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VA Benefits for Mesothelioma

Too many veterans assume that because they served in the military decades ago, that they are not entitled to Mesothelioma VA Benefits, such as disability compensation.  However, the truth is that they are not only eligible, but most likely qualify, as long as they can explain to the VA how they were exposed during military service. Let our Va Support Team help you with that process.

Understanding Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a cancer that develops after prolonged exposure to asbestos. After asbestos fibers are breathed in, they can become lodged in the mesothelial tissue and irritate the surrounding area. This irritation can cause cell damage and, over time, the development of tumors. Veterans have an increased risk for developing the disease because of higher rates of asbestos exposure.

The military used asbestos until the late-1970s to make certain materials fireproof and heat-resistant. Asbestos materials weren’t fully replaced until decades later, leaving many veterans at risk for developing mesothelioma later in life. Veterans suffering from mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos during military service are eligible for VA benefits.

Available benefits may include:

  • VA Disability Compensation
  • VA Pension
  • Aid & Attendance
  • Housebound Benefits
  • VA Health Care
  • Funeral Honors
  • Benefits for Spouses and Dependent Children
  • Dependency & Indemnity Compensation (DIC)
  • Survivor Pension (also called Death Pension)
  • VA Health Care for dependents through Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA)
  • No-Cost Military Headstone
  • Funeral & Burial Reimbursement

Mesothelioma VA Benefits

Veterans who have developed mesothelioma have the option to file an asbestos-related Disability Compensation claim with the VA. The majority of your exposure to asbestos must have occurred during active duty or inactive duty training in order for you to qualify for benefits.

The VA recognizes both pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma as disabilities that are only caused by asbestos. Here are the benefits you may qualify for if you are a veteran suffering from mesothelioma:

VA Disability Compensation

If you are a veteran suffering from a disability directly related to your military service, you may qualify for disability compensation. Veterans who have been dishonorably discharged are not eligible.

Disability is a tax-free benefit, and mesothelioma is covered at 100 percent on the VA’s disability scale. In addition, an allowance is provided if you have dependents. Medical evidence generally must be provided in order to obtain disability compensation, which usually means a biopsy report diagnosing mesothelioma (called a pathology report) must be included with the veteran’s disability application. Veterans approved for VA Disability Compensation for mesothelioma receive $2,906 per month if single, and $3,068 per month if married.  Additional benefits are available if the veteran has dependent children, or is in need of the Aid & Attendance of another person.

VA Pension

Pensions are provided to low-income, disabled wartime veterans. In order to qualify for a VA pension, a veteran must have had 90 days of active duty service or more, with at least one of those days during a wartime period.

Veterans entering active duty after September 7th, 1980, must have served 24 months or the full period during which they were called to active duty, with one of those days falling during a wartime period. In addition, annual family income must fall below the amount set by US Congress.

Veterans receiving a VA pension must fall under one of the following categories:

    • Older than 65, or
    • Permanently disabled, or
    • Receiving skilled nursing care in a nursing home, or
    • Receiving social security disability insurance, or
    • Receiving supplemental security income

Aid & Attendance (A&A)

There is a common misconception among veterans and their Veteran Service Officers that Aid & Attendance is only available to veterans who qualify for VA Pension.  However, veterans in need of A&A who are receiving VA Disability are also eligible to receive additional compensation in the form of A&A.

Veterans who qualify for a VA disability or pension and require the Aid and Attendance of another person might qualify for additional compensation. You may qualify for Aid & Attendance if you fall under one of the following categories:

    • You require Aid & Attendance of another person to perform everyday functions such as, dressing, bathing, shaving, using the toilet facilities, preparing meals, or managing your finances.
    • You are bedridden
    • You are living in a nursing home due to a physical or mental incapacity
    • You have eyesight that is only correctable to 5/200 in both eyes

Housebound benefits

Veterans who qualify for a VA disability or pension and cannot leave their home due to a permanent disability may be eligible for housebound benefits. If eligible, housebound benefits are added to VA Disability Compensation or Pension in the form of additional compensation.

Healthcare for Veterans

In order to receive this benefit, veterans must be enrolled in the VA’s healthcare system. Those already enrolled can receive treatment at any VA Hospital, which means they are eligible for treatment by one of the VA’s mesothelioma specialists, regardless of where they live, or currently receive VA care.  The VA has two world-renowned mesothelioma thoracic surgeons who devote part of their time treating veterans at their nearby VA hospitals.  They are Dr. Abraham (Avi) Lebenthal in Boston and Dr. Robert Cameron in Los Angeles.  Any veteran already enrolled in VA Health Care with mesothelioma can receive free treatment from Dr. Lebenthal or Dr. Cameron at their VA hospitals.  And if the veteran can get their local VA doctor to give them a referral to one of these doctors, the VA will pay the expense of traveling to see that doctor.

Those veterans not already enrolled in the VA Health Care system can apply for enrollment.  To qualify, veterans must have a service-related disability, meet the VA’s income limits, or belong to a special group of veterans, such as those exposed to Agent Orange, Purple Heart recipients, or POWs to name a few.  To find out if you qualify, contact the Mesothelioma Veteran’s Center for a free consultation.

