Unfortunately, a large number of mesothelioma victims are veterans of our Armed Forces, who were exposed to asbestos during their service. More than 30 percent of all mesothelioma compensation claims every year are filed by veterans. Between 1930 and 1980, asbestos was widely used by all branches of the American military, meaning that any veteran who served during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and in any other setting during those years may be at high risk for developing mesothelioma.
Fortunately, the federal government has provided avenues for mesothelioma victim veterans to receive compensation for their injuries. A mesothelioma attorney can assist veterans and their families in applying for these compensation sources, in addition to exploring other sources of compensation that may be available.
Asbestos Exposure in the Military
During most of the 20th century, asbestos was a very common material used in buildings as insulation until it was revealed that asbestos is harmful to humans when its fibers are inhaled. The military was no exception – asbestos was very commonly used on military ships and bases as insulation, as well as for fireproofing purposes.
Today, some research has suggested that military ships presented the greatest risk for asbestos exposure, especially on lower decks and in boiler rooms. Due to the lack of ventilation in the lower deck of a ship, as compared to an open-air base environment, Navy veterans have tended to have higher rates of mesothelioma occurrence. But nonetheless, veterans in all branches of the military may have experienced asbestos exposure which resulted in mesothelioma or other asbestos-related illness later in life.
Veteran-Specific Mesothelioma Compensation Sources
In response to the number of veterans developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related conditions, the federal government has set up benefits and resources for those veterans and their families through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Each benefit program provides different types of compensation and has its own eligibility requirements.
VA Disability Benefits
The Department of Veterans Affairs offers a generalized disability benefits program available to veterans with a service-related disability. Mesothelioma and other asbestos-related conditions are covered by the VA’s Disability Benefits program, and eligible veterans receive a monthly compensation amount designed to offset lost wages and medical expenses.
VA Special Monthly Compensation
Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) is an add-on benefit designed to enhance the VA’s Disability Benefits program for veterans who are disabled enough to need day-to-day assistance or care. Rates of compensation in the SMC program can vary, and depend generally on the level of assistance needed and the number of dependents a veteran has. Because family members are often tasked with caring for loved ones, the SMC program is also available to spouses and parents of veterans with qualifying disabilities, such as mesothelioma.
VA Disability and Indemnity Compensation
Disability and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is a monthly benefit for the surviving spouse or other surviving dependent of a deceased veteran. This program is available for family members of veterans who have passed away due to qualifying disabilities including mesothelioma and other asbestos-related conditions.
Eligibility for Veteran-Specific Mesothelioma Benefits
VA benefits for veteran mesothelioma victims are generally available to any veteran of the Armed Forces who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related illness, and who was exposed to asbestos during their military service. To show proof of eligibility, a veteran claimant will usually need to submit:
- Medical records showing a diagnosis of mesothelioma or another asbestos-related illness
- Proof of military service, including discharge status
- Documentation of asbestos exposure, including records of military-specific employment locations and assignments
If a veteran does not possess sufficient documentation, a mesothelioma lawyer may be able to assist in obtaining new copies of records from the Armed Forces, or in finding an alternative to proving eligibility for VA benefits.
Additionally, there is no time limit for filing a VA claim, meaning a claim can be filed soon after a diagnosis or long after. However, processing of VA claims can be a lengthy process, so it is usually in a veteran’s best interest to begin the process as soon as possible after a mesothelioma diagnosis.
Veteran-Specific Mesothelioma Treatment Programs
In addition to providing compensation and benefits to veterans, the VA provides veterans diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease options for treatment free of cost. Within the VA health system, there are treatment centers that specialize in the treatment and management of mesothelioma. Some veterans may be eligible to receive travel benefits from the VA to cover costs of traveling to these locations. Other veterans may be eligible to have the VA cover costs of treatment at a non-VA healthcare provider.
How to Access Mesothelioma Benefits for Veterans
Accessing these VA programs requires a veteran to submit a claim for compensation, along with required documentation and proof, as previously stated. While the idea of filing a claim sounds simplistic, these processes are oftentimes very complicated and lengthy. Consulting with a mesothelioma attorney about your options will generally result in the process being completed correctly on the first attempt and much faster than it would be without an attorney’s help.
Veterans may also be able to access multiple forms of compensation. While benefits from the VA are specific to veterans, general forms of mesothelioma compensation are open to anyone, including veterans. Some veterans may be able to receive benefits from the VA, in addition to compensation from an asbestos trust fund or other sources of compensation.
The exception to that statement is lawsuits, as one generally cannot sue the government in a civil case, but in unique factual circumstances, a veteran may be able to seek compensation from a contractor, manufacturer, or other entity in addition to receiving government benefits.
Affected veterans should reach out to an experienced mesothelioma attorney as soon as possible to get more information.
Bailey & Glasser, LLP and Veteran Mesothelioma Victims
Bailey & Glasser, LLP is a national law firm with an experienced and dedicated team of attorneys ready to assist veteran mesothelioma victims. Veterans who experienced injury during their service to our country should be treated with the same respect as a soldier injured on the battlefield, and that respect includes adequate compensation for a devastating illness such as mesothelioma. Our team of attorneys is experienced in assisting veteran mesothelioma victims, and we’re ready to assist you and your family today. Contact us now to set up a free consultation.