Veterans who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma and believe their disease is related to asbestos exposure during their military service can file for VA benefits. However, not all claims are accepted, and you must meet specific criteria in the application to be eligible for compensation.
Eligibility Criteria for VA Benefits
VA benefits have been established to compensate veterans for any illness or disease they suffer in the line of duty. Mesothelioma, though it often appears decades after service, qualifies as a disease obtained in the line of the duty.
For veterans with mesothelioma to be eligible for compensation, they must meet the following criteria and supply supporting documents:
1. Proof of Service History
When filing for VA claims, veterans need to submit records of their service history that describe their job and specialty or trade. Certain trades, such as those in shipyards, put veterans at higher risk of developing mesothelioma down the line. You must supply clear records indicating where the military service occurred and for how long.
Work records should reflect that there was a high level of asbestos exposure that occurred during service.
Veterans who don’t already have their service history record on hand can request a copy of it from the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC), located at 1 Archives Drive in St. Louis, Missouri.
You can make a request for military service records in one of several ways:
- Mail or fax Standard Form 180 (Request Pertaining to Military Records) to the NPRC
- Visit the NPRC in person
- Write a letter to the NPRC
- Contact the local VA center
2. General and Honorable Discharge
Veterans must be discharged positively to qualify for any form of VA benefits. Military personnel discharged with Honorable, General, or Under Honorable Conditions meet this requirement and can file for mesothelioma benefits. Proof of discharge is included in the military service records that you may request from the NPRC.
Veterans who discover they were discharged dishonorably have the opportunity to dispute the status if they believe a mistake or injustice has occurred.
Veterans may apply for a formal review of their discharge status by submitting DD Form 149 to the Board for Correction of Military Records. The local VA office can help with this application.
3. Medical Records
Veterans must include medical records that demonstrate a mesothelioma diagnosis to the VA. Although Americans are legally entitled to their medical records, it can be challenging for some people to get their records in a convenient or timely manner.
Most records can be requested by phoning the hospital or filling out a records request form, but the exact process involved will vary by the medical center. Also, some hospitals charge hundreds of dollars in fees for providing paper records, while others give the records free of charge.
If you would like to access your medical records, phone your family doctor or hospital to initiate the process.
4. Doctor’s Statement
Veterans submitting a mesothelioma claim will also need a doctor’s statement that confirms the link between their diagnosis and asbestos exposure during service. If possible, the statement should be requested directly from the doctor who diagnosed the mesothelioma.
The most effective statements are detailed, written from an objective perspective and explain the veteran’s condition and the impacts of the disease with clear examples.
Veterans who need a doctor’s statement should make an appointment with the doctor that diagnosed their disease to request the document. In many cases, an additional fee will be required to compensate the doctor for their time.
Additional Supporting Information
Veterans are welcome to support their claim with further evidence, such as letters from family members, fellow military personnel, friends, members or law enforcement or religious leaders. These letters can help the VA understand when asbestos exposure occurred during service and describe the impacts of mesothelioma on the individual.
Letters from personal contacts can be especially important when the medical and service histories do not clearly outline when and where asbestos exposure occurred.
In some cases, the VA may also request medical exams or tests to verify the diagnosis. Veterans who are asked to complete these additional exams should do so as quickly as possible to prevent delays in receiving benefits.
Tips For A Successful Claim
Many factors impact whether a claim is successful, and an application is more likely to be approved if it is put together well. You should ensure your application is:
- Consistent and correct dates, timelines, locations and names
- Free of spelling errors
- Submitted to the proper local jurisdiction
- Fully complete with military service records, medical records and a doctor’s statement
Veterans who are unfamiliar with the claims process should bring their claim to their local Veterans Affairs office for review. The VA can help ensure all the documentation is in order and increase the likelihood the benefits will be approved.
Get Help Filing Your VA Claim
VA claims can be complicated and overwhelming. You can get help filing your claim from a Mesothelioma Veterans Center Claims Agent who will review your history and submit your application on your behalf, giving you a better chance of it being completed and approved. Contact us today to get started.