VA Benefits FAQs
1) What are the eligibility criteria for veterans to receive benefits from the VA?
Eligibility for most VA benefits is based on discharge from active military service under other-than-dishonorable conditions. Full-time service as a member of the Marine Corps, Army, Navy, Air Force or Coast Guard makes you eligible. Also eligible are commissioned officers of the Public Health Service, Environmental Science Services Administration, or NOAA, or its predecessor, the Coast and Geodetic Survey.
2) What kind of compensation are veterans entitled to if they have a disability caused by military service?
When veterans are diagnosed with a disability that is "service-connected," the primary VA benefit to which they are entitled is called Disability Compensation. To apply for Disability Compensation, veterans must fill out a VA 21-526 form (known as an Application for Disability Compensation and/or Pension) and then file it with the Regional VA Office in their state. The regional office is a branch of the federal Department of Veterans Affairs – not the state's Department of Veterans Affairs.
Our fully accredited Veteran Service Officers (VSO) at the Mesothelioma Center can assist you in filing for an asbestos-related illness, and help you write an asbestos-exposure summary. You must be able to detail your exposure to asbestos with specifics on when it happened and where it took place. You will need to convince the VA that more than half of your lifetime exposure to asbestos occurred on active duty.
3) Are there benefits for veterans based on income?
Although most benefits (such as Disability Compensation) are based on whether a veteran has a service-connected disability, it is possible to receive benefits (such as a VA pension) and qualify for VA health services even if you do not have a service-connected disability.
To qualify, you must show that your income and personal assets prevent you from enjoying a minimum quality of life, or affording your own health care insurance. Veterans can only receive VA Disability Compensation or pension. They cannot receive both. If a veteran qualifies for both, he will be awarded the higher-paying monthly benefit (which is typically Disability Compensation).
4) What information or evidence must I show to substantiate my Disability Claim?
To substantiate a claim for service connection, the evidence must show that you have an injury or disease that began, or was made worse, during military service, or there was an event during service that caused injury or disease. In the case of an asbestos claim, the event is the exposure to asbestos while on active duty. The VA will look at pre- and post-service asbestos exposure. To demonstrate the illness is "service-connected," the veteran must make the case that the active duty exposure was at least as likely as not, the cause of the disease. You also must have medical records that demonstrate your claim of an asbestos illness.
5) What diseases are recognized by VA as being caused by asbestos?
The VA acknowledges that inhalation of asbestos fibers can produce:
- cancers of the
- fibrosis, the most commonly occurring of which is interstitial asbestos pulmonary fibrosis
- pleural effusions and fibrosis
- pleural plaques
- mesothelioma of pleura and peritoneum
A doctor must state in writing that an illness has been caused by asbestos. The exceptions are asbestosis and mesothelioma, which are automatically accepted by the VA as only caused by asbestos exposure.
6) What factors will the VA consider when deciding on my asbestos claim?
The VA will want to know if the records demonstrate an exposure to asbestos in the military. It will want to determine how much asbestos exposure the veteran also had both before and after military service, based on a work history. It also will determine a relationship between exposure and the claimed disease.
7) What is a Veterans Service Officer (VSO) and what does a VSO do?
A VSO at The Mesothelioma Center can assist a veteran in filling out paperwork, ensuring it is complete and correct before it is filed. A VSO also can help track the claims progress. We advise veterans not to deal directly with the VA but to work through a VSO, who is an expert in the claims process and can act as a guide in an often-complex ordeal. A VSO works for both veteran service organizations and your state's department of veterans affairs.
8) What does the VSO need to file my disability claim with the VA?
To apply for Disability Compensation, veterans need to provide their VSO the following items:
- A completed VA 21-526
- A copy of their DD 214 (discharge paperwork). If this paperwork has disappeared, a copy can be in obtained from the National Personnel Records Center. A VSO can assist in this.
- Copies of pertinent medical records (or a signed medical release allowing the VA to request those records)*
- If the veteran is married, a copy of the marriage certificate (this proves he/she has a dependant which provides for greater disability compensation)
* This document is a VA-21-4142 and is included at the end of the VA 21-526 form.
9) How do I find a VSO?
The easiest way to find a VSO is to contact our Veterans Department at The Mesothelioma Center. We have them on staff to assist you throughout the process.
10) What does the VA do after it receives my claim?
After the VA receives an Application for Disability Compensation, it sends a confirmation letter to the veteran outlining what was received. If the veteran has not provided a detailed exposure history, the VA will ask him about his exposures. Our VSOs can assist you in writing a detailed exposure summary that will provide the VA with all the answers they need to understand your exposure history. For asbestos cancers, a medical exam is typically not required. Medical records diagnosing those cancers are often sufficient.
11) How much will I receive if I am approved for VA Disability Compensation?
Payments for a service-connected disability are based on a rating given by the VA, expressed in 10-percent increments. Exact disability payments vary. They depend on the disability rating, the number of dependents and other factors, including if the veteran is home-bound or in need of regular aid and attendance.
The basic payment varies between $134 a month for a veteran with a 10-percent disability rating to $2,769 a month for someone with a 100-percent disability rating. Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer caused by asbestos are rated at 100 percent. Non-cancerous asbestos illnesses are rated anywhere from 0 percent to 100 percent – primarily based on the results of a Pulmonary Function Test.
12) How long will it take for the VA to make a decision on my Disability Compensation Claim?
It is different in every state.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has one or more VA Regional Offices in each state, and backlogs vary by state. It generally takes six to eight months to get a decision, but the VA's Fully Developed Claims (FDC) program now allows veterans or a Veterans Services Officer to gather necessary paperwork to help expedite a decision. The waiting time can be cut in half.
If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos disease and would like more information about how to file using the FDC program, contact our Veterans Department at (800) 615-2270. One of our veterans service officers will provide you with the information and assistance necessary to file a FDC.
13) What is Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) and who is eligible for it?
DIC is a benefit paid to a surviving spouse and/or dependent children of a veteran who died from a service-connected disability. For a survivor to be eligible for DIC, the veteran's death must have stemmed from one of the following:
- A disease or injury incurred or aggravated on active duty or training for active duty.
- An injury incurred or aggravated while on inactive duty training.
- A service-connected disability or a condition directly related to a service-connected disability.
Spouses receive a basic monthly payment, plus an additional payment for dependent children if they require aid and assistance, or if they are house-bound.
14) Will a lawsuit against an asbestos company affect my VA disability benefits?
Never. The VA does not consider any money you may be awarded from a lawsuit, or from an asbestos company's bankruptcy trust fund. The VA's primary financial concern is that you do not "double-dip" on a benefit.
You cannot receive money from the government twice for the same illness. The VA will consider your financial situation when the benefit for which you are applying is based on your income level, such as a VA Pension. The VA Disability Compensation amount is not based on income level or assets. Any assets acquired through the legal system have no effect on disability benefits.