01. What Is a VA Claim?
What Is a VA Claim?
A VA claim is a way for veterans who develop a disability or illness as a result of service to receive benefits. For instance, veterans with asbestos diseases, such as mesothelioma, can file a VA claim to receive financial compensation for their illness. Claims are filed with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Each asbestos-related VA claim is subject to a rating system that evaluates exposure history, disease type and disease severity. The VA uses this rating scale to determine compensation amounts. Compensation can help families with treatment costs, lost income, pain and suffering and other associated damages.
02. Why Should I File a VA Claim?
Why File an Asbestos VA Claim?
VA claims can help eligible veterans gain compensation for their illnesses or injuries as a result of service. Claim benefits are paid monthly and can help patients with health expenses and lost wages.
Veterans with mesothelioma or another asbestos disease can face high treatment costs. A veteran’s benefits claim can be an attractive way to cover illness-related expenses without going through a full legal process. VA disability benefits are not a legal claim, meaning claimants will not have to go through a settlement or verdict process.
Claimants can also receive healthcare through accredited VA hospitals. Many VA treatment centers work with mesothelioma specialists. These centers can offer specialized care for veterans with asbestos-related illnesses.
03. Asbestos Claim Eligibility
Who Is Eligible to File an Asbestos-Related VA Claim?
In order to file a mesothelioma VA claim, veterans must meet a few eligibility criteria. Veterans wishing to file an asbestos VA claim must:
- Not have received a dishonorable discharge
- Have provable asbestos exposure during service in the military
- Have medical documentation of an asbestos disease diagnosis
Veterans of the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy may have been exposed to asbestos fibers during their active duty. As a result, veterans of all military branches may be at risk of developing an asbestos disease and may be eligible to file a VA claim.
Workers in certain job positions faced a higher risk of military asbestos exposure. The VA recommends veterans who worked in certain fields talk to their doctor about monitoring for signs of asbestos exposure.
Military Occupations at High Risk of Asbestos Exposure
Veterans also faced a higher risk of exposure when working with certain asbestos products, including:
- Cement sheet
- Clutch facings and brake linings (friction products)
Proof of asbestos exposure is not enough on its own to file a VA asbestos claim. Claimants must also have an asbestos diagnosis and evidence of the connection between exposure and disease. Surviving spouses or loved ones may also be eligible to file for benefits on behalf of a deceased veteran.
Which Asbestos Diseases Qualify for VA Claims?
Several asbestos-related conditions qualify for VA benefits. Asbestos diseases eligible for VA claims include:
The variable severity of these diseases correlates to monthly compensation amounts.
Mesothelioma has the highest rate of compensation. The VA recognizes active mesothelioma and asbestos lung cancer at a 100% disability rating because of their severity. Mesothelioma is a very serious disease and requires immediate medical attention once diagnosed.
What Evidence Do I Need for a VA Claim?
Claimants must present certain evidence along with their claims. These documents and records are required to claim VA benefits of any kind. Patients should collect what they have access to, but lawyers may be able to help in this part of the process.
Required Evidence for VA Claims
- Medical records confirming an asbestos disease diagnosis
- Service records showing time of military service, discharge status and job or specialty
- Medical statements declaring connection between service, contact with asbestos and diagnosis
In some instances, the VA will require further information. A VA representative will contact the claimant if more evidence is needed to complete the claim after initial review.
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04. Claim & Compensation Types
Types of VA Claims and Compensation
There are several types of VA claims and benefits. Asbestos claim types vary based on when the individual was diagnosed in relation to their time serving. Compensation types depend on whether the veteran is still alive and any special circumstances surrounding their disease.
For veterans with an asbestos disease, mesothelioma attorneys can assist throughout the process. Experienced lawyers can help patients choose the correct type of claim to receive maximum compensation.
VA Claim Types
There are several types of VA claims. However, only a few typically apply to asbestos exposure victims.
Claim types include:
- Pre-Discharge Claims
- Claims Based on Pre-Service Disabilities
- Claims Based on In-Service Disabilities
- Claims Based on Post-Service Disabilities
- Claims Based on Special Circumstances
Mesothelioma patients will likely file a claim for a post-service disability. Due to the long latency of asbestos diseases, veterans are typically diagnosed after discharge.
VA Compensation Types
There are three primary types of compensation veterans with mesothelioma may be eligible for. VA compensation benefits include:
- Disability Compensation: Monetary benefit for veterans with a service-related disability. This covers post-service disabilities, like mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.
- Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC): Monetary benefit for surviving family members of a service member who has passed. This covers survivors of veterans who died as a result of service-connected disabilities.
- Special Monthly Compensation (SMC): Benefit paid to veterans, their spouses and surviving family members as a result of special circumstances or a specific disability. When given to surviving loved ones, this benefit is referred to as “aid and attendance.” In these cases, SMC is paid out based on need.
Veterans may also be able to receive reduced care costs if treated at a VA hospital facility.
All compensation awards are subject to a rating system. This system determines disease severity and adjusted compensation level.
05. Camp Lejeune
Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Claims
For many years, some of the drinking water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina was contaminated with harmful chemicals. Individuals who lived, served or worked at Camp Lejeune may be eligible to file a claim for injuries caused by the contaminated water. In the past, veterans, reservists and guardsmen could file a VA claim, but recent legislation expands the options.
