Veterans who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma can access specialized, affordable treatment through the VA hospital system. Under the direction of highly experienced specialists, mesothelioma programs at VA hospitals can improve the life expectancy and comfort of veterans with mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma Treatment at VA Hospitals
Since mesothelioma is such a rare condition, most general doctors and hospitals do not have experience diagnosing and treating it. Patients are encouraged to seek the care of a specialist familiar with the disease and up to date on the latest life-prolonging treatments.
It’s estimated that veterans account for up to one-third of all patients diagnosed with mesothelioma. Because of this, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs offers excellent options for specialized treatment at VA facilities. These healthcare facilities employ some of the world’s top mesothelioma specialists.
For qualified veterans, treatment at these centers may be free or require a very low copayment. The service is intended to make quality treatment affordable for those that served our country.
What Are VA Hospitals?
VA hospitals are provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs, a federal agency that administers a variety of benefits and healthcare services to eligible veterans. There are over 1,250 hospitals in the VA healthcare system, including 172 medical centers and 1,069 outpatient clinics. Veterans enrolled in the VA’s healthcare system can receive care at any facility.
VA hospitals treat about 9 million veterans every year.
Some VA hospitals offer specialized care for specific conditions while others are only equipped to treat common health problems. While VA hospitals used to have a poor reputation, much has changed. Today, VA facilities provide the same quality of care as private hospitals, if not better. Since it is a government service, the VA system is even more strictly regulated than the private healthcare sector.
What Services Do VA Hospitals Offer?
At VA hospitals, veterans can access treatment for certain illness and injuries as well as preventive care and treatment aimed at improving quality of life. For the most part, veterans must be enrolled in the VA hospital system to use these services. However, some mental health services are available to veterans not in the system.
VA hospitals provide a wide array of services, including:
- Emergency services
- Acute care
- Mental health services
- Exams and screenings
Some VA hospitals serve as research centers and teaching facilities. This allows veterans to receive treatment from experienced specialists and medical students and gain access to the latest treatment technology.
Veterans can also participate in promising clinical trials to receive treatments not yet approved by the FDA. This is available through a partnership program between the VA and the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The program gives veterans access to new cancer treatments such as precision medicine and immunotherapies.
Mesothelioma Programs at VA Hospitals
While there are many skilled facilities in the VA healthcare system, only a few are equipped to adequately treat mesothelioma. These hospitals offer advanced mesothelioma treatment programs run by world-renowned specialists. Fortunately, veterans enrolled in the VA system don’t have to pay more to see specialists at these locations than they would at their local VA hospital.
Below are the locations where you can receive mesothelioma treatment at VA hospitals.
Los Angeles VA
The West Los Angeles VA Medical Center treats veterans from all over the country with all stages of mesothelioma. The center is notable for their advanced lung-sparing surgery techniques and use of immunotherapy. The LA center also has unique expertise in treating sarcomatoid mesothelioma.
Dr. Robert Cameron, the center’s chief thoracic surgeon, is a leading expert in mesothelioma surgery. He has performed hundreds of these operations on mesothelioma patients to date.
Since mesothelioma does not have a cure, the medical team at the LA VA center treats mesothelioma as a chronic condition. They avoid using aggressive treatments that can hurt the patient’s quality of life and instead apply daily therapies to slow and manage cancer growth. The team aims to keep their patients comfortable while helping them live as long as possible.
The VA Boston Healthcare System runs several facilities in the Greater Boston area, including campuses and major medical centers. At their West Roxbury Campus, The Boston VA system houses a special division of General Thoracic Surgery. This surgical unit is uniquely experienced in oncology care for veterans.
Surgeons at the West Roxbury Campus perform about 300 thoracic operations every year.
The VA Boston Healthcare System offers a specialized mesothelioma program directed by Dr. Avi Lebenthal. A veteran himself, Dr. Lebenthal specializes in minimally invasive mesothelioma surgery. He aims to keep recovery times short so that his patients can enjoy a higher quality of life after surgery.
The Boston VA Healthcare System is distinguished for treating malignant pleural mesothelioma as well as peritoneal and pericardial mesothelioma. Patients have several personalized treatment options, including lung-sparing surgery and end-of-life care.
Michael E. DeBakey at Houston VA
The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston also provides comprehensive medical care to veterans. The center has a large residency program which brings in talented and highly educated individuals from all over the country.
There are close to 4,000 skilled professionals providing quality care at the Houston VA Center.
This VA center does not have a mesothelioma program of its own. Instead, it is closely associated with the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at the Baylor College of Medicine. Professionals receiving training at the college frequently treat patients at the VA Medical Center.
One of the most renowned mesothelioma specialists, the late Dr. David Sugarbaker, founded The Lung Institute at the college. The College’s Lung Institute houses the Mesothelioma Treatment Center where a large, multidisciplinary team tailors personalized treatment plans to mesothelioma patients.
The mesothelioma treatment program typically starts with surgery to remove any tumors. After this, doctors will use chemotherapy, radiation or immunotherapy to target the remaining cancer cells. The center also provides family-oriented support throughout treatment.
Enrolling in Veterans Health Care
To receive mesothelioma treatment at VA hospitals, veterans must be enrolled in the VA healthcare system. Veterans who are enrolled can seek treatment at any VA hospital and visit any of the mesothelioma specialists in the system. If you were diagnosed with mesothelioma after serving in the military, you are eligible for VA benefits—these include access to VA hospitals and specialized mesothelioma treatment.
To file a claim with the VA to access your benefits, including mesothelioma treatment at VA hospitals, contact the Mesothelioma Veterans Center today. Working with a VA-Accredited claims agent will help your claim get filed quickly so that you can start treatment as soon as possible.