Veterans Healthcare

Summary

The United States military veterans have paid their dues to American society. These courageous service people risked their lives to protect citizens from foreign and domestic threats. Some brave women and men gave their lives in service to their country. Others developed disabilities resulting from military risks like exposure to hazardous materials. One of these risks was asbestos.

 Today, many U.S. military veterans require extensive healthcare to treat service-related illnesses and injuries due to airborne asbestos fibers.

Asbestos exposure is a national healthcare disaster. Asbestos-related disease case numbers continue to grow, and the full extent of this travesty is yet to be known. America has more than 25 million military veterans. Many of them were exposed to asbestos materials during their service. In a nation where the total population exceeds 323 million, veterans account for less than 8% of the overall population. However, for asbestos-related diseases like malignant mesothelioma, U.S. military veterans account for over 30% of confirmed cases.

These astounding figures apply to other asbestos-caused diseases such as lung cancer, asbestosis and pleural disorders. It’s due to the massive amount of asbestos products utilized by the American military during a fifty-year period from the 1930s until the 1980s.

There are no accurate figures recording how many service people experienced asbestos exposure, but the amount of asbestos-related disability claims support that hundreds of thousands of veterans had their health risked while on active-duty.

Asbestos Use in the United States Military

Every U.S. military branch used asbestos-containing materials (ACM). That included the Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy. It also included the Coast Guard and National Guard. The Navy implemented the most amount of ACM, by far. Navy and Coast Guard ships built during World War II until the Vietnam War were full of asbestos from stern to bow. Army tanks and Air Force planes used asbestos extensively. The Marines were less exposed to asbestos products, but they faced hazards with asbestos in buildings on their bases.

Unchecked exposure lasted until public information became too much to bear and asbestos was exposed for the healthcare risks it presented. Asbestos manufacturers who once covered up their products’ dangers were finally being held accountable publicly. For this reason, it’s the asbestos manufacturers that are liable and not the military. It’s important for all veterans to know they cannot sue the US government. Instead, veterans can seek compensation through the VA’s benefits programs or through civil litigation.

Current Healthcare Problems with United States Military Veterans

A major healthcare issue with illnesses developed from asbestos exposure is the long delay between inhaling or ingesting asbestos fibers and when disease symptoms present. Latency periods for asbestos-related diseases can be anywhere between 10 and 50 years. Many veterans who suffered prolonged and plentiful asbestos exposure during active service had no idea they were ill until decades later. Many were long retired or well into civilian careers before the devastating effects of asbestos exposure occurred.

MJN Brief

Asbestos exposure is responsible for different illnesses. Some healthcare challenges include treating non-life threatening but debilitating asbestos-caused diseases like pleural plaque and pleural effusion. Other diseases are lung-scarring effects of asbestosis which can sometimes be fatal. And then there are malignant diseases caused by asbestos exposure such as lung cancer tumors and mesothelioma. These terrible illnesses can only be managed in later stages. They can’t be cured.

Asbestos-related illnesses put an enormous strain on the American healthcare system. Private insurance companies and government agencies like Medicare and Medicaid have limited resources and pay only what’s necessary to fulfill their obligations. Private lawsuit settlements and accessing asbestos company bankruptcy funds provide ample financial aid but are lengthy, complex procedures. Often, U.S. veterans turn to their main source of healthcare. That’s seeking compensation and assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Healthcare Compensation and Assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs

United States military veterans aren’t just eligible for medical care through the VA healthcare system. They’re entitled to compensation and assistance. That’s an earned benefit from risking their lives and health during service to their country.

These two conditions apply to receiving healthcare assistance from VA:

  • Healthcare problems must have been caused or aggravated because of duty-related activities while employed in one of the recognized military branches or designated civilian support services. It’s vital to prove an illness was directly or indirectly related to active service. This includes primary and secondary asbestos exposure.
  • The applicant must be currently serving or honorably discharged. Dishonorable release prohibits qualifying for veteran benefits regardless if an illness was developed from duty-related activities. As well, the illness or disability must arise from legal and duty-appointed actions.

