VA Health Care for Mesothelioma

Quick Summary

The VA health care program offers health benefits to United States military veterans, often at low or no cost. Through VA health care, veterans with mesothelioma can receive top medical treatment — including access to two of the country’s best mesothelioma doctors, Dr. Robert B. Cameron and Dr. Abraham “Avi” Lebenthal.

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Using VA Health Care for Mesothelioma Treatment

VA health care was set up so veterans can get quality, affordable health care. Upon discharge from the military, veterans can apply for enrollment, and if they meet certain criteria, they qualify for this benefit.

VA health care may cover treatments, health services, and prescriptions necessary for mesothelioma treatment, which can be expensive.

Sample of health resources covered by VA health care:

  • Home health care and elder care
  • Medical equipment
  • Medical treatments
  • Mental health services
  • Primary care
  • Prescriptions
  • Specialty care

Through VA health care, veterans can access mesothelioma doctors and services that are just as good as — if not better than — those covered by private health insurance.

For example, veterans with mesothelioma have access to two of the world’s best mesothelioma doctors through the VA health care system. Dr. Robert B. Cameron (Los Angeles, CA) and Dr. Abraham “Avi” Lebenthal (Boston, MA) have extensive experience diagnosing and treating mesothelioma.

Visit the UCLA Health website to learn more about Dr. Robert Cameron.

Disclaimer

The Mesothelioma Veterans Center has no affiliation with and is not endorsed or sponsored by Dr. Robert B. Cameron. The contact information above is listed for informational purposes only. You have the right to contact Dr. Cameron directly.

VA Health Care Programs for Mesothelioma Patients

VA health care facilities include cancer centers on either coast of the country that employ experienced mesothelioma specialists trained in top-of-the-line procedures.

Contact the Mesothelioma Veterans Center for help finding a specialist.

West Los Angeles VA Medical Center

Dr. Robert B. Cameron (MD, FACS) works at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center, which provides some of the world’s best health care for veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Dr. Cameron is a senior surgeon with over 20 years of experience treating mesothelioma patients. He developed the pleurectomy with decortication (P/D) surgical procedure, which removes mesothelioma tumors while sparing both lungs.

At this medical center, veterans have access to treatment options that are both meant to extend a patient’s life (curative treatment) and provide symptom relief (palliative treatment).

Treatment options available at this medical center include:

  • Pleurectomy with decortication (P/D)
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Cryoablation

The West Los Angeles VA Medical Center also specializes in treating the particularly aggressive sarcomatoid mesothelioma cell type.

To make an appointment with the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center:

  • Call: (310) 478-3711
  • Visit in person: 11301 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90073-1003

VA Boston Healthcare System

The VA Boston Healthcare System is known for its treatment of mesothelioma at all stages and its specialized care team. Veterans with mesothelioma can receive medical care from veteran and director of Minimally Invasive Thoracic Surgery Dr. Avi Lebenthal (MD).

Dr. Lebenthal served 18 years in the Israeli Defense Force, where he rose to the rank of Major and earned a personal “letter of distinction” for caring for wounded soldiers under fire.

“Life skills learned in the military are also relevant when surgically treating cancer. When planned and executed precisely, the impossible becomes possible.”

– Dr. Avi Lebenthal, Pleural Mesothelioma Specialist

Dr. Lebenthal was trained at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) by some of the world’s best mesothelioma surgeons and researchers, where he is now part of the world-acclaimed International Mesothelioma Program. He also teaches at Harvard Medical School.

Treatments and services available at this medical center include:

  • Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP)
  • Pleurectomy with decortication (P/D)
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • End-of-life options

To make an appointment with the VA Boston Healthcare System:

  • Call the hospital: (857) 203-6202
  • Call Dr. Lebenthal: (617) 323-7700
  • Email Dr. Lebenthal: abraham.lebenthal@va.gov
  • Visit in person: 1400 VFW Parkway, West Roxbury, MA 02132-4927

Applying for VA Health Care

To apply for VA health care, veterans must fill out an application and submit it through the VA website, by mail, or by dropping it off in-person.

For more information on applying for VA health care, visit the va.gov website.

Who Is Eligible for VA Health Care?

To access veterans health care benefits, individuals must meet certain eligibility requirements.

