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VA Health Care and Mesothelioma

Veterans who were exposed to asbestos while they served — and later developed life-threatening illnesses like mesothelioma — can seek health care benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). VA health care allows veterans to access treatments from some of the top mesothelioma doctors in the United States.

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What Is VA Health Care?

The VA provides health care to current and former service members, along with their family members through the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). The VHA incorporates over 1,250 medical facilities, making it the largest health care system in the United States.

Veterans with VA health care receive a wide range of services, including:

  • Home care from nurses or other caregivers
  • Long-term care
  • Mental health counseling
  • Primary care from doctors
  • Sexual trauma health services
  • Specialty care for veterans with specific needs
  • Substance use counseling and treatment

It is important for veterans with mesothelioma to take advantage of VA health care.

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer caused by asbestos exposure — and the U.S. military heavily relied on asbestos-containing products from the 1930s to the early 1980s.

Anyone who served in the military during this time could be at risk of mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases today as it often takes 20 to 50 years for symptoms to become noticeable.

Did You Know?

While there is no cure for mesothelioma, medical care is essential to keep victims living longer. The VA health care system allows veterans to receive treatment from some of the top mesothelioma doctors in the country.

Any veteran with mesothelioma can apply for VA health care provided they meet the eligibility requirements.

To make the process of receiving VA health care easier, veterans should work with both a mesothelioma lawyer and a VA claims agent.

A mesothelioma lawyer can help eligible veterans gather the information needed to file a claim, such as where and how the veteran in question may have been exposed.

Using this information, claims agents can actually complete the process of filing the claim — and help veterans determine if they can receive other VA benefits as well.

VA Health Care for Mesothelioma Treatment

Since veterans are at a higher risk for developing mesothelioma, the VA health care system has several resources available to specifically help those affected.

Seeking mesothelioma treatment through the VA is just as good — if not better — than seeing a non-VA mesothelioma specialist. This is because VA doctors and nurses specifically work to understand the issues facing veterans every day.

VA Health Care Mesothelioma Doctors

Some of the mesothelioma doctors that work with the VA are among the greatest in the world, meaning veterans are in the best hands possible.

Learn more about these top doctors below.

  • Dr. Abraham “Avi” Lebenthal

    A veteran of the Israeli army, Dr. Avi Lebenthal is currently the head of the Boston VA’s mesothelioma program. Dr. Lebenthal studied under renowned mesothelioma specialist Dr. David Sugarbaker, and is highly skilled in treating patients with extrapleural pneumonectomies (EPP) and video-assisted thoracic surgeries (VATS).

  • Dr. Robert Cameron

    As the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center’s head of thoracic surgery, Dr. Robert Cameron has been helping veterans for over 20 years. Cameron is world-renowned for his mesothelioma treatments.

    In fact, he developed the groundbreaking pleurectomy with decortication (P/D) mesothelioma surgery, which has helped patients affected by this rare cancer greatly improve their survival times.

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 contact information above is listed for informational purposes only. You have the right to contact Dr. Cameron directly.

VA Hospitals With Mesothelioma Programs

There are a variety of VA hospitals that treat veterans with mesothelioma.

These VA hospitals include:

  • Boston VA Hospital: Located in Massachusetts, Dr. Abi Lebenthal and his team work to treat veterans here. The Boston VA is also closely affiliated with Brigham & Women’s Hospital, where Dr. Lebenthal also treats non-VA patients.
  • West Los Angeles VA Medical Center: Located in California, this is where Dr. Robert Cameron and his team treat veterans. The West Los Angeles VA Medical Center is affiliated with the UCLA School of Medicine (where Dr. Cameron also spearheads mesothelioma treatments).

The treatment programs at these facilities often begin with imaging tests such as CT scans, MRIs, or PET scans of the chest and stomach. These tests determine the extent of the spread of cancer throughout the body.

Once imaging tests are done, doctors will evaluate the next steps. Below, see how these treatments help patients.

Doctors at either VA health care facility can recommend treatments based on each veteran’s specific circumstances. A combination of treatments may be used.

Am I Eligible for VA Health Care?

The VA has specific eligibility requirements for veterans who are looking to apply for VA health care benefits.

The minimum requirements are as follows:

  • Veterans must have served 24 full months — or for the full period called to serve — if they enlisted after September 7th, 1980 or entered active duty after October 16th, 1981. Veterans that served prior to September 7th, 1980 are exempt from this requirement. This requirement can be waived if a veteran:
    • Received an “early out”
    • Was discharged for a disability that caused or exacerbated by active duty service
    • Was discharged for a family hardship
  • Those currently serving in the National Guard or the Reserves must have been called to active duty by federal orders and must complete the full period of duty for which they were called. Reserves or National Guard members who were active-duty only for training purposes do not qualify.

