Why Are There Misconceptions About VA Benefits?
There are often misconceptions and frequently-asked questions about VA benefits because the VA is complex and it offers many different types of benefits. Eligibility qualifications vary for a wide range of benefits, which can lead to confusion about how the system works.
Many veterans eligible for VA benefits think they won’t qualify and never apply. Learning more about the common misconceptions may help veterans navigate the system to access the benefits they need.
Note that the Department of Veterans Affairs updated its Compensation Benefits Rate Tables on December 1, 2021. Monthly disability compensation for veterans with mesothelioma starts at $3,332 and increases if the veteran has dependents.
- I have a Bad Conduct Discharge (BCD) or an Other Than Honorable (OTH), so I am not eligible for VA Benefits.
Even if you have a BCD or OTH, you are still eligible for most VA benefits. Most veterans are eligible for VA benefits if their discharge wasn’t under dishonorable conditions.
- I don’t qualify for VA benefits because I already filed a lawsuit against an asbestos company.
Any money awarded to you from a lawsuit or an asbestos trust fund claim will not affect your eligibility for VA benefits. Filing a legal claim does not impact your ability to receive VA benefits.
- I didn’t serve in the military long enough to qualify for VA benefits.
Length of active service is not a requirement for you to qualify for benefits. The VA only requires proof that you developed a disease from exposure to asbestos while in military service.
- I am not considered a veteran because I didn’t serve in the military during a period of war.
Even if you never served during a war, you are still considered a veteran and eligible for most VA benefits. Some benefits, such as a VA pension, require that a veteran must have served at least one day during a wartime period. Other benefits, such as disability compensation, have no such requirement.
- I qualify for VA benefits because I was exposed to asbestos in the military.
You will only be approved for VA benefits if you can prove you developed a disease or disability linked to asbestos exposure in the military. Exposure alone is not a condition that qualifies you for benefits.
You will only be approved for VA benefits if your asbestos exposure in the military leads to one of these diseases:
- Pleural effusion
- Pleural plaques
- Cancers of the lung, bronchus, gastrointestinal tract, larynx, pharynx and urogenital system (except prostate)
The VA does not offer benefits for obstructive airway diseases, including:
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Chronic bronchitis
Veterans also are required to prove at least 50% of their lifetime exposure to asbestos occurred on active duty.
- I didn’t serve in one of the five branches of the U.S. armed forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard), therefore I’m not eligible for VA Benefits.
Active military service means full-time service (as opposed to active duty for training) as a member of the U.S. armed services, or as a commissioned officer of the U.S. Public Health Service, Environmental Science Services Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or its predecessor, the Coast and Geodetic Survey.
Active duty for training for the National Guard and Army Reserve does not qualify as full-time service, but if you were activated for reasons other than training you would qualify.
- I can’t file a claim because I developed an asbestos-related disease or disability after I was discharged.
You can still receive VA benefits if you develop a service-related condition after you are discharged from the military. Asbestos-related diseases take between 10 and 50 years to develop after exposure began, which means most veterans get diagnosed with these conditions after being discharged. You also must have been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.
- I am a military retiree receiving a retirement check. If I receive VA disability compensation, the military will reduce my retirement check by the amount of my VA disability compensation.
This is true only for military retirees with a disability rating of 40% or less. For military retirees with a disability rating of 50% or higher, Concurrent Retirement and Disability Payments allows veterans to receive military retired pay as well as VA compensation. Veterans with mesothelioma receive a 100% disability rating, so their retirement pay would not be affected.
- My husband died of mesothelioma or asbestos lung cancer, but I am not entitled to survivor benefits like Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) because he never filed a VA disability compensation claim.
The VA can approve claims for DIC even if the veteran never filed a disability claim. While it can be more difficult, it is certainly not impossible.
What’s the difference? The spouse must convince the VA the veteran’s greatest asbestos exposure occurred on active duty. That is easier for the veteran to prove than the spouse, but surviving spouses have every right to apply for DIC.
- Surviving children of veterans can file for VA benefits like DIC.
While adults can assist their parents with filing for VA benefits, only surviving spouses, children who are minors, children with disabilities and children who are 23 or younger and enrolled in school can file for DIC.
- My veteran parent died of an asbestos-related illness, but I’m not eligible for DIC because I’m not a spouse or minor.
Most adult children of deceased veterans do not qualify for DIC, but there are exceptions. You can file for DIC if you are unmarried and under the age of 18, or between the ages of 18 and 23 and attending school. Some adults with disabilities may also be entitled to DIC.
- It will take the VA too long to make a decision on my compensation claim.
The time it takes the VA to approve or deny a claim varies by state. It typically takes at least three months after filing a claim to receive a decision. It can take six to eight months in many states, but the VA Fully Developed Claims program may reduce the wait by half. Veterans must submit medical documents and all other relevant records when filing a claim and certify there is no further evidence to submit. This helps the VA process the claim quicker.
- If I apply for VA benefits, the VA will make me go to a VA doctor.
Securing a VA disability rating will make you eligible for VA health care, but you are not required to enroll. And even if you are in the VA health care system, you are in no way obligated to use it. If you have your own insurance and your own doctors, you can keep them with no obligation to use the VA health care system. In some cases, the VA will pay for you to see a doctor outside its health care system.
- If I apply for VA benefits, then the VA will choose my doctor.
If you have disability status with the VA, you are entitled to see any doctor in the VA network. The VA has several mesothelioma specialists known for their expertise, such as Dr. Robert Cameron in Los Angeles. In addition, the VA will cover the cost of travel to reach mesothelioma specialists throughout the VA system.