VA Disability Rating for Asbestos Exposure
Veterans that have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or other asbestos-related lung cancer and illnesses can qualify for a variety of financial and health benefits from the VA.
Unfortunately, many veterans overlook these programs because they do not know how to apply or their options.
Did your doctor diagnose you with mesothelioma likely due to exposure to asbestos during your time in the Armed Forces? At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, our personal injury attorneys are legal advocates for members of all military branches.
Call a mesothelioma lawyer today at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact form today to schedule a free consultation. All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team remains private through an attorney-client relationship.
What Is Mesothelioma From Asbestos Exposure?
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that develops from the protective lining around the lungs, heart, abdomen, and other organs. It's caused by exposure to asbestos fibers and dust.
This exposure can come from many sources, including military service or working in an occupation with a high risk of contact with asbestos.
Early symptoms of mesothelioma include chest tightness or pain, weight loss, and breathlessness. However, in many cases, fluid fills the area around the lung's lining that's detectable on a chest X-ray even if there are no symptoms.
A mesothelioma diagnosis typically occurs after an individual experiences common symptoms, especially if they have a history of asbestos exposure. Once diagnosed, there are several standard options for treatment, including radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or surgery.
History of Asbestos Use in the Military
Although asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral, it has been mined and widely used in the United States since the late 19th century. Asbestos was primarily used in boilers and insulation for Navy ships and other military vehicles and installations during World War II.
Many veterans who served in the Navy were exposed to asbestos when they worked on boilers and insulation for ships. In addition, these asbestos materials were often not removed from the ship until it was undergoing refurbishment, resulting in ongoing exposure to the mineral.
In addition, during World War II, many military service members worked as insulators or with other products that contained asbestos.
Veterans employed by companies that manufactured supplies such as gaskets, valves, and packing materials also have a high risk of being exposed to asbestos.
However, not every Navy or military veteran employed with these companies is at risk of developing mesothelioma cancer. It is estimated that only 1 in 3 people diagnosed with the disease have been previously exposed to asbestos.
About half of military veterans' exposure to asbestos occurred while on active duty.
Types of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma manifests in pleural, peritoneal, pericardial, and testicular regions. Each one specifically involves:
- Pleural Mesothelioma: This form of mesothelioma affects the lining of the lungs or pleura. This form is most typically linked to asbestos exposure from working in a shipyard, power plant, or other occupation with high contact with asbestos.
- Peritoneal Mesothelioma: In this version, the mesothelioma cancer cells spread throughout the abdomen and affect the lining around abdominal organs like the stomach, pancreas, and bowels.
- Pericardial Mesothelioma: The pericardium is a lining around the heart. This type of mesothelioma affects this region.
- Testicular mesothelioma: This is a rare form of mesothelioma that affects the testicles. The cause of this cancer isn't known, but it's linked to asbestos exposure.
Asbestos exposure can also lead to lung cancer and other asbestos-related illnesses. In addition, most veterans exposed to asbestos during service will develop an asbestos-related illness later in life.
Who Is at Risk for Mesothelioma?
Veterans are more likely than the public to be diagnosed with mesothelioma because many men and women serving in the military were exposed to asbestos on ships, naval shipyards, and military bases.
In addition, peacetime service members were also exposed to asbestos during training and exercises where equipment was often built with asbestos materials.
Many people are exposed to asbestos during their lives without experiencing any negative effects. Veterans are at an increased risk due to the amount of asbestos they were exposed to during service.
Some other factors that increase your chances for developing mesothelioma include:
- Welding work on or around boilers or other hot equipment
- Working in shipbuilding, construction, or manufacturing industries
- Household exposure from wearing contaminated clothing
- Living in a home with asbestos insulation
- Work on oil-fired power station boilers
- Any military service during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s
Modern-day veterans are also at risk for developing mesothelioma. Veterans serving in the US since 1980 have been exposed to asbestos from brakes and other equipment containing the material.
The Federal Government's Responsibility in Filing VA Claims for Veterans Exposed to Asbestos
The federal government has a legal responsibility to file VA claims on behalf of veterans who have developed mesothelioma or other asbestos-related illnesses.
The US Department of Veterans Affairs is committed to providing veterans with the following benefits, when appropriate:
- Compensation in the form of monthly payments for lost wages, medical treatment, and other costs
- Monthly pension that provides a financial supplement to veterans who are permanently and disabled from a service-related illness or injury
- Free health care from VA hospitals and outpatient clinics
- VA funeral & burial benefits
In addition to filing claims for veterans who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, the VA is also responsible for filing claims for veterans experiencing symptoms. These include:
- Shortness of breath with little or no physical activity
- Chest pain that worsens when breathing deeply
- Coughing up blood
- Throat and Voice hoarseness
- Difficulty swallowing, speaking or moving some part of the body
The main side effect associated with mesothelioma is shortness of breath. The severity will differ from patient to patient, as common treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation can also affect how the lungs function.
The most common types of mesothelioma treatment are also given for other cancers, which will impact shortness of breath depending on the type of medication.
