VA Health Care and Mesothelioma

If you are a veteran with mesothelioma, you may be able to get free or affordable care from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA Health Care System has partnered with some of the best mesothelioma surgeons in the country to treat patients with this cancer. Learn how you can access top mesothelioma treatments and doctors with VA Health Care.

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Using VA Health Care for Mesothelioma Treatment

VA Health Care is a national network of medical centers and doctors available specifically for veterans. Through this program, United States veterans can receive specialty care for military-associated health problems from medical experts.

For example, since veterans are at a high risk of mesothelioma, the military has made sure that those affected can get high-quality care for this cancer through the VA.

Medical services provided by the VA include:

  • Regular Check-Ups
  • Medications
  • Mesothelioma Surgeries
  • Chemotherapy/Radiation
  • Clinical Trials
  • Mental Health Services

veteran in uniform with stethoscope

Call us today at (888) 360-4215 to get help filing for VA Health Care benefits.

Where Can I Get Mesothelioma Treatment Through the VA?

The VA has three medical centers that treat veterans with mesothelioma. Learn more about these medical centers below.

West Los Angeles VA Medical Center

For over 20 years, the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center has worked with the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Comprehensive Mesothelioma Program to treat veterans with pleural mesothelioma.

The facility offers all standard forms of mesothelioma treatment and several newer therapies.

Notable treatments available at this facility include:

  • Pleurectomy with decortication (P/D): A surgery that removes cancerous tumors from the lung lining but does not remove the lung itself
  • Immunotherapy: This treatment trains the immune system to target and destroy mesothelioma cells
  • Cryoablation: This technique involves using extreme cold to shrink mesothelioma tumors

The West Los Angeles VA Medical Center also specializes in treating sarcomatoid mesothelioma — the most aggressive mesothelioma cell type.

Dr. Robert Cameron

The head of mesothelioma surgery at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center is Dr. Robert Cameron. As the creator of the P/D surgery, he is one of the world’s leading experts on mesothelioma treatment.

Under Dr. Cameron’s leadership, the care team at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center works to improve patient lifespans and research new, effective treatments.

“We treat mesothelioma like a chronic disease, similar to diabetes or high blood pressure. And these are both diseases that you can’t cure, but people can live for an extremely long period of time if they’re controlled.”

– Dr. Robert Cameron

Visit the UCLA Health website to learn more about Dr. Robert Cameron.

The Mesothelioma Justice Network has no affiliation with and is not endorsed or sponsored by Dr. Robert B. Cameron. The information on this page is listed for informational purposes only. You have the right to contact Dr. Cameron directly.

VA Boston Health Care System

The VA Boston Health Care System treats pleural mesothelioma through a partnership with Brigham & Women’s Hospital, one of the top mesothelioma hospitals in the world.

Doctors at the VA Boston Health Care System can perform two types of life-extending mesothelioma surgeries: the P/D and the extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP), which removes cancerous tumors and the lung closest to them.

Dr. Abraham “Avi” Lebenthal

Dr. Avi Lebenthal started work on the VA Boston Health Care System’s mesothelioma program in 2010 to help ensure high-quality care was available to veterans, and he leads the program to this day.

After serving as a doctor in the Israeli army for nearly 20 years, Dr. Lebenthal understands the sacrifices that service members make and is dedicated to providing veterans and civilians alike with unmatched support and care.

“As a nation, the most valuable resource we have is our people, morally and ethically we are obliged to provide them with the best possible care, especially our veterans.”

– Dr. Avi Lebenthal

Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center

Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston, which works in tandem with the Baylor College of Medicine, established its Mesothelioma Program in 2019.

Mesothelioma Doctors at the DeBakey VA Medical Center

Dr. Lorraine Cornwell serves as the leader of the VA Mesothelioma Program in Houston and collaborates with Dr. Taylor Ripley to help veterans get the care they deserve.

