Veterans with mesothelioma have the ability to file for disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). If your mesothelioma was caused by asbestos exposure while you bravely served, you may be entitled to 100% disability. You may also be eligible for increased benefits if you are married and/or need a caregiver.
What is VA Disability Compensation?
VA disability compensation is a payment made to veterans who were injured or became ill while serving in the military. Disability payments are tax-free and are paid monthly to the brave men and women who have earned it through their service to our country.
VA disability compensation is paid to veterans who were exposed to asbestos and developed an asbestos-related condition. Veterans who were exposed to asbestos while serving and later developed mesothelioma are entitled to a 100% disability rating.
Important Facts on Mesothelioma Disability Compensation
The disability benefit is designed to compensate veterans who lost their ability to work due to events that occurred while they served. This includes any illnesses they have developed as a result of their time in the military.
Keep these important points in mind when filing for disability:
- VA disability compensation is paid monthly and is completely tax-free
- Veterans must be considered at least 10% disabled to receive compensation
- The exact amount of payments depends upon the level of the disability
- Veterans suffering from mesothelioma are almost always rated at 100% disability
- Age, employment status, and current financial situation are not factors in becoming approved or in establishing the payment amount
- You do not have to be treated in a VA hospital if you accept VA disability benefits — you have full control of where to get treated
Filing a Mesothelioma Disability Claim
The VA considers mesothelioma a disability worthy of financial compensation. However, being a veteran with mesothelioma does not automatically mean that you will be compensated. The VA has criteria which must be met. Therefore, the first step of filing a disability claim is making sure you meet these criteria.
To be eligible for VA disability benefits:
- You must not have been dishonorably discharged
- The VA must consider you at least 10% disabled (on a scale of 0-100)
- A physician must provide medical evidence of mesothelioma
- Your condition must have been caused by service-related asbestos exposure
Veterans approved for mesothelioma are almost always awarded a 100% disability rating. This equates to at least $3,057 per month. The amount is higher for veterans with dependents and those in need of assistance from a caregiver.
Provide Medical Evidence
The medical component to the eligibility process involves getting examined by a physician. This step usually requires you to submit a pathology report from a biopsy that definitively diagnoses you with mesothelioma.
There are times when a doctor may conclude that a veteran has mesothelioma, but does not feel a biopsy is justified. In these cases, other medical proof may be enough to warrant approval.
Other medical proof may include:
- Results of a cytology report (fluid biopsy)
- CAT scan results
- MRI results
- PET scan results
With no biopsy, it is usually best to ask a doctor to write a letter to the VA on your behalf. The letter should explain why there is enough evidence to make a biopsy unnecessary.
Link Asbestos Exposure to Military Service
You must also be able to establish a link between your mesothelioma diagnosis and the time you spent in the military.
Because asbestos use was widespread in the military until the early 1980s, military records can generally establish a link. You must also convince the VA that you did not have additional exposure to asbestos in your jobs before and after your military service.
You must write a detailed asbestos exposure summary to accompany your claim. The summary should include details about your military exposures. You must also include information about the kind of work you did before and after your time in the military.
Veterans who prove that at least 50% of their asbestos exposure occurred in the military will be approved.
If you are eligible to file a mesothelioma disability claim with the VA, you can do so in one of three ways.
3 Ways to File a VA Disability Claim
- Online through the eBenefits program
- In-person at your VA Regional Office
- With a VA-accredited representative who can work directly with you and assist you in preparing your claim and submitting it to the VA
How Did the Military Use Asbestos?
The U.S. military used tons of asbestos for decades, and you could have easily been exposed without knowing it.
All branches of the U.S. military used the hazardous material for its heat resistance. Asbestos was placed in insulation, piping, ceiling and flooring tiles, electrical wiring, and other infrastructure. It was also commonly used aboard ships, transport vehicles, and aircraft.
Some jobs had more asbestos exposure risks than others. This includes construction workers, mechanics, and sailors who worked in shipyards. Knowing where you served and which job you worked during your service is important. This will help you establish a link between your military service and your asbestos-related disease.
The Asbestos Section of the VA Benefits Manual (M21-1MR) makes it clear that mesothelioma-causing exposure may be “brief and/or indirect.”
This means that any level of exposure in the military may qualify you for disability benefits. The important thing is that the majority of your lifelong asbestos exposure was in the military.
How To File a Disability Claim With the VA
After meeting the eligibility requirements, veterans can file on their own or seek the assistance of a VA-accredited representative. A VA-accredited representative can ensure that you submit the appropriate forms, supporting documentation, and a detailed exposure summary to support your claim. This may help you get your benefits faster.
There are two different ways a veteran may file a disability claim with the VA:
- Traditional Claim: Traditional claims are processed through the Standard Processing rules. These rules require the VA to develop the claim on your behalf.
- Fully Developed Claim (FDC): FDCs are processed through the Expedited Processing rules. These rules allow you to develop your own claim.
Traditional Claims submitted to the VA are processed through the standard processing rules. This means that the VA has a legal duty to “develop” the veteran’s claim. Under these rules, the VA must get copies of the veteran’s civilian medical records and request additional documentation to support their claim.
This documentation may include:
- Medical release forms
- Copies of a marriage license or divorce
- Letters from the veteran’s doctor
- Answers to questions about the veteran’s exposure history from the military and civilian jobs held before and after their service
Development of the claim takes time. The typical time for a decision on a traditional claim is between 8-12 months. But it can be longer if the VA has a difficult time gathering any of these records.
In 2010, the VA announced the implementation of a new processing method called the Fully Developed Claim (FDC). To submit an FDC, the veteran must submit all necessary forms, documents, civilian medical records, and an exposure summary with their initial claim for disability compensation.
Because the VA does not have to “develop” the claim, it bypasses the often time-consuming development stage. The claim is therefore expedited through the system. FDCs typically take half the time to process than traditional claims. The average time for an FDC is only 4 months.
Start Your VA Disability Claim Today
Before you start a claim for disability benefits, consider talking to one of our veterans representatives. They are accredited by the VA and have years of experience helping mesothelioma patients expedite their disability claims.
While it’s true that any illness diagnosed while you are still on active duty is automatically considered service-related, many vets assume that a disease diagnosed years after their service is not considered service-related by the VA. While it will not be automatically assumed that your mesothelioma was caused by your military service, you can still get approved as long as you can convince the VA that at least 50% of your occupational exposure occurred in the military. There are people who can help you to make that case by assisting you in writing a detailed exposure summary to accompany your VA Disability Claim.
– Retired Senior Veteran
Reasons you should talk to a representative about a disability claim:
- You’re a veteran with mesothelioma
- You need financial help
- You want to get your benefits faster
Even if you think you may not be eligible for disability benefits, it is worth the time to talk to a representative. The consultation is free, and they can give you an idea of whether starting the filing process is worthwhile. If you decide to file a claim, we can help you gather all the necessary documentation and get the largest possible compensation amount.