How to File a Mesothelioma VA Claim
For most of the 20th century, the U.S. Armed Forces used aircraft, ships, construction, and other equipment that contained asbestos. Because of this exposure, military veterans make up approximately 30% of all mesothelioma cases in the United States. Mesothelioma is cancer that develops from asbestos exposure. Individuals must apply through the Department of Veteran Affairs to receive VA benefits for mesothelioma.
Military personnel have historically faced significant daily exposure to asbestos, which was heavily used in aircraft, ships, vehicles, and armaments for most of the 20th century.
Navy personnel experienced the highest exposure levels due to the use of asbestos to line ships. However, personnel in all branches of the military who worked in shipyards or served as aircraft or vehicle mechanics experienced prolonged high-level exposure.
Veterans who served in the Gulf War, Vietnam, or other conflicts were often in close proximity to buildings that had been bombed or otherwise destroyed, many of which contained substantial quantities of asbestos. The brave men and women serving overseas today are still vulnerable to asbestos exposure.
How do you qualify for disability benefits from the VA?
Veterans who are eligible for disability benefits have a confirmed medical diagnosis and meet the following criteria:
What are the types of disability benefits?
The Department of Veterans Affairs awards disability benefits to veterans who acquire an injury or illness while carrying out their military duties or whose existing condition is made worse because of their service. These are called service-connected disabilities.
The VA uses a rating system to classify service-connected disabilities. This rating is used to determine eligibility and calculate compensation rates and other benefits. The greater the disability, the higher the rating. Veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma due to their military service are usually assigned a 100 percent disability rating, which enables them to receive maximum benefits.
VA disability compensation is tax-free monthly payments provided to veterans with service-connected disabilities. The award amount is tied to the disability rating and can be increased if the veteran has dependents.
VA Health Care
VA health care is available to most veterans, but the benefit packages vary based on individual characteristics such as disability rating and income levels. Veterans are assigned to priority groups based on these characteristics.
Veterans who have service-connected disabilities with a rating of at least 50 percent are assigned to priority group 1. Veterans with mesothelioma usually receive priority group 1 status. Priority group 1 veterans receive free health care benefits without copays.
The West Los Angeles VA Medical Center is a state-of-the-art mesothelioma treatment center that is operated by Dr. Robert Cameron, a pioneer in cutting-edge mesothelioma research. While he does not claim to cure mesothelioma, his treatments have greatly improved the lifespan and quality of life of mesothelioma patients who previously had no hope.
With a referral from a local VA medical center, VA health care covers the cost of travel to Los Angeles to receive treatment. Patients who are not local to the Los Angeles area receive free housing and transportation to and from the clinic.
The VA pension program is available to low-income veterans who have served during wartime. Eligibility criteria include the following:
Receives social security disability income (SSDI) or supplemental security income (SSI)
The VA does not allow the receipt of disability compensation and the pension at the same time. If you are eligible for both, the VA will award whichever program results in the higher monthly compensation. Veterans with mesothelioma will usually receive disability compensation rather than a pension.
Aid and Attendance
Types of Benefits a Family Can Receive
VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)
DIC is a tax-free benefit for the eligible family members of a veteran who passed away in the line of duty or because of a service-connected disability. Eligible family members include a surviving spouse or dependent child. Children over 18 who are unable to care for themselves and children ages 18 to 23 who attend school qualify.
Health Care for Dependents
TRICARE is available to the spouse and dependent children of deceased veterans who were retired service members or on active duty at the time of death. This program is not administered by the VA but by DFAS (Defense Finance and Accounting Service), a service offered by the U.S. Department of Defense. TRICARE offers multiple plans based on individual circumstances.
CHAMPVA (Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs) is administered by the VA and is available to the surviving spouse and dependent children of veterans whose death was caused by a service-connected condition.
To qualify, family members must not be eligible for TRICARE. Eligible family members include the surviving spouse, children and stepchildren under 18, and children under 23 attending school. Spousal eligibility ends if the surviving spouse remarries prior to the age of 55. CHAMPVA functions as secondary insurance and covers most medically necessary procedures.
Funeral and Burial Benefits
Every eligible veteran is entitled to receive a military funeral honors ceremony provided by the U.S. Department of Defense at the request of the family. Military funeral honors include the following:
Burial in a National Cemetery
Burial benefits for veterans include a gravesite in any of the VA’s national cemeteries with available space and include the following services at no cost to the family:
If the family wishes to bury the veteran in a private cemetery, the VA will provide the same benefits for the veteran’s burial but not for the burial of family members. Since private cemeteries may incur additional costs, the VA allows families to apply for a burial allowance of up to $2,000 for the veteran’s burial.
Unmarried dependent children may also qualify for survivors pension if one of the following is true:
VA Education Benefits
The surviving spouse and dependent children of a veteran who passes away due to service-connected mesothelioma may be eligible to receive education benefits through the VA’s Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA or Chapter 35) program.
This program provides monthly benefits to help cover the cost of college, career training, career counseling, apprenticeships and job training. Surviving spouses are eligible for up to 10 years after the veteran’s death. Surviving children qualify when between the ages of 18 and 26. This can be extended if surviving children join the military.
Free Military Headstone
Veterans receive a single gravesite and headstone or marker, which is shared with the spouse and children. If two veterans are married, two headstones are provided and shared with the children.
How do I get these benefits?
If you believe you might qualify for disability compensation, you will need to apply through the VA either by mail or in person. You will need the following supporting evidence to verify your eligibility:
You have up to a year to submit documents from the time you file your claim. If you do not have the ability to gather the documents yourself, an experienced mesothelioma law firm like The Lanier Law Firm can assist you with the gathering of supporting documents and file your claim on your behalf.
How much is disability compensation?
Disability compensation for veterans who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer, or other asbestos-related diseases depends on the disability rating. Due to the debilitating and fatal nature of these conditions, the disability rating is most often 100 percent. Based on a 100 percent disability rating, the 2023 disability compensation rates are as follows:
Surviving Family Members
In the case of a surviving spouse, the base monthly payment is $1,562.74, but this amount can be increased by the following amounts with spousal eligibility of the following programs:
If there are dependents, the spouse receives a transitional benefit of $332 for the first two years after the veteran’s death, plus $387.15 per month for each child under 18. Benefits are available to dependent children over the age of 18 in limited circumstances.
Rates are calculated differently for survivors of veterans who died prior to January 1, 1993.
How long does it take the VA to make a decision?
The average time required for the VA to process claims, as of February 2023, is 102.2 days. The actual time frame required for any individual claim will depend on the following factors:
Our attorneys have extensive experience litigating mesothelioma cases and have won substantial recoveries on behalf of those affected by asbestos exposure and those suffering from mesothelioma.