Veterans who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or other illness caused by asbestos exposure may be able to receive different forms of compensation from either the government or the companies that manufactured the material they were exposed to. It is important to not only act in a timely fashion, but to consult and work with expert guidance whichever option one chooses to pursue.
Veterans may be able to obtain compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs. However the veteran must prove that the condition is service-connected and that the asbestos exposure happened during military service. Medical evidence is necessary. Many veterans enlist the help of VA-accredited claims agents.
Disability compensation from the VA is based on the rate of disability. The highest rating is one hundred per cent, or total, disability. Cancers like malignant mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer are considered by the VA as totally disabling. So if a veteran receives compensation for either mesothelioma or lung cancer, he or she will be paid at the 100% rate.
The VA recognizes various other types of illnesses as possible asbestos diseases. These include: asbestosis, fibrosis, pleural plaques and pleural effusions and fibrosis. Unlike asbestos cancers, these do not automatically get a veteran a total disability rating. The VA will first assess the seriousness of the veteran’s condition, rate the disability and then compensate him or her according to the disability rate.
Health Care Benefits
Veterans who believe they have become sick as a result of asbestos exposure in the military may be eligible to receive care through the VA health care system. The system classifies veterans into several categories of priority. There may or may not be a copay (out of pocket expenses) for the veteran depending on the category he or she is assigned.
Dependent and Survivor Benefits
Dependent and surviving family members of a veteran may be eligible for certain benefits as well.
A surviving spouse may apply for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation or DIC. The basic monthly benefit effective 12/1/2012 is $1,215. If the veteran was rated permanently and totally disabled for at least 8 years prior to death and the spouse was married to him or her for that same period, add $258. For each minor child, add $301. If the spouse also receives A&A, add $301. If the spouse is housebound, add $141.
Spouse and minor children, and children below 23 and enrolled full-time in school may be eligible for CHAMPVA health coverage. This is an entitlement benefit for the families of veterans who are rated permanently and totally disabled, as would be the case of a veteran with mesothelioma or other asbestos-related lung cancer.
See the Department of Veterans Affairs website for more on these benefits and the current payout rates.
Veterans also have the option to sue the manufacturers of the asbestos they were exposed to. Mesothelioma settlements are well-known, but the financial benefits are impossible to estimate as each case is different. Settlements may range from a few hundred dollars to millions of dollars. It is important to hire a competent mesothelioma attorney who is experienced in handling settlements if one wishes to pursue this route.
Bear in mind: Veterans cannot file a lawsuit against the U.S. government due to the Feres doctrine; however this does not bar them from suing asbestos manufacturers as civilians can.
Note our website does not provide any legal advice whatsoever. Please consult with an attorney or VSO as needed.