The VA Health Care System allows veterans to access crucial treatments — but it can be difficult to navigate. Since mesothelioma requires aggressive and costly treatments, veterans with VA Health Care may have questions about their health care coverage and medical bills. Learn more about important VA Health Care topics, and get answers to your questions.
Frequently Asked Questions About VA Health Care
VA Health Care allows any veteran who qualifies to receive high-quality medical care services from providers across the country.
VA Health Care includes a wide range of services, from simple checkups to mesothelioma treatments. In some cases, a veteran’s family members can also receive medical care.
That being said, the VA Health Care System can be confusing — it offers a wide range of services, but veterans may not qualify for all of them. Determining eligibility and navigating the appeals process can be challenging as well.
Below, the Mesothelioma Veterans Center team has compiled some common questions — and answers — regarding VA Health Care.
What Is VA Health Care?
VA Health Care is a medical program designed specifically to help veterans access medical services.
It is part of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), which was established in 1946 to help veterans receive high-quality health care services. It is one of many VA benefits designed to pay back veterans for serving their country.
Today, a total of 1,255 health care facilities belong to the VA Health Care System, including 170 medical centers and 1,074 outpatient clinics.
What Does VA Health Care Cover?
VA Health Care can cover any number of health care needs. What a veteran will qualify for depends on their specific circumstances and overall quality of life.
VA Health Care may cover:
- Medical treatments
- Mental health services
- Assisted living or home care
Veterans can explore what health benefits they may qualify for using the VA’s Health Benefits Explorer tool.
Does VA Health Care Cover Mesothelioma?
Yes — if the veteran was exposed to asbestos while they served in the military.
From the 1930s to the early 1980s, almost every branch of the military exposed veterans to asbestos. Asbestos products were used to make ships, vehicles, buildings, and other assets — and exposure to these products could cause mesothelioma.
At the time, the military did not know that the mineral was dangerous because asbestos companies hid the health risks.
Veterans may have been exposed to asbestos through:
- Demolition of buildings
- Insulation work
- Mechanic work
- Shipyard work
Veterans with mesothelioma can often receive medical treatments — including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation — from VA doctors and medical centers that specialize in treating this rare form of cancer.
VA Health Care may also cover their other health care needs, such as post-surgery rehabilitation or therapy.
Who Qualifies for VA Health Care?
The following people may qualify for VA Health Care benefits:
- Veterans who were not dishonorably discharged from the military
- Spouses of veterans who qualify for VA Health Care
- Dependents of veterans who are underage or cannot support themselves
To learn specifically who will qualify, veterans should work with a VA-accredited claims agent or attorney when applying for VA Health Care.
These lawyers and agents can also help veterans prove how they developed mesothelioma from asbestos exposure while they served. By doing so, veterans can access life-extending treatments through the VA.
- VA Disability Claims
- Survivor Benefits
- Finding Veteran Doctors
What is My VA Priority Group?
When a veteran applies for VA Health Care, they will be assigned to one of eight priority groups. These groups are determined based on the veteran’s level of disability.
Veterans with mesothelioma are often put in group 1 — the highest priority group — as mesothelioma is often very aggressive and may prevent those affected from working.
A veteran also receives a disability rating after being assigned to a priority group. The higher the rating, the more benefits and compensation they may receive. Veterans with mesothelioma usually attain a 100% disability rating if they can prove their asbestos exposure has been linked to their military service.
What Are the Income Limits for VA Health Care?
Some veterans may qualify for cost-free health care, depending on their income. The VA sets an income limit — a cap on how much someone must make each year — to determine if they qualify for free health care services.
The income limit varies depending on:
- The current year: The income limit is updated yearly to reflect changes in the economy.
- Number of dependents: The more dependents a veteran has, the higher their income limit.
- The veteran’s priority group: Those in priority group 8 get a “relaxation threshold,” meaning they can make slightly more money and still receive free health care.
- Where the veteran lives: Since the cost of living varies in different regions, the Geographic Income Limit was established to compare the federally established income limit to the local income limit where a veteran lives. Veterans who fall between the local and federal income limits will see an 80% reduction for inpatient copays.
As of 2019, the standard VA Health Care income limit is $33,632 (excluding dependents and priority groups).
How Much Does VA Health Care Cost?
This depends on your plan. While some veterans may qualify for free health care, many must pay for some expenses out of pocket through a copay.
