VA Benefits Now Available to Millions of Veterans

Veterans & Military

VA health care benefits are now available to millions more veterans in one of the largest expansions of coverage in the U.S. The inclusion of significantly more veterans compared to past bills comes at the direction of President Joe Biden.

Veterans Who Now Qualify

  • Veterans of the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Global War on Terror or any other combat zone after 9/11.
  • Service members who were exposed to any toxins or other hazards during service at home or abroad.
  • Those who were never deployed but were exposed while training or on active duty in the U.S.

Benefits cover exposure to asbestos and a variety of other potential hazards veterans may have encountered while serving our country. Asbestos is the primary cause of malignant mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer.

United States Under Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Health Dr. Shereef Elnahal said: “We can also care for veterans who never deployed but were exposed to toxins or hazards while training or on active duty here at home while working with chemicals, pesticides, lead, asbestos, certain paints, nuclear weapons, x-rays and more. We want to bring all of these veterans to VA for the care they’ve earned and deserve.”

More Veterans Will Receive Benefits Sooner

This revision means veterans with mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases, as well as all other eligible service members, can now enroll in health care benefits several years earlier than they would have following the Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022. Elnahal noted, “We’re making millions of Veterans eligible for VA health care years earlier than called for by the PACT Act.”

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, for example, is part of the broader PACT Act. It allows veterans and their families who were exposed to contaminated drinking water at the North Carolina Marine Corps Base to file lawsuits against the U.S. Government. Since the PACT Act was signed into law in August 2022, more than half a million Veterans have signed up for health care benefits through the VA.

The new Veterans Health Administration change means all eligible veterans can enroll directly into VA health care as of March 5, 2024. This is separate, however, from procedures with the Veterans Benefits Administration.

Veterans will get access to health care more easily now, but will still file claims for disability benefits for a disease or injury incurred during service or resulting from toxic exposures such as asbestos. If a veteran is diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness, the VA-accredited claims agents at The Mesothelioma Center will help them put together their evidence to qualify for VA disability benefits from the Veterans Benefits Administration.

Increase in Asbestos-Related Disease Screenings

With the expansion of benefits, more veterans will have access to screening tests for asbestos-related diseases. Early detection through mesothelioma screenings can help ensure people have more treatment options and better outcomes.

“This is significant for Veterans exposed to toxins over decades of service,” former U.S. Army Captain and director of the Veterans Department at The Mesothelioma Center Aaron Munz noted. “Veterans were exposed to asbestos at a significantly higher rate than civilian sectors. Asbestos was used in the U.S. and around the world, during training, peacekeeping and combat operations.”

A number of military occupations involved the use of asbestos. About 30% of mesothelioma legal cases involve veterans exposed during their service. 

Aaron urges veterans who served and are not enrolled with the VHA to take advantage of this new opportunity. He feels this is an important game-changer.

“The fact that veterans can now receive medical screenings for asbestos exposure, lung diseases and cancers should help thousands of veterans who were previously denied VA health care,” Aaron adds. “Some were previously denied because they didn’t enroll in the Veterans Health Administration after service, were not combat veterans or had civilian insurance or employment that made them ineligible because of the income limits for the VHA. The new expansion now changes that for so many who served.”

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