6 Min Read
Last Updated: 02/02/2024
Fact Checked

Written by Aaron Munz | Legally Reviewed By William A. Davis | Edited By Walter Pacheco

Fact Checked

How to Prove Military Asbestos Exposure

Veterans filing a Department of Veterans Affairs claim related to service-connected asbestos exposure must provide medical documentation of their exposure history. The VA considers a veteran eligible if they have an asbestos-related health condition that occurred while serving in the military.

In general, veterans with service-connected diagnoses are entitled to disability compensation. Service members in different military branches, including the Coast Guard, may be eligible for disability benefits due to asbestos-related illness. Regardless of the military branch, the VA uses the same application and eligibility determination process. Additionally, 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. The key to getting approved for VA disability benefits is proving most of the asbestos exposure occurred during military service. The VA requires proof of service-connected illness from a doctor and the eligible veteran or surviving family member.

Which Documents Will Help Prove Asbestos Exposure?

Several documents are required to apply for VA disability benefits and to prove service-connected asbestos exposure. The veteran or surviving family member must collect these documents and ensure their completeness.

Important Documents for Asbestos VA Claims
  • Application for disability compensation or DIC (VA Form 21-526EZ)
  • Marriage and divorce documents, if applicable (VA Form 21-686c if currently married)
  • Medical records related to asbestos illness, including relevant civilian medical records OR a signed medical release (VA Form 21-4142) allowing the VA to request these documents
  • Medical nexus letter
  • Military discharge paperwork (VA Form DD 214). If the veteran no longer has this form, a Veterans Service Officer (VSO) can assist with obtaining a copy from the National Personnel Records Center.
  • Asbestos exposure summary

In their medical nexus letter, a doctor must state the veteran’s illness is at least as likely as not to have resulted from asbestos exposure and its connection to military service. Asbestosis and mesothelioma are exceptions to this rule, as the VA accepts these conditions as only caused by asbestos.

Writing an Asbestos Exposure Summary for VA Claims

Veterans are a high-risk group for asbestos-related diseases because of their exposure to asbestos in the military. The asbestos exposure summary provides information about where, when and how a veteran experienced asbestos exposure. 

When writing an asbestos exposure summary, it’s important to include as many details as possible. Simply presenting military service records isn’t enough. The claim must make the case that military service is at least as likely as not to have caused the diagnosis as a civilian job.

Key Details of an Asbestos Exposure Summary
  • In what branch of the military did the veteran serve and when?
  • To which bases or ships were they assigned?
  • What was their role, and what were their additional duties?
  • Around what type of asbestos-containing materials did they live and work?
  • Did the military fail to give the veteran asbestos safety training or protective gear?
  • What other civilian jobs did they have?
  • 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?

The best asbestos exposure summary should clearly explain relevant asbestos products and the risk of exposure related to those products and specific military job duties. This explanation is especially important for veterans with duties that put them in contact with asbestos dust but that aren’t typically associated with high exposure risk. 

Working with a VA-accredited claims agent can help make this writing process easier. By law, only individuals with this accreditation can represent a veteran or surviving family member in these cases. Accredited Patient Advocates at The Mesothelioma Center are knowledgeable about asbestos-related diseases and asbestos exposure. They are also well versed in writing exposure summaries. 

What Happens Once VA Receives My Records?

Once the VA receives all claim-supporting documents, the Rating Veterans Service Representative makes a decision on the claim according to the law and information presented in the case. They’ll document the evidence and reasons for approval or denial in their decision letter, which is sent to the veteran or surviving family member. 

Throughout the process, you can check your claim status through your online VA account. A “complete” claim status means the VA has completed its review and sent a decision letter by U.S. mail. On average, the VA takes 96 days to complete disability-related claims.

Can I Appeal a Denied VA Claim?

If your VA claim is denied, you have one year from the date stamped on the decision letter to appeal. In most cases, you will need to submit a Notice of Disagreement (NOD), which is included with the claim decision as VA Form 21-0958. 

The VA has three review options for decision letters dated on or after February 19, 2019. If the results of one option aren’t satisfactory, you can try appealing through a different eligible option.

Options if a VA Claim Is Denied
  • Higher-Level Review (VA Form 20-0996)
  • Supplemental Claim (VA Form 20-0995)
  • Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (VA Form 10182)

A higher-level review is usually the best option for an appeal if you don’t have new evidence for your claim. In this case, a senior reviewer will look at your case and make a new decision. To have a Veterans Law Judge review your case, you must file a Board appeal. This option can involve a hearing and submission of new evidence, depending on your preference. 

The deadline to submit a higher-level review or board appeal is one year from the date of the original decision letter. After this deadline, a supplemental claim is the best option for appeal. Importantly, supplemental claims require the submission of new and relevant evidence not yet reviewed by the VA.

As with the initial application process, Patient Advocates at The Mesothelioma Center are experienced with navigating the appeal process. They can provide guidance and support in choosing the best appeal option and writing your appeal letter.

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