papers, Social Security card, proof of military service, marriage certificate, and birth certificates for you and your dependents.
What Can I Expect to Get from Mesothelioma VA Benefits?
VA disability compensation offers a monthly tax-free payment to veterans whose military service has disabled. In the case of mesothelioma, this benefit is available to any veteran who can prove that they were exposed to asbestos during military service and were diagnosed with mesothelioma. You may receive up to $3,035 per month if your claim is granted, depending on your disability rating.
VA health care provides medical treatment and long-term care to qualifying veterans. Mesothelioma victims can receive all necessary medical treatment, including cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy. They can also be eligible for long-term care, such as home health care and hospice services.
Dependency & indemnity benefits
If a veteran passes away due to their service-related mesothelioma diagnosis, their spouse and dependents may be eligible to receive benefits under the Dependency & Indemnity Compensation (DIC) program.
As a veteran, you may be eligible to receive increased monthly compensation in the form of a VA pension. Pension benefits can provide up to $1,788 monthly ($21,456 per year) to help cover living expenses if you are a veteran over 65 years old or totally and permanently disabled (regardless of age).
In addition, if you are already receiving a VA service-connected disability pension, you may be able to receive additional financial assistance through Aid & Attendance (A&A) or Housebound benefits.
The VA offers numerous burial and memorial benefits that can help cover the cost of your funeral. These include burial flags, headstones and markers, and Presidential memorial certificates.
Enrollment in the VA Healthcare System
Mesothelioma victims who served in the U.S. military will access the VA healthcare system after their diagnosis. This includes medical treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and prescription medications.
Presumptive service connection
The VA presumes service connection for veterans with mesothelioma exposed to asbestos during active military service. Presumptive service connection allows veterans with mesothelioma to receive the same VA benefits as any other veteran rated with a disability.
When the VA rates you, you will be placed into an appropriate disability rating range, ranging from 10% to 100%. The VA will review your case and consider all factors contributing to your disability. T
Once the VA assigns you a disability rating, you can receive monthly compensation from the VA based on your rating. For example, someone rated at 30% would receive 30% of the total amount given for a 100% rating.
Special monthly compensation
Mesothelioma is considered a terminal illness. Therefore, most veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma are eligible for Special Monthly Compensation (SMC). You may also be eligible for SMC if you have another asbestos-related disease, such as lung cancer or asbestosis.
A veteran with a 100 percent disability rating, which means they cannot work due to their illness, can receive up to $3,557 per month.
Veterans' Group Life Insurance (VGLI) benefits
A veteran with a service-connected disability may apply for VGLI and retain their SGLI coverage until 65. At this time, they can convert to an individual life insurance policy.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is the nation's largest provider of Mesothelioma compensation. The VA offers veterans and their families a variety of programs and benefits to help them with their financial needs.
The Difference between VA and DOJ Compensation
While there's little difference between the mesothelioma compensation patients receive from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Veterans Affairs (VA), filing for both forms of assistance can provide you with additional monthly payments.
You can use either claim to help cover medical bills, lost wages, and other costs not covered by VA disability or DOJ asbestos trust funds.
The Department of Justice maintains a Victims of Crime Fund that provides crime victims with financial assistance. Mesothelioma victims may qualify for this fund if exposed to asbestos on a military base or as part of their military service.
Mesothelioma patients who have filed for VA benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs may also qualify for financial assistance through DOJ trust funds.
While filing each type of claim can take time, it's worth it to take advantage of all available resources when seeking compensation.
Mesothelioma Treatment Options
Several types of treatment are available to treat mesothelioma, including surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
Doctors may also prescribe alternative therapies to reduce pain and other symptoms associated with the disease. Many patients receive a combination of these treatments in multimodal therapy, which may help improve outcomes.
Surgery is a common treatment for mesothelioma and can help extend life expectancy. There are three main types of surgery:
Extrapleural pneumonectomy - The removal of one lung, part of the heart lining, the diaphragm, and part of the lining around the lung.
Pleurectomy with decortication - Removing the outer lining of one or both lungs and parts of the diaphragm.
- Peritoneectomy - Removing part or all of the lining of the abdominal cavity.
Radiotherapy uses high-energy radiation to destroy cancer cells. It is usually given after surgery to reduce the chances of cancer returning. It helps to reduce symptoms caused by mesothelioma.
External radiotherapy (ER) and internal radiotherapy (IR) are the two types. ER uses a machine outside your body to direct radiation toward cancer cells. At the same time, IR places radioactive material within your body so that it works directly on cancer cells from inside your body.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells in the body. It may be used alone or with another treatment, such as surgery or radiation therapy. Doctors may recommend chemotherapy to kill any remaining cancer cells after surgery if a person has a good prognosis.
Complementary therapies can help ease pain, stress, and other symptoms of mesothelioma. These treatments may include acupuncture, massage therapy, yoga, meditation, and art therapy. Many hospitals offer these complementary treatments along with standard medical care.
What Happens if My VA Claim is Denied?
If your VA claim is denied, you may decide to appeal to receive mesothelioma benefits. The average wait time for a decision on an appeal is 995 days. It is important to know why VA rejected your claim to effectively argue your appeal.
In some cases, the VA may be waiting for additional information from you before they can decide. In this case, it is important to provide them with the information they are requesting as quickly as possible so that they can move forward with your claim. If you have provided all necessary documents and still received a denial, it's time to consider filing an appeal.
Word for the wise
If you have never applied for benefits, you must file a claim within one year of discovering your asbestos-related illness. This will help ensure no gap in benefits between your VA compensation payments or pension payments and the time of your diagnosis. The VA has an option for an expedited application process for terminally ill veterans or who have a life expectancy of less than one year, so if you fall into this category, you can get the benefits you deserve more quickly.
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