To prove military asbestos exposure for a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) claim, you must show that at least 50 percent of the veteran’s asbestos exposure occurred in the military. The veteran’s asbestos exposure summary must detail their military duties as well as the civilian jobs they had before and after service.
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. A doctor must write a medical nexus letter confirming the veteran’s illness was caused by asbestos. 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.
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 a crucial to proving military asbestos exposure.
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. It should also 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 jobs.
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.
Danielle DiPietro is a VA-accredited Claims Agent for The Mesothelioma Center and Asbestos.com and has served as a Patient Advocate since 2012. She understands the medical and financial needs of military veterans because her own grandfathers served in the U.S. Army. Danielle helps veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma and their loved ones file for VA benefits. Read More