In addition, veterans who apply may be placed in a higher priority group in some cases. This means they will be likely to receive VA health care benefits.

High priority veterans include those who:

  • Already receive a VA pension
  • Already receive financial payments from the VA for a service-related disability
  • Receive or qualify for Medicaid benefits
  • Received a Purple Heart
  • Served at least 30 days at Camp Lejeune between August 1st, 1953, and December 31st, 1987
  • Served in Southwest Asia during the Gulf War between August 2nd, 1990, and November 11th, 1998
  • Served in Vietnam between January 9th, 1962, and May 7th, 1975
  • Were discharged from the military for a service-related disability
  • Were discharged for a pre-existing disability made worse during time in duty
  • Were prisoners of war

Veterans can learn more about VA health care eligibility requirements by talking to a Veterans Service Officer (VSO).

How to Apply VA Health Care for Mesothelioma

Veterans with mesothelioma have a few different options when applying for VA health care.

Veterans can apply for VA health care:

  • In-person at a VA medical center or clinic
  • Online
  • Via phone by calling (877) 222-8387
  • Via mail

No matter how they decide to file for their health care benefits, veterans should work with a mesothelioma lawyer and a VA claims agent to fill out their application.

A mesothelioma lawyer can work with veterans to determine when, where, and how their mesothelioma is linked to their active duty service.

A VA claims agent can then use this documentation to file a claim for financial compensation and health care for the veteran in question.

Common Questions About Mesothelioma VA Health Care

You may still have questions about how the VA health care system works for veterans with mesothelioma. Below, get answers to common questions.

Am I automatically enrolled in VA health care?

You may or may not have been automatically enrolled in the VA health care system Automatic enrollment depends on the time frame in which you were discharged.

For example, if you were discharged after 2003, you are not automatically enrolled and instead have to apply for enrollment and meet specific criteria.

Otherwise, you may already have VA health care.

I already have private insurance. Can I get VA health care too?

Yes, you can. According to the VA’s official website, having health care coverage does not affect if you can receive VA health care.

Did You Know?

Private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, and Tricare can all be used alongside VA health care.

This can be helpful because if another insurance plan pays for non-service-related health care coverage, the funds can then be used to offset the cost of your VA copayment.

What happens if my health insurance provider doesn’t cover all of the non-service connected care the VA bills them for?

You won’t have to pay any balance that your health insurance provider doesn’t cover and remains unpaid. That said, you may have a copay for any care that is related to a non-service injury.

Access VA Health Care and Other Benefits

The VA was designed so that veterans like you could receive quality health care even after they left military service. If you have been diagnosed with an injury or illness connected to your time in service — such as mesothelioma — you are entitled to receive VA benefits.

If you’re looking to file for VA health care after a mesothelioma diagnosis, it’s important to work with a skilled lawyer.

An experienced mesothelioma lawyer can help you gather the right information to file a VA health care claim, and also inform you about other medical and legal options that may be available.

From there, you can work with a VA-accredited claims agent or VSO to file for VA health care and hopefully receive key medical treatments.

To learn more about VA health care and other benefits that may be available, get in touch with our team. See all the ways we can help you right now.

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.

View 10 Sources
  1. 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
  2. Department of Veterans Affairs, “Compensation Claims” Retrieved from https://www.benefits.va.gov/COMPENSATION/claims-postservice-exposures-asbestos.asp Accessed on January 2, 2018
  3. 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
  4. Department of Veterans Affairs, “Eligibility for VA Health Care" Retrieved from www.va.gov/health-care/eligibility/
  5. 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
  6. Department of Veterans Affairs, “How to Apply for VA Health Care” Retrieved from www.va.gov/health-care/how-to-apply/.
  7. Department of Veterans Affairs, “I am a Veteran” Retrieved from https://va.gov/opa/persona/index.asp Accessed on January 2, 2018
  8. Department of Veterans Affairs, “VA Health Care and Other Insurance” Retrieved from www.va.gov/health-care/about-va-health-benefits/va-health-care-and-other-insurance/.
  9. 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
  10. VA/Vets.gov website, Veterans Disability and Healthcare Benefits”, Retrieved from https://www.vets.gov/ Accessed on January 2, 2018
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