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Proving Military Asbestos Exposure

Documentation of asbestos exposure must be provided when filing a Department of Veterans Affairs claim related to service-connected asbestos exposure. At least half of a veterans’ asbestos exposure must have occurred during their time in service.

The VA considers such asbestos-related cancers including mesothelioma to be 100% disabling. If a diagnosis is service-connected, the veteran is entitled to disability compensation. If a veteran dies of a service-connected illness, certain members of their family may be eligible for dependency indemnity compensation (DIC).

Filing an asbestos claim and meeting VA disability qualifications is a complex process. First a doctor must write a medical nexus letter confirming the veteran’s illness was caused by asbestos. Then the veteran or surviving family member must also write an asbestos exposure summary.

This summary letter must explain how the veteran’s asbestos exposure was primarily caused by their military service. If you provide proof of asbestos exposure while in the military, you can get benefits to compensate your family for an illness.

Required Documentation for Asbestos VA Claims

  • Application for disability compensation or DIC
  • Marriage and divorce documents, if applicable
  • Medical records related to asbestos illness
  • Medical nexus letter
  • Military discharge paperwork
  • Asbestos exposure summary

Asbestos-related diseases are different from most service-connected disabilities. Because of their long latency period, these diseases usually do not develop until after retirement. In most cases, this means the symptoms and diagnosis were never documented while the veteran was on active duty.

Veterans must prove to the VA that they suffered more exposure to asbestos in the military than they did before or after their service. A well-written exposure summary is crucial to proving military asbestos exposure.

Asbestos Exposure Summaries for VA Claims

An asbestos exposure summary provides information about where, when and how a veteran was exposed to asbestos. It should describe specific asbestos-containing equipment or materials they worked with and include information about their assigned duties.

It’s known that veterans are a high-risk group for asbestos-related diseases. But simply presenting military service records to the VA is not enough. The claim must make the case that military service is at least as likely to have caused the diagnosis as a civilian job. The written exposure history must demonstrate that 50% of asbestos exposure occurred in the military. 

Key Details to Include in an Asbestos Exposure Summary

  • What branch of the military was the veteran in and when?
  • What bases or ships were they assigned to?
  • What was their role and what were their other duties?
  • What sort of asbestos-containing materials did they live and work around?
  • What sorts of activities exposed them to asbestos dust?
  • Did the military fail to give the veteran asbestos safety training or protective gear?
  • What other jobs did they have outside the military?
  • Were they ever exposed to asbestos in civilian life?
  • When and where were they diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness?
  • What treatments have they received?

It’s best to very clearly explain asbestos products and the risk of exposure related to those products and specific military job duties. This is especially important for veterans who didn’t have duties typically thought to have a high exposure risk, but that put them in contact with asbestos dust.

Working with a VA-accredited claims agent can make the process easier. A claims agent familiar with asbestos-related diseases can help identify where service-related asbestos exposure occurred. They can also prepare an appeal in the event the VA requires more evidence or documentation.