Mesothelioma Veterans Benefits

Military service members face a high risk of asbestos exposure when serving overseas, especially when working in or near building demolitions, explosions and damaged structures.

Veterans who served from the 1930s through the 1990s also experienced exposure outside combat zones during the everyday course of performing their duties, with Navy personnel facing the highest levels of exposure. The result is that veterans make up the largest group of individuals in the United States diagnosed with mesothelioma every year.


The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers benefits to veterans diagnosed with this devastating disease, but veterans must apply for them.

Eligibility

Veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma may be able to receive financial compensation and free health care. To be eligible, you must have served on active duty and must not have been dishonorably discharged.

How does the VA define active duty for the purpose of benefits?

An active duty service member is a member of the following uniformed services:

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    How long must veterans serve to become eligible?

    There is no minimum for veterans who served prior to 1980. Veterans who enlisted after September 7, 1980, or entered active duty after October 16, 1981, must have completed their active duty period or 24 continuous months. These minimums may be waived in some circumstances, such as when the veteran is discharged due to incurring a disability in the line of duty.
    a disabled veteran playing with his son

    What is a disability rating?

    The VA assigns a disability rating based on the severity of service-connected conditions. This is expressed as a percentage. Veterans with conditions that are completely disabling are given a 100 percent rating. This rating is used to determine eligibility for VA health care and financial compensation and to determine the level of benefit for some programs.

    What is the disability rating for mesothelioma?

    Veterans diagnosed with service-connected mesothelioma are generally assigned a 100 percent disability rating, which triggers the maximum benefit level in each category.

    What if my benefit claim has been denied?

    This can occur for a variety of reasons and does not necessarily mean you are ineligible. The VA allows you to appeal any decision with which you disagree. The VA has termed the appeal process a “decision review process” and provides the following three options:

    Supplemental claim

    Adding information to an existing claim

    Higher-level review

    Requesting a new review by a senior reviewer when you have no additional information to submit

    Board appeal

    Appealing to a Veterans Law Judge at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals in Washington, D.C.

    If your board appeal is denied, you can file a supplemental appeal or appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

    a doctor helping a retired veteran

    How long does the appeals process take?

    This will depend on which option you choose and how much new information, if any, needs to be reviewed. Supplemental appeals and higher-level reviews generally require a period of four to five months. A board appeal or U.S. Court appeal could take longer.

    What is an Intent to File form?

    An Intent to File notifies the VA that you or your survivors are in the process of gathering information needed to apply for benefits. This is useful when you anticipate a lengthy process of gathering documentation and in cases when your application is initially denied and you must appeal. When back pay is awarded, the effective period can begin on the date the Notice of Intent to File was submitted. If you use this form, you have a full year to complete your benefits application.

    a veteran in a BDU
    an american flag

    Financial Compensation

    Veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma may be eligible for the following types of monthly compensation:

    What is VA disability?

    VA disability is a tax-free monthly payment for veterans with service-connected disabilities that have been assigned a rating of 10 percent or higher.

    Am I eligible for VA disability?

    If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may be eligible for VA disability if you also meet the following criteria:

    an older veteran holding an American flag

    How much disability am I eligible to receive?

    The monthly disability payment is tied to your disability rating. Since a diagnosis of mesothelioma generally results in a 100 percent rating, veterans with mesothelioma typically receive the maximum amount. If you have dependents, the amount will be increased accordingly.


    The VA is required by law to provide an annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), which matches social security’s COLA. The 2022 disability amounts for veterans with a 100 percent disability rating are as follows:

    For each additional dependent child under 18, veterans receive an additional $92.31 or an additional $298.18 for a child over 18 who is in a qualifying school program. Veterans with a spouse receiving Aid and Attendance can receive an additional $170.38.

    What documentation will I need to file a claim?

    • Your DD-214 to prove you served
    • Medical records related to your service
    • Medical evidence related to your diagnosis, including but not limited to the following:
      • Doctor’s reports
      • X-rays
      • Medical test results

    How long will it take for the VA to make a decision about my claim?

    The time frame varies based on the information you provide and the number of claims the VA has to process ahead of yours, but the average length of time as of May 2022 is 141.9 days.

    How do I apply for VA disability compensation?

    You can apply for disability compensation online, in person or by mail.

    • To apply online: Sign in to your VA.gov account and select the application for disability.
      • You may find your application is already partially filled in with the information the VA already has about you.
      • You will need to upload your supporting documents when you submit your application.
    • Apply in person at your nearest VA regional office. You can find your nearest VA regional office on the VA’s website.
    • To apply by mail, complete your form, gather your documentation and mail it to:
    Department of Veterans Affairs
    Claims Intake Center
    P.O. Box 4444
    Janesville, WI 53547-4444

    Is there a way to fast-track my claim?