Funeral Honors

The Department of Defense provides military funeral honors to all veterans, regardless of whether they served during a wartime period, or during peacetime.  Funeral Honors teams will perform funeral honors at National cemeteries and private cemeteries which includes two service members in full dress uniform who will provide a US Flag to be draped over the coffin which will be folded during the ceremony in precise military fashion, as well as playing taps during the appropriate portion of the ceremony.  The Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration handles all funeral honors requests, but most funeral directors can assist families in applying for funeral honors.

Benefits for Spouses and Dependent Children

Spouses and children of veterans who die from a service-related disability are eligible for Dependency & Indemnity Compensation (DIC).  Spouses of veterans rated as Totally and Permanently disabled are eligible for the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs, also referred to as CHAMPVA. Spouses and children of disabled veterans are also eligible for educational benefits under the VA’s Dependents’ Educational Assistance program. These benefits can be used any time up to 10 years after the VA rules them eligible. These benefits last for 3 years and 9 months at a degree, certificate, or work training program.

Dependency & Indemnity Compensation (DIC)

The Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefit is tax-free compensation that is paid to eligible survivors of a military veteran. A service member must have died in the line of duty or from a service-related disability to be eligible.  DIC starts at $1,254 per month for surviving spouses but is higher for spouses with any dependent children, or those who are housebound or in need of Aid & Attendance.

Many surviving spouses believe that DIC is automatically paid once a married veteran dies from a service related disability.  However, this is not the case.  The surviving spouse of a veteran who dies from mesothelioma – already rated by the VA as service-related – must still apply for DIC with the VA.  In addition, surviving spouses of veterans who die from mesothelioma, whose illness was not rated as service related by the VA, can still qualify for DIC.

VA Health Care through CHAMPVA

The Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs, or CHAMPVA, is designed to share healthcare costs with eligible persons. To be eligible for the program, you must meet one of the following requirements:

    • Be the spouse or child of a veteran ruled totally and permanently disabled from a service-related condition or disease
    • Be the surviving spouse or child of a veteran who died from a service-related condition or disease
    • Be the surviving spouse or child of a veteran who was ruled totally and permanently disabled at the time of death

Free Military Headstone

Free military headstones are dispensed at no charge for eligible veterans. The next of kin can apply for a headstone with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The headstone can be delivered to any cemetery around the world, regardless of the cause of death.

Funeral & Burial Reimbursement

As of July 7th, 2014, the VA is now paying funeral benefits without a written application. This allows surviving family members to receive the maximum monetary burial benefits allowed by the law. The process is now done through automated systems, and families no longer have to be reimbursed for costs that they have already incurred. For deaths related to a veteran’s service, the VA will pay up to $2,000 if the death occurred after September 11th, 2001. If the death was prior to that date, the VA will pay $1,500.

Survivors Pension

Spouses and dependents of a deceased veteran may qualify for survivor pension (also called death pension) if the veteran served during a period of war, and meet the VA’s income threshold.  All income in counted, with the exception of SSI, but the VA will deduct certain expenses (such as out of pocket medical expenses) for the purpose of qualifying a veteran’s family member for pension.  Income limits for survivor pension vary depending on the survivor’s medical condition.

Filing a Claim For Benefits

Veterans that file a disability claim for an asbestos disease must show that they were exposed during their military service. Veterans should provide a detailed exposure summary letter with their claim, explaining where they were stationed during their exposure, how they were exposed, and the extent of the exposure. Veterans must also provide information about their civilian careers, both before and after their military service, and provide any information about any exposures to asbestos occurring in those jobs.

The key to getting approved for mesothelioma, or any other asbestos disease, rests in convincing the VA that at least 50% of the veterans “occupational” exposure occurred in the military, and not in the veteran’s civilian career.  Our VA Support Team has years of experience in helping veterans write their exposure summary.

Generally, the VA will have veterans filing a claim, undergo a medical examination to determine if their disability is service related, and assess the level of disability.  However, veterans with mesothelioma are usually not required to undergo one of these examinations, as long as they have provided the appropriate medical evidence and provided sufficient details about their asbestos exposure in their claim.  The Mesothelioma Veterans Center’s VA Claim Agents can assist veterans in providing the VA will all required documentation, so as to avoid having to go to a VA physical examination.

A common misconception among veterans with mesothelioma is that if they file for VA disability compensation, and are approved, they will be forced to seek treatment for their mesothelioma through the VA Health Care system.  While veterans approved for VA disability compensation are eligible for free VA Health Care, there is no requirement that they use it.  And most veterans with private health insurance opt not to use the VA and continue treatment through their civilian doctors.

Call our VA Support Team at 1-877-404-9992 for assistance today.

Sources & Author Edited: August 29, 2015

About the Writer

Senior Veteran Support Team

The Mesothelioma Veterans Center was created to provide information and assistance to veterans regarding treatment, clinical trials, and VA benefits for veterans suffering from asbestos illnesses. The MVC was founded by retired veterans and veterans advocates who have helped hundreds of veterans get approved for their VA benefits after developing mesothelioma or asbestos-related lung cancer from their asbestos exposure in the military.