Veterans in priority group 1 receive lower copays, as they face greater health challenges. Since veterans with mesothelioma usually fall into this group, they may receive lower VA copays.
How to Enroll in VA Health Care
Veterans can enroll in VA Health Care online, by phone, by mail, or by visiting a local VA office. Veterans must fill out paperwork and provide documentation to complete the enrollment process.
To enroll in VA Health Care, veterans will need the following documents:
- Account numbers for any current health insurance policies, including private insurance or Medicare
- Social Security numbers for themselves and qualifying dependents
- Their most recent tax return
Veterans with mesothelioma may also want to bring medical records proving their diagnosis, as well as military records that can prove how they were exposed to asbestos while they served.
It typically takes less than a week for the VA to decide if you can receive VA Health Care.
How Can I Verify My Enrollment?
Once a veteran applies, they can check the status of their enrollment online or by calling (877) 222-8387. If approved for VA Health Care, veterans will receive a letter in the mail that confirms their enrollment.
Can I Appeal My VA Health Care Eligibility?
Yes. Veterans have one year to appeal if the VA does not allow them to enroll in VA Health Care.
Veterans can appeal in one of three ways:
- Supplemental Claim: The veteran re-submits their claim with new evidence that shows why they need VA Health Care.
- Higher-Level Review: Through this option, a veteran can request that a senior member of the VHA reviews the claim again. This is typically done if the veteran already has submitted all the necessary evidence.
- Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals: With this option, a veterans law judge will review your claim. These judges sit on the Board of Veterans’ Appeals in Washington, D.C.
In most cases, veterans with mesothelioma can enroll in VA Health Care so long as they prove they were exposed to asbestos while they served. A VA-accredited claims agent or attorney can help in this process.
- VA Disability Claims
- Survivor Benefits
- Finding Veteran Doctors
Can I Get Compensated for Travel Expenses to and from a VA Facility?
This varies with each case — but many veterans do qualify for travel expense compensation.
Through the Beneficiary Travel program, veterans can apply for financial reimbursement if they need to travel long distances for health care. This can greatly help veterans that do not live close to a VA hospital.
If traveling is not the best option, some veterans can receive health care closer to home through VA-designated local community providers.
Can I Seek Care From Other Health Care Providers?
In some cases, yes. In 2019, the VA expanded its health care program to include other care providers — most notably, local doctors in the community — through the MISSION Act. The act mainly serves veterans who live far away from VA Health Care facilities.
Under the MISSION Act, veterans can access approved non-VA doctors closer to where they live. The VA pays for the costs of this community care.
The MISSION Act is very important for patients with mesothelioma since only two VA doctors currently treat this type of cancer.
How Do I Qualify for Community Care?
A veteran must receive a written referral from their VA Health Care team. The team will look at the veteran’s specific situation and determine if local care will work better for them.
Veterans can access local health care through the VA if:
- They live very far from the nearest VA medical center
- The nearest VA center is crowded and wait times are long
- They need special health care services not available nearby
- It makes financial sense for the VA
Talk to a VA Health Care representative to learn more about seeking medical treatments from community providers.
What if I Cannot Pay My Bill?
Veterans who cannot pay their medical bills should talk to the billing services department where they were treated to discuss their options.
Common options for veterans who cannot pay their medical bills include:
- Dispute: Through a dispute, veterans can explain why they think the charges are invalid. For legal help with the dispute, veterans can access legal representation through a Veterans Service Organization (VSO), VA-accredited claims agent, or lawyer.
- Financial Hardship Assistance: With this option, veterans can either ask the VA for more time to pay back their debts or have these debts reduced or waived if they are going through a hardship, such as a sudden job loss.
Veterans who cannot pay their bills should take action within 30 days of receiving a bill to avoid late fees and other penalties.
Can I Cancel My VA Health Care Coverage?
Yes. Veterans can cancel their VA Health Care coverage at any time. To do so, they should sign, date, and mail in a document that says they want to dis-enroll.
Get Help Filing for VA Health Care
For veterans with mesothelioma, VA Health Care can be an essential part of their overall health care plan. Through this system, veterans can access world-class medical treatment from some of the top mesothelioma specialists in the country.
The Mesothelioma Veterans Center has VA-accredited agents on staff to help you apply for VA Health Care. Learn how we can help you file for VA benefits today.