    Yes, the VA offers the fully developed claim (FDC) program for individuals that wish to have their claims processed as quickly as possible. An FDC is a claim in which all the information and verification are provided with the initial application. To qualify, take the following steps:

    Submit your completed application.

    a) Indicate that you are submitting your claim through the FDC program on Item 1 of the application on page 8.

    Submit all supporting documents with your claim, including the following:

    Certify that no additional evidence will be required.

    Attend any required VA medical examinations.

    Submit all supporting documents with your claim, including the following:

    There is no risk to participating in this program. If the VA finds that your application requires additional information or otherwise does not qualify for the FDC program, it will be converted to the standard application process without further delaying your application.

    What is a VA pension?

    A VA pension is a need-based pension awarded to wartime veterans with limited income and assets. You do not have to have a service-connected disability to qualify for the VA pension.
    Veterans with service-connected mesothelioma who have a 100 percent disability rating will typically not qualify for the pension program because the disability income will exceed the VA pension income limits. However, you may be able to use this program while waiting for your disability application to be approved.

    What qualifies as wartime service?

    To qualify for a VA pension, you must have served for at least 90 days of active duty prior to September 8, 1980, at least 24 months of active duty after September 7, 1980, or served as an officer and started active duty after October 16, 1981, without having previously served on active duty for at least 24 months.

    At least one day of service must have been served during at least one of the following wars:

    What are the income limits?

    Your household net worth and annual income must be below the limit set by Congress. Net worth includes the total of your household assets and annual income, less any medical and educational expenses. These amounts are adjusted annually. In 2022, the maximum household net worth is $138,489. The annual income limits are as follows:

    Are there any other qualifying criteria?

    To qualify for a pension, at least one of the following must be true:

    How Much is the Monthly VA Pension Payment?

    The amount of your monthly pension is the difference between your monthly household income and the VA’s maximum qualifying household income.
    a veteran discussing his VA pension

    How do I apply for the VA pension?

    Before applying for a VA pension, you will need to gather the following information to be submitted with your application:

    You can then apply online, in person or by mail.

    What is Aid and Attendance?

    Aid and Attendance is a monthly allowance provided to veterans who receive a VA pension and need assistance performing daily activities. You can receive this benefit if you meet at least one of the following criteria:
    • You require assistance to perform activities of daily living, such as the following:
      • Eating
      • Bathing
      • Dressing
      • Feeding
      • Transferring between bed and chair
      • Toileting
    • You are bedridden
    • You are a nursing home patient due to a service-connected disability
    • You have limited eyesight
    a veteran saluting an American flag

    What are Housebound benefits?

    Housebound benefits are a monthly allowance provided to veterans who receive a VA pension and cannot leave their homes due to a service-connected disability. Veterans can receive either Housebound benefits or Aid and Attendance, but not both.

    Compensation for Families

    A mesothelioma diagnosis can be sudden. Many veterans are concerned about the financial well-being of their families after their passing.

    What is Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)?

    DIC is a tax-free monetary benefit paid to the surviving spouse, child or parent of the veteran who died as a result of a service-connected condition.

    How do family members qualify for DIC?

    Family members must be able to prove the death was service-connected or that the veteran received VA compensation as a result of a totally disabling service-connected condition. This is a condition that prevents the veteran from maintaining employment.

    The veteran must have had the rating for at least 10 years prior to their death or since their release from active duty and at least five years immediately before their death. If the veteran was a prisoner of war, the requirement is reduced to one year.

    How much is the DIC monthly payment?

    The monthly payment for DIC varies depending on which family member you are and other factors pertaining to your situation. The amounts are adjusted each year. The 2022 base monthly payment for a surviving spouse is $1,437, with additional compensation awarded for disability, dependents and other factors.

    an American flag patch
    a veteran watching the sunset with his wife

    What is a VA Survivors Pension?

    The VA Survivors Pension program provides monthly tax-free payments to the surviving spouse and unmarried dependent children of a wartime veteran who has passed away

    What are the eligibility criteria for Survivors Pensions?

    The veteran that passed away must have met the same eligibility criteria required for the veteran’s VA pension program. The family’s income must fall below the congressionally set income limits.

    How do family members apply for DIC or Survivors Pensions?

    Family members can apply for these programs online, by mail or in person.

    VA Health Care

    Eligible veterans can receive comprehensive health care coverage through the VA, which includes preventive, primary and specialty care. Covered services and co-pays vary from veteran to veteran. Veterans with mesothelioma, lung cancer or other asbestos-related conditions may qualify for free health care with no co-pays.

