It can be challenging to understand your rights and benefits after receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis, especially for veterans working with the VA. In this blog post, we’re going to talk about some of the common misconceptions around filing VA claims and getting compensated as a veteran.
Myth #1: You only qualify if you’re active duty
Veterans who served their country at any point in time may be eligible to file a VA benefits claim for mesothelioma if they were exposed to asbestos while on active duty. Mesothelioma is a slow-growing form of cancer that can take up to 50 years to develop fully. As a result, many veterans are long retired or into a new career by the time they are diagnosed.
Because mesothelioma is such a slow-forming disease, Veterans Affairs will take responsibility for exposure that occurred decades ago, as long as the veteran was working for the military at the time of exposure.
Myth #2: You can sue the government
Veterans exposed to asbestos while on active duty don’t have all the same rights as civilians. Many civilians who were exposed to asbestos on the job can sue their employer for damages, but this, unfortunately, isn’t the case for military veterans.
You cannot sue the government. Instead, the government uses the Veterans Affairs benefits and programs to assist veterans with their disease and disability.
Myth #3: If you get compensation from the VA, you can’t file private lawsuits
If you’re receiving VA benefits, you may still be able to get additional compensation through private lawsuits. For example, you can sue manufacturers who created products or materials that you handled during your military service, which likely caused your mesothelioma.
In some cases, veterans will file private lawsuits while receiving VA benefits so they can receive the compensation needed to fully cover their medical bills and expenses. Although VA benefits help ease the burden, many veterans find that they fall short of covering the entire cost of their medical care.
If you’re considering private litigation, be sure to track your expenses as soon as you receive your diagnosis. Medication, travel expenses including food, lodging and transport, alternative therapies, and hired assistance are all expenses that can result from a mesothelioma diagnosis.
Myth #4: Veterans with VA benefits have to get treatment at VA hospitals
It’s fortunately just a misconception that veterans using VA benefits have to get their treatment at a VA hospital. In reality, veterans are welcome to use their benefits at almost any hospital of their choosing.
This freedom to choose means that you may be able to access health care at some of the top mesothelioma or cancer centers in the world, including Brigham and Women’s Hospital, MD Anderson or the Baylor Lung Institute.
For the best possible treatment, veterans with mesothelioma should seek a designated comprehensive cancer center with a mesothelioma department. Of course, travel time and impact on quality of life will also play an important role in determining the best hospital for you.
Myth #5: Veterans with mesothelioma automatically qualify for benefits
Unfortunately, veterans who are diagnosed with mesothelioma don’t always qualify for VA benefits. To receive VA benefits to treat mesothelioma, you will have to prove that the majority of your asbestos exposure occurred while you were on active duty.
Mesothelioma can be a costly disease to treat, which is why the military doesn’t want to foot the bill unless they have to.
If you are a veteran and want VA to cover your illness, you must meet the following eligibility requirements:
- Discharged in honorable condition
- Exposed to asbestos during your service
- Diagnosed with a disability or disease directly related to that asbestos exposure
Diseases like mesothelioma and asbestosis are scientifically linked to asbestos exposure, which means you won’t have to prove that asbestos exposure resulted in those diseases. However, you will need to prove that the asbestos exposure occurred while you worked for the military.
You should start to build your case before you meet with Veterans Affairs and be prepared to share the following information:
- Your military specialization
- Locations you were stationed
- Proof you have a disease due to asbestos exposure
- Evidence that the exposure occurred while you were serving in the military
If you’re a veteran with mesothelioma who needs to file a claim, our VA-Accredited Claims Agents can help. Our specialists will assist you through the claims process to ensure you have the best coverage possible. Contact our VA-Accredited Claims Agents to get started.