If you are a veteran who served during the periods mentioned earlier and has been experiencing any of these symptoms, you may be eligible to file a claim with the VA.
Call the personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC ((888) 424-5757) to discuss filing a VA disability claim for your asbestos-related illness.
Mesothelioma Treatment Outcomes
The prognosis for mesothelioma is not favorable. However, with recent advancements in treatment options, some patients can expect longer survival than previously reported.
The median life expectancy for mesothelioma is 12 months, according to an article published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology. With this statistic in mind, many doctors and researchers have dedicated their time and resources towards finding better treatment options.
One study conducted by the National Cancer Institute suggests that patients who received pemetrexed (Alimta) and cisplatin chemotherapy had a 2-year survival rate of 20%. In addition, the median age of these patients was 69, which is older than most mesothelioma cases.
MD Anderson Cancer Center researchers reported on immunotherapy combined with two other drugs to treat malignant pleural mesothelioma. Of the seven patients treated, three are currently alive several years after their medical diagnosis.
Although these cases appear promising, it is important to note that only a small number of subjects were used in each study. Therefore, more research needs to be conducted before these findings can be concretely applied to other mesothelioma patients.
Mesothelioma Diagnosis Process
The diagnosis of mesothelioma is not an easy task. Furthermore, various diagnostic tools make the process even more complicated, as each tool provides different results.
Mesothelioma's rarity and its 90-year long latency period (time between exposure and diagnosis) could lead to misdiagnosis or delay in providing appropriate treatment.
The initial mesothelioma diagnosis is usually made with a physical exam and a patient's medical history review. Blood tests are also used to determine tumor markers, including elevated carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) and carbohydrate antigen 15-3 (CA15-3) levels.
Chest X-ray is the first imaging study used to diagnose mesothelioma. However, this cannot be confirmed until a biopsy is performed, which involves taking a tissue sample from the lung and chest wall. A patient can request an open or closed biopsy, as both produce similar results.
An open biopsy is performed by making a small incision in the chest wall and inserting an instrument to cut out the tumor. Closed biopsies are done through a process called "needle" or "trocar" biopsy, which involves using needles to remove abnormal tissue.
Computed tomography (CT) scans are then used to examine the tumor's extent and diagnose. A PET/CT scan may also be used, especially if mesothelioma has metastasized (spread) to other areas of the body.
These are all necessary tools used by doctors to diagnose mesothelioma. However, regardless of how advanced our technology is, misdiagnosis still exists due to the rarity of mesothelioma cases.
VA Disability Benefits for Mesothelioma
The VA can provide monthly financial assistance and medical care to veterans who develop mesothelioma due to their military service. Mesothelioma cancer is considered service-connected if the veteran was exposed to asbestos when they served on active duty.
VA disability compensation is available through the US Department of Veterans Affairs under their VA health care system. However, filing an asbestos claim requires qualifying for a disability that is often a complex process.
The federal government also provides homebound benefits. Veterans who cannot leave home without assistance due to their disability or illness might be eligible for care and treatment at VA health care facilities throughout the United States.
Typically, a VA accredited claims agent will help you through the application process. VA accredited claims agents work for the VA and are located at all VA health care facilities.
Mesothelioma and Asbestos Exposure: Why Veterans Are More Prone to Develop This Disease
For decades, the federal government was unaware of asbestos exposure on their Army basis, naval shipyards, Coast Guard yards, and Navy ships. As a result, many men and women in active service were exposed to high asbestos materials and products.
Veterans' asbestos exposure remained hidden for years while the service members were unaware of the serious health risks associated with this mineral. However, more than 2 million veterans were exposed to asbestos during their service time on Army bases, on Navy ships, and in other military installations.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimated that 75% of all mesothelioma cases are caused by asbestos exposure.
It was not until the 1970s that the federal government passed laws to restrict asbestos in manufacturing and production facilities. However, veterans exposed before these new regulations continued fighting for VA benefits related to their illness or injuries.
Doctors must first diagnose mesothelioma veterans with their asbestos-related diseases before receiving disability compensation benefits.
Then, with professional medical advice, eligible veterans with mesothelioma can file a VA disability compensation claim to receive mesothelioma veterans' benefits.
Many mesothelioma specialists will use the best diagnostic tools to determine the target type of cancer. The most common diagnostic tools for mesothelioma include:
- Chest X-rays
- Abdominal CT scans or CAT Scans
- Breathing Tests
- Spirometry Tests
Numerous VA hospitals around the nation specialize in accurately diagnosing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses. Those participating in the be a health care system include:
- The VA Boston Healthcare System
- The VA Connecticut Healthcare System
- The Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital
- The James J. Peters VA Medical Center
- The Louis Stokes Cleveland Vet Center
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma and is a veteran of military service, contact a VA accredited claims agent to help you file a VA disability claim with the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
Typically, the amount of funds that veterans with mesothelioma can receive through a VA disability compensation claim does not hinder the amount of money they receive each month through their VA pension.