    What products and services does VA health care cover?

    VA health care covers the following services:

    a doctor holding a veterans hand

    Veterans Transportation Service (VTS)

    Participating VA medical centers provide transportation to authorized VA and non-VA appointments.

    Does the VA cover holistic or complementary health options?

    The terminal nature of a mesothelioma diagnosis has led many patients to turn to alternative medicine as a means of finding comfort and hope through expanded options to enhance treatment, pain management and overall health.
    The VA is developing policies to allow and provide alternative approaches to veterans who wish to pursue these options. The following treatment approaches have been approved:

    The VA has also approved coverage for the following approaches to help veterans manage wellness:
    These services may be available through your local VA medical center or by referral from your VA health care provider.

    Does the VA provide non-medical benefits to support treatment?

    The VA currently provides the following services to veterans whose disabilities prevent them from traveling to treatment or present other needs.

    Caregiver Support

    The VA recognizes the important role caregivers play in veterans’ total health care and the demanding nature of taking on a caregiving role. Therefore, the VA offers the following programs to caregivers:

    • Program of General Caregiver Support Services (PGCSS)
      • Skills training
      • Mobile support
      • Coaching and mentoring
      • Referrals to community resources
    • Comprehensive Assistance to Family Caregivers (PCAFC)
      • Education
      • Health insurance to otherwise uninsured caregivers
      • Monthly stipend
      • Respite care

    Travel Benefits

    The VA reimburses veterans for long-distance travel to pre-approved treatment when such treatment is unavailable in the local area. The following travel expenses can be reimbursed to both the veteran and a medically necessary caregiver.

    Where will I receive care?

    You can receive VA health care at the following locations:

    Do any VA medical centers specialize in mesothelioma care?

    Mesothelioma is a rare cancer with which general oncologists often have limited experience. Several VA medical centers are well-known for mesothelioma specialty programs, including the following:

    What are Priority Groups?

    The VA assigns veterans to priority groups to ensure treatment is available to those most urgently in need. Your priority group impacts how soon you receive health care and how much you will contribute to costs.

    How does the VA determine priority group assignments?

    The VA assigns priority groups based on the following factors:

    Veterans with service-connected disabilities and low income receive the highest priority ratings. The VA currently has eight priority levels, with veterans in Priority Group 1 receiving the highest priority.

    What services are free for veterans in Priority Group 1?

    Veterans in Priority Group 1 receive the following services free without co-pays:

    Can I use VA health care with my own insurance?

    Yes, you can use your private insurance with your VA benefits, which can help cover non-service-connected conditions. The VA will bill your private insurance or Medicare and in many cases pay all remaining costs. This can help offset any deductibles that apply to your private health care. Having private insurance does not impact your VA health care benefits.

    Does VA health care offer family benefits?

    VA health care does not provide coverage to families of veterans, but the military does offer the following health care programs to spouses and dependent children:
    Family members may have been exposed to asbestos in connection to the veteran’s service. These family members may be eligible for additional reimbursement through the VA. However, obtaining VA approval may prove difficult since this is less common.

    What are the criteria for Priority Group 1?

    Veterans in Priority Group 1 have the following:

    To which priority group will I be assigned?

    Since a service-connected mesothelioma diagnosis usually results in a 100 percent disability rating, if you are diagnosed with mesothelioma, you will be assigned to Priority Group 1.

    How do I apply for VA health care?

    You can apply for VA health care online by visiting the application link. If you already have a VA.gov account, you can sign in to start your application. Before you start, you will need to gather the following information:

    If you prefer to apply by phone, you can call the VA’s toll-free hotline at 877-222-8387 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern time.

    To apply by mail, download an application form, answer all questions and mail it with your documentation to:
    Health Eligibility Center 2957 Clairmont Rd., Suite 200 Atlanta, GA 30329
    You can also apply in person at your nearest VA medical center or clinic.

    If I recover proceeds in a mesothelioma lawsuit, will my VA benefits be affected?

    Your service-connected health care and disability benefits will not be affected by proceeds you receive in a lawsuit. These programs are tied to your disability rating, not your income. However, your income and net worth do factor into the qualifying criteria for the VA pension, so lawsuit proceeds could potentially reduce or eliminate your VA pension.

    Can I sue the military for my service-connected asbestos exposure?

    You cannot sue the military, the U.S. government or the VA, but you can bring an action against private companies that sold asbestos-containing products to the military. The experienced mesothelioma lawyers at The Lanier Law Firm specialize in holding large companies accountable for harming individuals. Contact us today to schedule a free obligation.

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