About US Veterans and Asbestos-Related Disabilities
The United States military veterans make up nearly 8% of today’s American population. With over 323 million people in America, that puts the veteran numbers at around 23 million. This includes ex-service people from the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, and Navy. It also takes in vets from the National Guard and various government scientific research agencies. Most of these courageous veterans discharged or retired without a scratch. Unfortunately, there are those who suffered serious service-related disabilities.
Many U.S. military veterans saw active combat on the land, at sea, and in the air. Scarce few World War II veterans are still with us and the vets from Korea and Vietnam are dwindling. Military veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts are replacing them as well as service personnel engaged with ISIS in the Middle East.
Some of these brave veterans experienced duty-related physical combat wounds as well as psychological disorders. However, many American veterans experienced a different type of threat during their service time. That was exposure to toxic substances like asbestos.
Asbestos-containing materials (ACM) were used extensively in every United States military branch from the 1930s to the 1980s.
The Navy was the largest consumer of asbestos all military branches, building every war and supply ship with ACM from end-to-end and top-to-bottom. So were Coast Guard cutters. Air Force planes used asbestos products to lighten and strengthen them in addition to heat- shielding and fireproofing. Army tanks and base buildings had ACM throughout. And the Marines were exposed to asbestos by every other branch they backed-up.
Asbestos products were phased out in the 80s but, by that time, millions of soldiers, sailors, aircrew, and marines were exposed to deadly airborne asbestos fibers. It took decades after leaving the service for these innocent vets to develop disabling diseases like malignant mesothelioma. Now, these eligible service people turn to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for entitled disability benefits.
VA Disability Compensation and Healthcare Benefits
Department of Veterans Affairs offers all honorably discharged military service personnel two types of disability benefits. While they’re all administered by VA, these are two distinct benefit areas. One is financial compensation to help pay for disabled vets income, living expenses, medical costs and specialized support equipment. The other segment is helping disabled veterans function within society by supplying various health care benefit support services.
These compensation and healthcare benefits are above and beyond the normal pension plan that all retired and healthy U.S. military veterans have an entitlement to. Veterans who were injured or developed illnesses resulting from active service circumstances are eligible to apply for extra financial compensation and specialized support.
Here are the four forms of VA disability compensation available:
- Disability Compensation (DC): This is the Department of Veterans Affairs basic compensation plan to financially help qualified veterans with a recognized disability resulting from military duties. Tax-free monthly payments are calculated on a disability scale from 10 to 100, reflecting minimal to maximum disability.
- Special Monthly Compensation (SMC): VA supplies additional financial compensation to special-needs veterans. This benefit plan is designed to pay for medications, equipment and other needs unique to an individual veteran’s circumstances.
- Additional Special Circumstances (ASC): Some veterans have expensive requirements such as total home care, mobility-assisting devices, and specialized therapeutic treatment. ASC compensation is available for these additional circumstances.
- Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC): Spouse and child dependents of military veterans who died from duty-related causes are eligible for monthly compensation. Other family members of vets who passed away from service-caused mesothelioma or other asbestos-caused diseases may also be eligible for DIC.
Healthcare benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs extend beyond paid monthly compensation. Veterans aren’t reimbursed for necessary living support. Rather, these expenses are directly absorbed by VA to veterans who qualify to take part in existing VA programs.
These are the main extra health care benefits VA offers to their qualified clients:
- Personal Health Programs: Specific steps are prescribed to stabilize and improve a veteran’s individual circumstances.
- Preventative Healthcare Services: Activities are designed to prevent a disabled veteran’s health from deteriorating or developing additional issues.
- Mental Health Assistance and Counselling: Many disabled veterans suffering from depression or mental impairment due to their service-related health conditions
- Education and Training: These benefits are designed to help a disabled veteran readjust to a productive lifestyle.
- Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment: This takes education and training to a practical point where vets are placed in active jobs.
- Survivor Benefits: Families of deceased disabled vets are helped with their financial and health issues.
- Burial and Memorial Services: Funeral, cremation, and memorial activities are covered for veterans who died from service-related disabilities such as mesothelioma.
- Home Loans and Insurance: Practical assistance is available for disabled veterans to help with home purchases and insurance policies.
Eligibility for Veterans Affairs Disability Benefits
Many veterans hear the terms “entitled” and “eligible” and are confused about the difference. Entitled means that every veteran automatically receives these service-related benefits. Regular retirement pensions are the best example of entitlements. Eligible refers to special compensation and healthcare benefits being available to veterans, provided they qualify for these additional services. A prime case for eligible benefits is compensating and supporting veteran patients who developed mesothelioma from service-related asbestos exposure.
Not every veteran is automatically entitled or eligible for disability benefits.
There are two main criteria to be met before VA will process a disability benefits claim. They include:
- A veteran applicant must be honorably discharged from service. Veterans who were dishonorably discharged are not eligible for any sort of benefit under any circumstances. That includes developing mesothelioma from duty-related asbestos exposure.
- Veterans must have proof their disability was caused by a duty-related activity. Vets with mesothelioma must show their disease was caused or aggravated by being exposed to asbestos while in active service.
Evidence for supporting eligibility comes from a veteran’s service records including the military branch they served in, proof of a disabling disease from medical diagnosis, and a reasonable likelihood their disability is directly service-related.
Applying for Veterans Affairs Benefits
Applying to the Department of Veterans Affairs for disability compensation and extended health care benefits is open to every honorably discharged vet no matter how long past their service was. As long as veterans have a reasonable claim that they were disabled from a service-related cause, they can make an application.
These are the normal channels for VA benefits applications:
- Using the eBenefit form on the VA official website
- Going to a VA office and applying in person
- Having a VA accredited assistant help with an application
- Retaining a specialized law firm for representation
Retaining a Specialized Mesothelioma Law Firm
Many United States military veterans who develop malignant mesothelioma as a direct result of service-related asbestos exposure retain a law firm to represent them. This includes applying for VA benefits as well as filing lawsuit claims against negligent asbestos manufacturers, accessing bankruptcy trust funds and making private workers compensation insurance claims.
We’ve also helped disabled vets get their eligible compensation and healthcare benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Incidentally, receiving lawsuit settlements or other compensation does not affect any benefits due from VA. These are separate issues, and retaining a specialized attorney will make the VA process fast and stress-free.