The Federal Government's Responsibility to Veterans Exposed to Asbestos
Veterans exposed to asbestos were completely unaware of the health risks associated with this material. Daily, veterans were exposed to asbestos dust and particles while working in a shipyard, at a supply depot, on the flight line, or any other military base.
The federal government has a legal responsibility to provide these veterans with direct financial assistance for their medical care.
Veterans diagnosed with service-related asbestos exposure leading to an asbestos-related disease likely developed during active duty were unaware of the dangers. As a result, mesothelioma doctors might not recognize an asbestos-related disease until it is accurately diagnosed using the best tools and tests.
While some veterans may have retired from federal service and began working in a different field, many workers relied on their continued work at military bases to provide for themselves, family members, and surviving spouses.
Therefore, the federal government must assist after a veteran applies for their VA benefits as soon as possible.
How Does Service Impact Mesothelioma Claims?
Veterans filing a claim for mesothelioma exposure will need to establish that their exposure caused this illness and was stationed at a military installation after 1970. However, admission of asbestos exposure is not required to prove an asbestos injury claim for compensation benefits.
If you or a loved one has served in the military and experiences health problems like shortness of breath, chest pain, or fatigue that go beyond typical everyday ailments, make an appointment with your doctor.
Mesothelioma has been linked to military asbestos exposure. Therefore, it may be possible for veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma and have a connection to their time in the Armed Forces to qualify for VA disability benefits through their connection to military service.
The VA provides financial assistance and health care services for veterans affected by this disease via Veterans Health Administration (VHA).
Veterans exposed to asbestos during military service may be eligible for VA disability benefits through the VA's Environmental Health Center (EHC).
The EHC is a network of hospitals and health centers that provides medical care to veterans who have experienced exposures to hazardous environmental contaminants while serving in the Armed Forces.
Veterans can file a VA claim for mesothelioma exposure through the VA compensation program or file a claim specifically for asbestos-related disease, provided that they have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease.
Veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma should contact the VA directly to determine whether their claim will be addressed through the compensation program or an asbestos-only claim.
How the Department of Veterans Affairs Rates Asbestos Claims
The US Department of Veterans Affairs uses a disability rating system that ranks the veteran's disability level in 10% increments between 10% and 100%. Thus, all veterans with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related cancers and illnesses receive a compensation rate between 10% and 40%.
The US Department of Veterans Affairs uses the Mesothelioma Lung Cancer Scheme, also known as the Federal Blue Book, to determine how it will rank a veteran's disability claim.
According to this monthly compensation schedule, a veteran with mesothelioma or other asbestos-related cancer will be compensated at $1,258.20 per month if they have a 50% disability rating and $2,123.90 per month have a 100% disability rating.
To receive financial compensation through the VA's Disability Compensation Program, veterans must file a claim for monthly compensation. There are several requirements that the VA will want to know about before it can determine whether or not a veteran is eligible for disability benefits.
According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs website, claims should include evidence of military service release forms, the medical evidence of military asbestos exposure during active duty, and an official report of separation from service.
Lengthy Approval Process
After a claim is filed, the US Department of Veterans Affairs must contact the veteran within one to four months of filing to schedule an in-person evaluation with a claim's expert. The claims expert will ask the veteran several questions about their military service and medical history in this interview.
A team of experts will use this information to determine if the veteran qualifies for disability benefits and the rating that they will be awarded if approved. If a final determination is not made within one year of filing, veterans may request another review or receive an interim award.
Once the VA has decided on whether or not to approve benefits, it can take up to 10 months for approval. Those approved for disability benefits will receive them on the first day of the month after approval.
Veterans who are found to be ineligible for benefits may appeal the decision through the VA communication system or file a new mesothelioma VA claim for an asbestos-only-based disorder.
Mesothelioma VA Benefits Survivors Pension
If you are the survivor of a deceased veteran diagnosed with mesothelioma or asbestos diseases, you may be eligible for monthly VA dependency and indemnity compensation. Surviving family members can apply to receive up to 50% of the deceased's benefit in addition to an extra allowance for unmarried dependents at home.
To apply for this dependency and indemnity compensation benefit, you must file an asbestos-related VA claim for the deceased veteran and provide all medical evidence to prove that they were diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease while serving in the military.
The US Department of Veterans Affairs offers financial assistance to veterans who cannot work due to asbestos-related cancer or other asbestos-related diseases.
In addition, disabled veterans may be eligible for supplementary income to ease the financial burden caused by their service-connected illnesses.
Hiring Personal Injury Lawyers to Resolve Asbestos Claims and Lawsuits
Veterans exposed to dangerous asbestos levels while serving in the military could receive compensation from employers responsible for damage through individual lawsuits. In addition, the patient advocate team at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC helps eligible veterans and service members on active-duty access mesothelioma veterans' benefits.
Were you diagnosed with a disease caused by asbestos in the military? Call our patient advocacy team today at (888) 424-5757 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your VA pension and VA disability claim.
Our attorneys accept all personal injury cases and wrongful death lawsuits through contingency fee agreements. This promise ensures you pay nothing until your case is resolved through a negotiated settlement or jury award.