Veterans being treated with medical marijuana no longer need to worry about being cut from veteran benefit plans. The change comes from a departmental directive from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs stating that veterans prescribed medical marijuana in the 14 states where the practice is legal may not lose eligibility for VA health plans.

The new policy does outline several limitations. VA physicians may not prescribe the drug to be used in VA facilities, and the Veterans Association will not pay for the marijuana.

While the new policy does state that no veteran may be cut from VA programs because of their medical marijuana treatments, the Veteran Health Administration reserves the right to alter treatment plans for those prescribed. Such changes will be made on an individual basis.

The rule only applies to the 14 states where medical marijuana is legal, as it is an illegal drug according to federal law. Such states include California, Colorado, New Jersey and Washington. Further, the use of the drug may only be prescribed for specific conditions including glaucoma, chemotherapy-induced nausea, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and chronic pain.

Vets find themselves suffering from a number of diseases and cancers that can be associated with toxic exposures sustained during their time in the military, including mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure – and there was no shortage of opportunity to be exposed while in the military. Vets may have been exposed while living in base housing [asbestos was found in common materials like floor and ceiling tiles and drywall] or while working and living on board naval ships. In fact, there are hundreds of Navy ships confirmed to have contained asbestos, and as a result, mesothelioma navy cases are the highest. Asbestos may also have been found in military weapons, vehicles, and airplanes. Not to mention that asbestos was found in a brand of cigarettes popular with veterans – any older vets remember Kent cigarettes? There was asbestos in the filters of their cigs manufactured and sold between 1952 and ’56!

While the use of marijuana for medical conditions is still controversial, the VA has decided to address it in an effort to best-serve their veterans. According to the VA, the policy on medical marijuana use will stand until July 2015.

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