Veterans with mesothelioma can file for disability compensation from the VA. The disability benefit starts at $2,906 per month. It is higher for married veterans and/or veterans in need of a caregiver.
Filing a Mesothelioma Disability Claim
The Department of Veterans Affairs considers mesothelioma a disability worthy of financial compensation. But the VA requires more criteria than just being a veteran with mesothelioma. So the first step of filing a disability claim is making sure you meet the criteria.
To be eligible for VA disability benefits:
- You must have been discharged under other than dishonorable conditions.
- The VA must consider you at least 10 percent 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.
Did You Know? Veterans approved for mesothelioma are almost always awarded a 100 percent disability rating. This equates to at least $2,906 per month. The amount is higher for veterans with dependents and those in need of assistance from a caregiver.
The medical component to the eligibility process involves examination from a physician. This 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 evidence may be sufficient to get approved. Examples include: the results of a cytology report (fluid biopsy), CAT scan, MRI or PET scan reports. It is usually best to get a doctor to write the VA a letter on the veteran’s behalf. The letter should explain why there is enough evidence to make a biopsy unnecessary.
You must also be able to establish a link between your mesothelioma and your time in service.
Because asbestos use was widespread in the military until the late-1970s, military records can generally establish a link. You must also convince the VA that you did not have more exposure to asbestos in your jobs before and after your military service.
You must write a detailed asbestos exposure summary to accompany your claim. In your summary, you must provide the VA with details about your military exposures. You must also include information about the kind of work you did before and after 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 three ways:
- 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
Military Asbestos Use and Proving Your Exposure
In order to be eligible to file a mesothelioma disability claim, you must have been exposed to asbestos while serving in the U.S. military. Because the U.S. military used tons of asbestos for decades, you could have easily been exposed without knowing it. Convincing the VA that you were exposed can prove to be a different matter altogether.
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 aircrafts.
Knowing where you served and which job you worked during your service will help you establish a link to qualify for your claim. Some jobs had more asbestos exposure risks than others. This includes construction workers, mechanics and sailors who worked in shipyards and on navy ships. However, 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 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.
Important Facts on Mesothelioma Disability Compensation
The disability benefit is designed to compensate veterans for the loss of their ability to work and for the illnesses they’ve developed as a result of their military service. Below are some important points to keep in mind when filing for the VA disability benefit.
- VA Disability Compensation is completely tax-free.
- The benefit is awarded on a per-month basis, and the precise financial amount depends upon the level of the veteran’s disability.
- Veterans must be considered at least 10 percent disabled, but veterans suffering from mesothelioma are almost always rated at 100 percent disability.
- Age, employment status and your current financial situation have no bearing on whether you are approved or in the determination of how much you will receive in disability payments.
- You don’t have to get treatment in a VA hospital if you accept VA disability benefits. You still have full control of where you want to get treatment.
How To File a Disability Claim With the VA
There are 2 ways for veterans to 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 veteran’s claim. Development is when the VA gathers all necessary documentation to process the claim. This process takes time with the average claim taking approximately 8 months to adjudicate.
- Fully Developed Claim (FDC). Claims processed through the FDC program (introduced by the VA in 2010) are processed using the VA’s expedited claims processing rules. In order to submit an FDC, the veteran (and his veteran service rep) must submit all supporting documentation with the claim. Claims filed through the FDC program take on average only 4 months to adjudicate.
After meeting the eligibility requirements, veterans can file on their own or seek the assistance of a VA-accredited representative to help them file. An accredited rep can ensure that you submit the appropriate forms, supporting documentation and a detailed exposure summary to support your claim. It also helps you get your benefits faster.
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 is required to request copies of the veteran’s civilian medical records and request additional documentation from the veteran to support his/her claim.
This documentation may include medical release forms, copies of a marriage license or divorce, letters from the veteran’s doctor, and answers to questions about the veteran’s exposure history from the military and civilian jobs held before and after the military.
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). In order to submit a 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. It is therefore expedited through the system. FDCs typically take half the time to process than a similar claim. The average time only takes 4 months.
Start Your VA Disability Claim Today
Before you start a claim for disability benefits, consider talking to one of our veteran’s 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 include:
- You’re a veteran with mesothelioma (no matter how long ago your service was).
- You need financial help.
- A rep can help you get your benefits faster.
Even if you think you may not be eligible for disability benefits, it’s worth the time to talk to a representative. The consultation is free and they can give you an idea of whether it’s worth it to begin the filing process. Once you decide to file a claim, we will make sure you get all necessary documentation and the largest possible compensation amount. Get connected with a VA-accredited claims agent right now.