Service-related asbestos exposure can cause mesothelioma and several other forms of cancer. The VA considers such cancers to be 100 percent disabling.
If the 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.
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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 include information about their assigned duties and describe specific asbestos-containing equipment or materials they worked with.
It’s common knowledge 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 the cancer diagnosis is at least as likely to have been caused by the military as a civilian job.
To prove military asbestos exposure, the written exposure history must convince the VA that at least 50 percent of the veteran’s exposure to asbestos occurred in the military. Otherwise, the VA will assume the disease was caused by exposure that happened in civilian life.
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 is best to write the summary as if the VA rating officer has no knowledge of asbestos products or military job duties. This is especially important for veterans who did not have official construction or repair roles, but still had cleaning or maintenance duties 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.
1 Cited Article Sources
- Department of Veterans Affairs. (2018, January 19). Asbestos Exposure. Retrieved from: https://www.benefits.va.gov/COMPENSATION/claims-postservice-exposures-asbestos.asp
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Last Modified September 13, 2019