U.S. military veterans who have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease may be eligible for compensation through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Filing these claims can be complicated and time consuming, so it is important to understand the process.

Some of the VA benefits available include medical care, life insurance and financial compensation for injuries. To receive these benefits and others, veterans must follow the stepwise request process, meet the lengthy criteria and file applications with the appropriate departments. Certified VA claims representatives (also called veteran service representatives) help veterans through the confusing exercise.

Before filing a claim, veterans must first determine which claims review process would best suit their needs. They can have their claims resolved under the standard processing rules or an expedited Fully Developed Claim (FDC).

As of December 2020, the Department of Veteran Affairs increased the starting monthly compensation amount for veterans to $3,146. This amount is the starting monthly compensation amount and increases with each dependant a veteran has. The VA recognizes the following illnesses:

  • Mesothelioma
  • Lung cancer
  • Bronchus cancer
  • Gastrointestinal tract cancer
  • Larynx cancer
  • Pharynx cancer
  • Urogenital cancers (except prostate)
  • Asbestosis
  • Interstitial pulmonary fibrosis
  • Pleural effusion
  • Pleural plaques

How to File

To file a claim, veterans will need to file a postservice claim, as this cancer ussually develops within 20-50 years after exposure. Active duty service members can also file claims, though it is less common due to the time it takes for the disease to present itself.

Veterans affected by mesothelioma can file a postservice claim using the following methods:

  • In-person at a VA office
  • Online through the VA website
  • Through the mail
  • With the help of an accredited VA claims agent or lawyer

Working with an accredited VA claims agent or lawyer maximizes the chances of having a claim approved quickly and takes the frustration out of filing. A VA claims agent or lawyer can help cut through the red tape, write your claim, and deal directly with the VA.

These filing options make it possible for veterans to get the support needed, no matter where they are. When it comes to mesothelioma, there is no statute of limitations to file a VA benefits claim.

Who Qualifies for VA Assistance?

All U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine veterans are eligible to file for VA benefits and compensation. In addition, commissioned officers in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Public Health Service, the National Geodetic Survey and the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey are eligible for compensation and benefits.

While veterans of all branches of the military have been diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases and mesothelioma, U.S. Navy service members have been impacted the greatest. About 30 percent of all mesothelioma victims have served in the military. Of those, U.S. Navy veterans are diagnosed most often because asbestos was used extensively in Navy vehicles and vessels.

Eligibility Requirements

In order to file a successful VA benefits claim, veterans will need to prove that at least 50 percent of their asbestos exposure occured while in the military. Veterans can typically use the following methods as forms of proof:

  • A note from their doctor linking their disease to asbestos exposure
  • Medical records showing they were diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease
  • Occupational or military service documents, which can help show when, where, and how they were exposed while they served

When filing a traditional VA claim, it is the VA’s responsibility to gather all of the neccesary paperwork. This can take up to eight months. If a veteran files a fully developed claim, meaning all of the supporting documentation was included in the original claim, the time to process the claim can be completed quicker at around four months. To get the process moving, veterans should ensure they are already enrolled in VA Health Care System. 

The following eligibility requirements are considered a prerequisite for any VA claim:

  • Veteran must not have received a dishonorable discharge.
  • Asbestos exposure must have occurred while in military service.
  • Must be diagnosed with asbestos diseases caused by military
  • A physician must diagnose and properly document the disease.

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Steps for Filing a VA Claim

Filing a successful VA claim is a multistep process, as follows:

  • Exposure summary and accompanying documents – Veterans must prepare a statement that details the link between the military service and asbestos exposure as proof the disability occurred during active duty. Accompanying documents should include medical and military records, discharge records, biopsy pathology reports and witness statements. VA claims representatives help veterans write appropriate statements.
  • VA review – After VA officials receive the compensation request, the veteran receives a letter that confirms the review has started. VA officials may ask for additional documentation. In most cases, additional medical exams are not needed.
  • VA denial (if appropriate) – In some cases, the VA will deny the claim because there is not compelling information to link the disease to military service. Veterans have one year from the denial to submit a Notice of Disagreement (NOD).
  • VA approval (if appropriate) – In some cases, the VA will deny the claim because there is not compelling information to link the disease to military service. Veterans have one year from the denial to submit a Notice of Disagreement (NOD).
  • Compensation determined – After approval, veterans receive a check that is retroactive to the claim submission date. Disability checks arrive on the first day of every month.

How is Compensation Decided?

The VA reviews several factors when determining the type and amount of compensation and benefits. This includes the following:

  • Determining if the claim is based on an illness that occurred before, during or after service. Most mesothelioma claims are considered to have occurred after service.
  • Deciding on the degree of the veteran’s disability, based on a 10 percent to 100 percent scale. Mesothelioma and asbestos lung cancer diagnoses typically receive a 100 percent disability rating.
  • Reviewing the veteran’s dependent status. Single veterans who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma can receive more than $2,900 a month in compensation. Veterans who are married and have dependents can receive more.

Types of VA Benefits

Compensation and benefits are determined on a case-by-case basis. Types of VA Compensation and Benefits include:

  • Disability Compensation – Eligible veterans can receive monthly tax-free compensation, based on the severity of the disability and the number of dependents. A veteran who is diagnosed with mesothelioma, married and has one child can receive up to $3188 per month.
  • VA Health Care – Veterans are eligible for superior health care. Cases, however, are prioritized based on the severity of disease, amount of service-related disabilities and other circumstances. Some of the leading mesothelioma specialists worldwide are affiliated with VA medical centers.
  • Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) – Disabled veterans who need home health aids and other types of caregivers can receive financial assistance to pay for the services. The amount of monthly compensation depends on the level of needed services. Compensation ranges from $250 to $650 per month.
  • Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) – Surviving spouses and dependents of veterans who died after a service-related injury can receive a monthly benefit of about $1,258.

Alternative VA Programs & Benefits

There are also a few other support options available through the VA.

  • VA Geriatrics and Extended Care Services – Options for long term care and overall improvements to quality of life. 
  • VA Caregiver Benefits – Allows for the compensation of a mesothelioma veteran’s caretaker. 
  • VA Fiduciary Program – Allows veterans to appoint a fiduciary to oversee their finances. 
  • VA Pension Benefits – The VA Pension Program may provide monthly compensation to wartime veterans and their spouse if they are under the threshold of liveable income.

Veteran Service Representatives

Veteran service representatives act as advocates for injured and disabled veterans. Because of their wide-ranging knowledge of the VA, they help veterans better understand the claims process and write the detailed asbestos exposure summary necessary for a successful asbestos claim.

Veteran service representatives play pivotal roles in ensuring the VA fulfills its commitment to veterans who were injured as a result of service.

Contact us today for access to a VA claims specialist who will help through the challenging claims process.

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