VA health care eligibility requirements include:

  • Service in the military without being dishonorably discharged
  • Enlistment after September 7, 1980, or beginning active duty after October 16, 1981
  • Current or former membership in the National Guard or the Reserves called to active duty at some point
  • 24 continuous months of service or the full period in which one was called to active duty

The last eligibility requirement listed above may not apply if the veteran was discharged for a disability that occurred or got worse during active service, or if they were discharged for a hardship or early-out.

Many veterans with mesothelioma may have the current requirements waived if they served before September 7, 1980.

How Can I Get Help When Applying For VA Health Care?

Applying for VA health care can be complicated and daunting, but there are many free resources for veterans who need help with their health care application.

You can get help by:

  • Working with a mesothelioma lawyer: Our team can help you with VA benefits paperwork or refer you to a VA-accredited attorney.
  • Calling the VA: Call (877) 222-8387 for help filling out your application.
  • Working with a veterans service organization: Organizations such as the American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars have offices across the country with teams who can help with paperwork.

VA Health Care Priority Groups

When you apply for VA health care, you will be assigned a priority group. Priority groups are a way to categorize the levels of care needed by a veteran. This system helps veterans who need urgent care receive it as soon as possible.

There are eight priority groups, with group 1 being the highest priority and group 8 the lowest. Mesothelioma is a life-threatening illness and is considered a total disability by the VA, so mesothelioma patients are often assigned to a higher priority group.

Common Questions About VA Health Care

Top Question

Is there an income limit for VA health care?

Yes, there is an income limit, but it may not affect you if you have mesothelioma.

The VA uses income limits to determine if you have to pay copays (and if so, how much). Those in priority group 1 don’t have to pay any copays for inpatient care or medications regardless of their income limit.

You may fall into this category if you have mesothelioma.

How much does VA health care cost?

Veterans who developed mesothelioma due to proven military asbestos exposure do not have VA health care or treatment costs, in most cases.

Even veterans whose mesothelioma is not deemed a service-related injury can often access affordable care through VA health benefits. They can also use other forms of health insurance (including private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, and TRICARE) along with their VA health care benefits.

There may be copays for some health care services, which most often begin on the 22nd day of care over a 12 month period. Services that require a copay may include stays in a community living center or respite care, for example.

Can I seek care from non-VA health care providers?

Yes. In some cases, you can seek non-VA health care through the MISSION Act. This act allows you to access care from your primary care provider and other doctors closer to home if you live far from the mesothelioma VA centers in Los Angeles or Boston.

Can I lose my VA health care benefits?

If you have mesothelioma and are rated high priority, it is highly unlikely you will lose your medical benefits.

Access VA Health Care and Other Benefits

The VA Healthcare System was set up so veterans can get quality, affordable health information and treatment. Former service members diagnosed with mesothelioma can get help accessing VA health care and other veterans benefits by contacting the Mesothelioma Veterans Center.

For help applying for VA benefits, call our team at (877) 450-8973 or get a free Mesothelioma Veterans Packet today.

Veterans Support Team
Eric P.W. Hall (Capt RIANG) PhotoReviewed by:Eric P.W. Hall (Capt RIANG)

VA-Accredited Attorney

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Eric P.W. Hall (Capt RIANG) is an attorney, a former Sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, and a legal advisor at the Mesothelioma Veterans Center. Today, Eric continues to serve as a Captain in the Rhode Island Air National Guard where he is Deputy Staff Judge Advocate, upholding his dedication to his country and fellow veterans. Eric considers it his duty to help his veteran family and strives to help them navigate the VA and receive the benefits they so bravely earned.

Christopher Dryfoos PhotoWritten by:

Contributing Author

Christopher Dryfoos is a journalist and member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). As the grandson of the U.S. Navy’s first forensic pathologist, he aims to help veterans with mesothelioma access needed care.

View 3 Sources
  1. Abraham Lebenthal, MD. (n.d.). Retrieved July 22, 2020, from https://physiciandirectory.brighamandwomens.org/details/1827/abraham-lebenthal-thoracic_surgery-boston-west_roxbury
  2. Dr. Robert B. Cameron, MD FACS. (n.d). Retrieved July 22, 2020, from https://www.phlbi.org/about/dr-robert-b-cameron-md/
  3. Your Health Care Costs. (n.d.). Retrieved July 23, 2020, from https://www.va.gov/health-care/about-va-health-benefits/cost-of-care/
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