In addition, peritoneal mesothelioma specialist Dr. Eugene A. Choi is also available to treat veterans with mesothelioma through this program. This is very important since almost all other VA mesothelioma specialists treat pleural mesothelioma.

“Fortunately, the work we’re doing with the VA as we ramp up and start to see more and more patients with mesothelioma in Houston, has the Baylor program right across the street to support that as it grows, so we can eventually have these as a synergistic, one program together.”

– Dr. Taylor Ripley

The VA MISSION ACT and Community Care

Local VA hospitals may refer veterans who do not live near Los Angeles, Boston, or Houston to approved civilian mesothelioma cancer centers through the MISSION Act, which replaced the similar Veterans Choice Program (VCP) in 2019.

In most cases, the VA must sign off on requests for local care, but once this is complete, veterans can receive treatment from a non-VA provider at no extra cost. Veterans who do not get prior approval from the VA may be charged in full.

Get a list of approved community care providers by visiting the official VA website, va.gov.

VA Health Care Eligibility Requirements

Your VA Health Care eligibility depends on whether you were honorably discharged and when you served in the military.

Regarding your military service, you may have to meet a “minimum duty requirement,” which is the length of time you must have served if you want to access VA Health Care. This requirement is usually two years if you joined the military after September 7, 1980, or went into active duty after October 16, 1981.

The minimum duty requirement may be waived if you served before September 7, 1980, or if you were discharged early due to a hardship or service-related disability.

VA Health Care Priority Groups

After applying for VA Health Care, you will be placed within a priority group, which affects how much you’ll pay for your medical care. If you have mesothelioma, you will likely be assigned to Group 1 because the cancer is considered a total disability by the VA.

Group 1 health benefits may include:

  • No cost for medications
  • No copays for in-hospital care
  • $0 copay for your first three urgent care visits

VA Health Care FAQ

The veterans health care system is rather complex, so it’s natural to have questions. Find answers to some common questions below.

Do I need VA Health Care to access other benefits?

No — VA Health Care is totally optional. You can still see your primary care providers with private insurance and access other VA benefits like disability compensation.

What if I need to travel to see a VA mesothelioma specialist?

The VA may be able to help you cover travel costs if your local VA care provider refers you to Dr. Cameron, Dr. Lebenthal, or other doctors. However, this depends on your income and whether your mesothelioma is related to military service.

Reach out to the VA facility that made the referral to see if you can get a travel reimbursement.

Is there an income limit on VA Health Care?

Yes. This income limit depends on where you live and the number of dependents you have. You can find out your income limit by visiting the VA’s official website.

I already have Medicare and/or Medicaid. Can I still get VA Health Care?

Yes. These programs, along with others such as TRICARE, often work together. You can also have both private health insurance and VA Health Care coverage.

Learn more about how VA Health Care works with other insurance plans by working with a veterans representative, who is trained by the VA to help veterans pursue medical benefits and can be found at your local veterans service organization.

Filing for Mesothelioma VA Health Care Benefits

You can apply for VA Health Care online, over the phone, or by mail. You can also bring your completed application to the VA medical center closest to you.

You’ll need the following documents to apply for VA Health Care:

  • VA Form 10-10EZ (the application)
  • Your latest tax return
  • Current insurance account numbers
  • The Social Security numbers for you and your dependents
  • Medical records related to your mesothelioma diagnosis
  • Other health information

Don’t wait to access some of the best mesothelioma doctors and cancer centers in the country. Our Patient Advocates can help you pursue VA Health Care and other benefits today.

Download our free mesothelioma guide today.

Mesothelioma Support Team
Stephanie KiddWritten by:

Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie Kidd grew up in a family of civil servants, blue-collar workers, and medical caregivers. Upon graduating Summa Cum Laude from Stetson University, she began her career specializing in worker safety regulations and communications. Now, a proud member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) and Editor-in-Chief of the Mesothelioma Justice Network, Stephanie serves as a voice for mesothelioma victims and their families.

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