Financial compensation is the largest benefit that most veterans receive. These benefit packages are designed to offload personal costs for medical treatment and prescriptions as well as providing income supplements.

There are four main compensation forms available in DVA benefit entitlements.

  • Disability compensation provides tax-free monthly income for disabled vets. Amounts vary on the degree of disability, the type of claim and the degree the claimant requires assistance. These are awarded on a case basis.
  • Dependency and indemnity compensation applies to veterans’ survivors including spouses, children and other dependents affected by the death of a service person that was duty-related. This is also tax-free and has an income-based calculation formula.
  • Special monthly compensation allows for veterans and families to pay for specialized treatment and equipment related to a duty-caused disability.
  • Other specialized compensation assists with extensive treatments for managing mesothelioma or acquiring personal-attention healthcare and home support.

Seeking Treatment Though the VA Healthcare System

The VA healthcare system is available for veterans with any diagnosis, including mesothelioma. Established by the VA to provide veterans with quality, affordable healthcare, the VA healthcare system specializes in understanding veterans and treating their unique needs.

Some veterans may not have been automatically enrolled in the VA healthcare system while others may have been. Automatic enrollment depends on the time frame in which you were discharged. All members discharged after 2003 were not automatically enrolled and instead had to apply for enrollment and meet specific criteria.

VA Hospitals With Mesothelioma Programs

Everyone diagnosed with mesothelioma is strongly encouraged to seek treatment from a mesothelioma specialist in order to receive the best possible life-extending treatments—including veterans. If you’re a veteran with a mesothelioma diagnosis and you’re enrolled in the VA healthcare system, then you have two options for seeking treatment from highly respected mesothelioma specialists.

The two VA mesothelioma programs led by specialized oncological surgeons are:

  • West Los Angeles Medical Center, Los Angeles VA — Led by Dr. Robert Cameron
  • Mesothelioma Program at the Boston VA — Led by Dr. Avi Lebenthal

Both of these programs are led by respected thoracic oncological surgeons specializing in treating pleural mesothelioma. Veterans with mesothelioma can rest assured they will receive the highest quality treatment our country has to offer when visiting these highly respected mesothelioma treatment centers.

It’s important for veterans to know that they are not required to seek treatment through the VA in order to qualify for VA health benefits. It’s optional, and veterans should always seek timely treatment from qualified specialists regardless of if they are enrolled in the VA system or not.

If you’re interested in learning more about your mesothelioma treatment options, then contact us today. Our Patient Advocates can answer any questions you have about mesothelioma specialists for veterans. We can also help you get started with filing your VA benefits claim.

View Author and Sources
Sources
  1. Department of Veterans Affairs, “Compensation Claims” Retrieved from https://www.benefits.va.gov/COMPENSATION/claims-postservice-exposures-asbestos.asp Accessed on January 2, 2018
  2. Department of Veterans Affairs, “Compensation – Asbestos Exposure”, Retrieved from https://www.benefits.va.gov/COMPENSATION/claims-postservice-exposures-asbestos.asp Accessed on January 2, 2018
  3. Department of Veterans Affairs, “I am a Veteran” Retrieved from https://va.gov/opa/persona/index.asp Accessed on January 2, 2018
  4. Department of Veterans Affairs, “Exposure to Hazardous Materials – Asbestos” Retrieved from https://www.vets.gov/disability-benefits/conditions/exposure-to-hazardous-materials/asbestos/ Accessed on January 2, 2018
  5. VA/Vets.gov website, Veterans Disability and Healthcare Benefits”, Retrieved from https://www.vets.gov/ Accessed on January 2, 2018
  6. Military.com, “Asbestos Illness Related to Military Service” Retrieved from https://www.military.com/benefits/veteran-benefits/asbestos-and-the-military-history-exposure-assistance.html Accessed on January 2, 2018
  7. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, “Asbestos Fact Sheet” Retrieved from https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tfacts61.pdf Accessed on January 2, 2018

Last modified: August 28, 2018