In addition to medical treatments, U.S. military veterans who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or any other asbestos-related cancer need medical equipment, prescription medications and health care travel and lodging. In many cases, insurance only covers a portion of such necessities.
Veterans are entitled to several programs sponsored by private nonprofit and not-for-profit groups and state and federal agencies, beyond what the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) provides. These programs can provide financial aid, health care, medical travel, co-pay assistance, prescription cost assistance and access to medical equipment.
Federal government-sponsored programs that provide financial and medical assistance to veterans include Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Medicaid, and Medicare.
SSDI was enacted as part of the Social Security Act in the 1950s. It provides supplemental income to disabled people who cannot seek employment. The amount of financial benefits are not impacted by unearned income through VA benefits, so veterans can collect SSDI and VA benefits simultaneously.
The Social Security Administration requires anyone seeking SSDI compensation be, “unable to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA).” The medical condition must “have lasted, or be expected to last, at least one year or to result in death.”
The amount of monthly earnings considered as SGA depends on the level of disability. Generally, the 2018 SGA amount for non-blind individuals is $1,180. Anyone earning more than $1,180 a month may be denied an SSDI claim.
Pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma also qualifies as a Compassionate Allowance, which automatically qualifies for SSDI. Veterans who have a 100 percent permanent and total (P&T) disability rating can receive expedited SSDI benefits processing. The VA rates mesothelioma and asbestos lung cancer at 100 percent P&T disability.
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As a jointly funded federal-state health insurance program, Medicaid provides benefits for low-income people. For veterans, Medicaid acts as a safety net, covering complex medical conditions and limiting out-of-pocket costs. Typically, veterans who qualify for Medicaid do not pay healthcare co-pays. Unlike Medicaid, VA healthcare is not considered health insurance.
Nearly two million veterans utilize Medicaid for health care coverage. Medicaid is a viable choice for many veterans for several reasons. Some veterans do not qualify for VA benefits (if they have been dishonorably discharged or served less than 24 consecutive months). Others do not live near a VA clinic or hospital.
Medicare is a federally funded health insurance program for anyone age 65 and older. In addition, the program covers some people under age 65 with specific disabilities and people with End-Stage Renal Disease.
There are several different parts that cover specific services: Part A (hospital insurance), Part B (medical insurance), Part C (Medicare Advantage), and Part D (prescription medications).
Veterans can have both VA benefits and Medicare insurance, but the two programs do not work together. Medicare does not pay for services at VA facilities. Many veterans use VA facilities for services not provided or covered by Medicare, such as eye care and hearing aids.
Some veterans use VA coverage exclusively for prescription medication coverage since VA drug coverage is more generous than through Medicare.
Anyone who is approved for SSDI and receives benefits for 24 months is automatically enrolled in Medicare coverage.
In addition to government-sponsored programs, veterans also have access to private programs that are funded through donations and fundraising. The following are several categories of private programs available to veterans who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or an asbestos cancer.
Mesothelioma patients commonly travel to the leading mesothelioma specialists for treatment. Some charitable organizations, such as the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, provide patients with travel assistance. The grants are generally about $1,000 to cover travel, lodging and meals.
In 2015, the foundation distributed $34,500 to 22 patients for travel to and from clinical trials and specialist visits. The organization provides the grants to mesothelioma patients who cannot afford the travel expenses to see a specialist for a consultation or travel to an appointment for a treatment-based clinical trial.
In some cases, patients are too sick to take commercial airlines to visit medical specialists. That’s where organizations like Mercy Medical Angels come in. Mercy Medical Angels and other similar groups analyze patient need and determine the best travel accommodations.
In some cases, volunteer pilots transport patients and in other cases ground transportation is utilized. Often the services are free or at a greatly reduced cost.
Patients who need financial assistance for co-pays, co-insurance and deductibles for prescription medications are eligible for help through charitable organizations that include the Patient Advocacy Foundation and NeedyMeds. Often these programs also help with medical care.
Many major pharmaceutical companies also offer co-pay assistance that can amount to 100 percent coverage for expensive medications. The Partnership for Prescription Assistance helps patients get prescription cost assistance and access to free or low-cost medical clinics.
Nonprofit and not-for-profit agencies nationwide provide free and low-cost housing for patients who must travel to undergo medical treatments. Some large hotel chains, including Best Western and Choice Hotels, provide deeply discounted hotel rooms for cancer patients seeking treatment. In some large cities with major medical centers, free short-term housing is available.
Mesothelioma patients often need 24-hour access to medical equipment and supplies, including portable oxygen tanks, hospital beds and wheelchairs. While Medicare Part B provides coverage for necessary medical equipment, patients are typically responsible for 20 percent of the cost.
Nationwide, charitable organizations provide financial aid to cover costs not covered by Medicare Part B. Also, some organizations loan necessary medical equipment while the patient undergoes treatment.
If you are a veteran and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact us today for more information about available services that can help reduce some of the burdens of undergoing treatment. Our VA Accredited Claims Agents are skilled with matching patients with necessary services and providers, allowing patients to focus on healing.
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