What Is a VA Claim?
VA claims allow veterans to access disability compensation, which provides monetary aid to those with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related cancers and conditions. Disability compensation is tax-free and usually paid monthly.
A veteran’s disability level, which is interpreted on a percentage scale, determines the amount of compensation. The VA considers mesothelioma 100% disabling because it is a terminal disease. This means eligible veterans with mesothelioma receive the maximum monthly benefit.
Certain military occupations required veterans to handle asbestos products, including shipbuilding, vehicle repair and maintenance jobs. The VA notes that veterans who served in Iraq, other countries in the Middle East and Southeast Asia may have been exposed to asbestos in damaged older buildings.
The VA provides benefits for any disease that military asbestos exposure caused. It recognizes a wide range of asbestos-related diseases.
- Bronchus cancer
- Gastrointestinal tract cancer
- Interstitial pulmonary fibrosis
- Larynx cancer
- Lung cancer
- Pharynx cancer
- Pleural effusion
- Pleural plaques
- Urogenital cancers (except prostate)
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs notes that these asbestos-related recognized conditions may impact veterans from all branches and multiple periods of service.
Why File a Mesothelioma VA Claim?
Veterans with mesothelioma file VA claims to access a variety of helpful benefits. They may be eligible for VA disability compensation, health care, aid and attendance, caregiver benefits and more. These benefits help relieve the burden of living with mesothelioma for veterans and their loved ones.
An approved VA disability claim also grants veterans access to free cancer treatment through the VA health care system. Veterans receiving disability compensation are not required to receive mesothelioma treatment at a VA hospital.
Eligibility for VA Benefits
- Veteran Status. You were honorably discharged from any branch of the U.S. military or as a commissioned officer of the Public Health Service or the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, formerly known as the Environmental Science Services Administration.
- Medical Diagnosis. You can provide medical records from a hospital or doctor that confirm you have an asbestos-related illness.
- Exposure History. You can provide a written asbestos exposure summary and other evidence proving that at least 50% of your lifetime asbestos exposure occurred while you were in the military.
Neither age nor household income affects a veteran’s eligibility for disability compensation. Income level only affects VA pensions. If the VA considers your mesothelioma diagnosis service-connected, you will be eligible for 100% disability compensation regardless of your income level.
If you file a traditional VA claim it becomes the VA’s responsibility to gather all the necessary paperwork. This process is slow, usually taking around eight months. You can expedite the decision by submitting all the required supporting documentation with the original claim. The VA calls this a fully developed claim, and it typically takes around four months to process. An accredited claims agent can help you put together a fully developed claim.
How Can Veterans File a Mesothelioma VA Claim?
Veterans who qualify for several VA benefits must fill out different forms for each benefit. The filing process is generally the same even though the forms vary.
- Use the Right Forms. Filling out the proper forms in the right way is an important step. VA-accredited representatives can help.
- Submit Your Claim. Veterans may file a claim online, by mail or in person at a VA regional office.
- Wait for VA Confirmation. After submitting the forms, the VA will let you know it received your claim. If you submit it by mail, you will receive a letter in the mail. If you submit it online, you’ll receive an on-screen message.
Knowing how to prove your asbestos exposure is the most important factor in filing a successful claim. Working with a VA-accredited representative can help you cut through the red tape. They can help you avoid the pitfalls that lead to disappointing results.
Types of Mesothelioma VA Compensation
VA Disability Compensation
Disability compensation is the main VA benefit for veterans disabled by their military service. The VA awards compensation based on how serious the injury is. The amount awarded also changes if you have family members who depend on you.
For example, if you have a 10% disability rating, the VA awards about $142 each month. But if your injury is 100% disabling, you could get over $3,100 every month.
Certain illnesses, including mesothelioma and lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure, receive the highest rating of 100%. Noncancerous conditions, such as asbestosis, can be rated anywhere from 0% to 100% disabling.
VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation
Commonly known as DIC, this monthly benefit is available to the surviving spouse of a veteran whose service-connected disability caused their death. The monthly benefit starts at about $1,562.
A spouse needs to file a DIC claim even if their loved one was receiving disability compensation for mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease prior to their death. If a veteran was not receiving VA compensation, a surviving spouse may apply for DIC. They must submit information documenting the service-related asbestos exposure.
VA Aid and Attendance Benefits
Also known as Special Monthly Compensation, this benefit is paid to veterans who are housebound, bedridden or disabled to a degree that they require the aid and attendance of someone else. This compensation is also available to spouses and parents of veterans.
The amount of special monthly compensation someone receives depends on how much aid and attendance they require. The benefit usually runs from $250 to $650 a month.
VA Health Care Services
Doctors who specialize in asbestos-related cancer serve VA treatment centers in Boston, Los Angeles, Miami and Houston. The VA can help veterans travel for treatment when necessary.
Even if a veteran’s cancer is not connected to service, they may still be eligible for low-cost treatment through the VA system. Our Veterans Department can help you understand if you qualify for this VA benefit.
Additional VA Programs and Benefits
The VA offers other programs and benefits for veterans with mesothelioma and their loved ones.
- VA Geriatrics and Extended Care Services. The VA offers a variety of services for older veterans to improve their overall health and quality of life and provide options for long-term care.
- VA Caregiver Benefits. This program became available to veterans with mesothelioma and their caregivers in 2021. It provides a monthly stipend, caregiver training, respite care, mental health care and more.
- VA Fiduciary Program. Veterans who would benefit from a loved one handling their finances and VA benefits may elect a fiduciary to oversee and optimize these matters.
- VA Pension Benefits. Wartime veterans and their surviving spouses with low income may qualify for monthly compensation through the Veterans Pension Program.
Eligibility requirements vary for these benefits, which means not every veteran with mesothelioma will qualify for all the benefits offered through the VA. Reach out to the VA or a VA-accredited claims agent to learn more about your eligibility for VA benefits.
Asbestos Diseases That Qualify for VA Claims
The disability claims process is slightly different for the various types of asbestos-related diseases the Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes.
The VA recognizes pleural mesothelioma and peritoneal mesothelioma as 100% disabling. Asbestos exposure is the primary cause of mesothelioma, which was prevalent during 20th century military life. However, the VA will recognize mesothelioma as a service-connected disability only if most of the veteran’s asbestos exposure occurred during active duty.
Asbestos-Related Lung Cancer and Gastrointestinal Cancers
Although lung cancer and several types of gastrointestinal cancer are linked to asbestos exposure, these diseases also have other potential causes such as smoking, hereditary factors and exposure to other dangerous substances.
To get the VA to approve these types of cancers as service-related conditions, veterans must provide medical documentation that convinces the agency that asbestos caused their cancer. Asbestos exposure must be as likely to be the cause as all other potential causes combined.
Asbestosis and Other Noncancerous Asbestos Diseases
For asbestosis or other types of noncancerous asbestos-related disease, the VA must verify it is connected to service and judge how much the illness affects the veteran’s ability to work. The VA rates noncancerous asbestos illnesses based on several criteria, including the results of pulmonary function testing. This can result in a disability rating anywhere between 10% and 100%.
Common Questions About Filing an Asbestos-Related VA Claim
- What do I need to know about filing a VA claim for mesothelioma?
Veterans can get help filing a VA claim immediately by speaking with a VA-accredited claims agent. The Mesothelioma Center offers this free service to help veterans fill out their paperwork correctly; get their claim approved, even if a previous one was denied; and receive compensation.
- What expenses can be covered by a VA claim?
Once a VA claim is approved, veterans can use the compensation to cover any expense, including medical bills, travel costs, home caregiving and other expenses.