President Biden signed the Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022 into law on August 10. It expands legal options for certain individuals who became ill after contact with Camp Lejeune’s contaminated water.
To be eligible for a Camp Lejeune claim, individuals must meet certain eligibility requirements. To file a claim, individuals must have lived or worked at the base for at least 30 days. This 30-day period must fall between August 1953 and December 1987. They must also have developed one or more qualifying conditions.
Anyone who believes they became sick from Camp Lejeune’s contaminated water should seek medical and legal support.
Other Claim Options Available to Camp Lejeune Victims
Prior to the PACT Act of 2022, compensation options for Camp Lejeune victims were limited. Veterans were not able to file legal action against the government. However, they were eligible for monthly benefits and help with treatment.
The Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 provided some protections for service members and their families. It allowed veterans and their family members to see a doctor at a VA-affiliated care center.
Affected veterans may also be eligible for monthly VA benefits. In order to qualify for disability benefits, veterans must:
- Have been present at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987
- Have been on base at least 30 cumulative days in that window
- Have developed one of eight qualifying conditions (adult leukemia, aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma or Parkinson’s disease)
Monthly benefit amounts are evaluated on a case-by-case basis by the VA, depending on the disability and its severity.
06. Expected Compensation Amounts
How Much Compensation Can I Get From a VA Claim for Mesothelioma?
Compensation is awarded based on an individual’s disability rating. The VA rates injuries and illnesses from 0% to 100%. Higher ratings earn a higher rate of compensation. Mesothelioma and asbestos lung cancer have a 100% disability rating. Compensation rates are often adjusted annually.
In 2021, veterans with mesothelioma who do not have dependents may receive about $3,100 each month. Having dependents or a spouse also requiring aid may increase this amount.
Asbestos Disease Compensation Rates
Active cancers often receive a 100% disability rating. This includes mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Less severe asbestos diseases, such as asbestosis and pleural plaques, may still result in compensation. However, as they are less debilitating, the ratings are likely to be lower. Exact disability ratings for non-cancerous asbestos conditions are determined with examinations, such as a pulmonary function test.
Attorneys can assist veterans with putting together mesothelioma and lung cancer claims. Experienced asbestos lawyers can help ensure patients receive the highest possible compensation rates.
07. How to File a VA Claim
How to File a VA Claim
Before filing a VA claim, eligible veterans should speak with an experienced mesothelioma lawyer. They can help gather the needed evidence and supporting documents, as well as explain the claim process. Working with an experienced attorney can help ensure a claim is filed correctly and receives VA approval sooner.
Once the claim is built out with the required documentation, there are several ways to file the claim. Veterans wishing to file a claim can apply online, with an accredited claims agent, in person at a VA office or with a mail-in VA Form 21-526EZ.
VA Claim Process
The Department of Veterans Affairs follows a step-by-step process to determine a veteran’s eligibility for compensation. Once filed, there are typically eight steps to successfully process a disability claim.
- Claim Received: The VA receives the claim. Those who submit online will receive receipt of claim within one hour. A mail submission will take one week plus mailing time.
- Under Review: A Veterans Service Representative reviews the claim to make sure all supporting evidence is included. If no further evidence is required, the claim moves ahead to Step 5.
- Gathering of Evidence: If necessary, additional evidence may be requested from the appropriate party. This can include the claimant, a healthcare professional or a government agency/representative.
- Review of Evidence: A Veterans Service Representative reviews all additional requested evidence. If further evidence is still required, the claim returns to Step 3.
- Preparation for Decision: A Veterans Service Representative reaches a proposed decision on the claim. Documentation supporting the decision will be processed and sent to the claimant. Occasionally, additional evidence may be requested at this time.
- Pending Decision Approval: The proposed decision is reviewed and an award is approved. If necessary, additional evidence may be requested at this time.
- Preparation for Notification: A packet detailing the claim decision or award is assembled for mailing.
- Complete: The claim decision/award packet is sent to the claimant via U.S. mail.
Duration from filing a claim to receiving the decision packet can vary greatly. The complexity of the claim, type of evidence, extent of evidence available and filing medium can all impact this timeframe.
According to the VA, the average time to complete disability-related claims is 131.9 days, as of January 2019.
Claimants can also choose to submit a Fully Developed Claim (FDC), which can expedite the VA’s decision process. An FDC allows the claimant to file all supporting evidence at one time. In this case, veterans must certify there is no additional evidence other than what they are submitting.
With any type of claim, an effective date will be given once a decision is reached. The effective date states when VA benefits should be paid out.
This date can vary based on the type of claim, when the disability was diagnosed and any other special circumstances associated with the claim. Patients with questions regarding the claims process should discuss their case with an experienced mesothelioma law firm.
08. Assistance With Filing a VA Claim
Can I Get Assistance With Filing My VA Benefits Claim?
Veterans should discuss their VA claim options with an experienced mesothelioma lawyer.
Mesothelioma attorneys can provide insight into the claim process and what’s required to build a successful claim.
Experienced lawyers can also help veterans understand their eligibility for other compensation options. Depending on the veteran’s case, they may be eligible for other types of claims, such as a mesothelioma lawsuit or asbestos trust fund claim.
Legal support during the claims process ensures the strongest claim possible to get compensation quickly, whether a VA claim or another claim option. Dedicated legal support can also allow patients and family members to focus on treatment, while a lawyer builds the mesothelioma claim.