If you or a loved one served in the United States military and believe your diagnosis of an asbestos-related disease, such as mesothelioma, is resultant of exposure to asbestos during your time in service, you may be eligible to receive service-connected (SC) compensation benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
What types of benefits does the VA offer?
The VA offers tax free monetary benefits paid to veterans (Disability Compensation) or a surviving spouse, child, or parent (Dependency and Indemnity Compensation). Disability Compensation is a benefit offered to veterans who have disabilities directly linked to a disease or injury sustained or intensified during active military duty or for disabilities, such as mesothelioma, that present themselves after a period of service has been completed. Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is paid out to a survivor of a veteran who has died on active duty, in training, or from a service-connected disability, as is the case with most asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma.
Other benefits offered by the VA include Special Monthly Compensation (SMC). This type of compensation is a higher-rate benefit paid out to veterans or next of kin for a) specific instances where a veteran’s disability may require the need for an aid; or b) for specified disabilities, such as loss of a limb(s). Additionally, the VA offers veterans with disabilities benefits relative to housing and insurance, as well as benefit programs for hospitalizations, automobile allowance, dental, convalescence, and clothing, among others.
Am I eligible to file a VA claim?
Eligibility to file a VA claim and be considered for compensatory benefits is dependent upon having a disability that is service-connected in conjunction with a separation from military duty that occurred under any condition other than a dishonorable discharge. Onset of a disease, such as mesothelioma, that is directly-related to asbestos exposure that occurred while on active military duty is qualified by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as eligible for service-connected compensation benefits.
- Veteran discharged under any condition except dishonorable
- Veteran was exposed to asbestos while on active duty
- Veteran has been diagnosed by a medical professional with a disease directly related to the specific asbestos exposure that took place while actively serving in the U.S. military
Particular occupations held by veterans during their time in service where asbestos exposure was likely to occur include, but are not limited to:
- Shipyard work
- Insulation work
- Carpentry & construction involving products such as flooring, cement, roofing
- Service work involving pipe products and/or friction products (e.g., brake lining, clutch facings)
Furthermore, veterans who served in Iraq, or regions surrounding Iraq, may have been exposed to asbestos when older buildings containing the hazardous mineral were damaged, causing the asbestos to become airborne.
What are the different types of claims?
There are several types of claims (outlined below) that a veteran may pursue when applying for disability compensation. The appropriate type of claim for a veteran who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma would be a claim based on post-service disabilities.
This type of claim involves a service-related disability that may be based upon location, circumstance of service, or military service alone and that presented itself after service had concluded. Exposure to asbestos and a diagnosis of an asbestos-related disease after service would fall under the classification of Exposures to Hazardous Materials under Post-Service Disabilities claims.
- 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
Note: Claims Based on Post-Service Disabilities include Exposure to Hazardous Materials, such as asbestos. Under this type of claim, veterans with a service-related disability that evolved post discharge, such as mesothelioma, may be eligible to receive compensation.
What evidence will the VA require to file my claim?
Evidence required by the VA in order to submit a claim is twofold:
- The veteran must exhibit proof that asbestos exposure did in fact occur during the time period of active military service. This proof may consist of documentation of the veteran’s military occupation and/or location of service.
- The veteran must demonstrate that he/she is afflicted with a specific disease or disability that transpired by means of asbestos exposure that can be directly linked to his/her time in service. It is important to note that the VA DOES NOT CONSIDER asbestos exposure to be a condition in itself and thus, proven exposure without documentation of an asbestos-derived disease will not qualify a veteran for compensatory benefits.
How do I apply for disability compensation?
- Online via eBenefits on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website
- Work with an accredited representative
- In person at a local VA office
- By U.S. Mail using VA Form 21-526EZ—Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits
What is the VA claims process?
The VA claims process is the course of action carried out by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in order to determine a veteran’s eligibility to receive disability compensation. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs follows eight sequential steps for successful claims processing. The complexity of a veteran’s claim, coupled with the type and extent of evidence available for submission, will all factor in the processing time of the claim. The eights steps are outlined as follows:
Claim Received: Your claim is received by the VA—an online submission will receive receipt of claim within one hour and a mail submission will take one week plus mailing time
Under Review: A Veterans Service Representative is reviewing your claim to make sure all supporting evidence has been included. If it is determined that no further evidence is required, your claim moves ahead to Step 5.
Gathering of Evidence: If necessary, additional evidence may be requested from the appropriate party—you, a healthcare professional, or a government agency/representative.
Review of Evidence: All additional requested evidence is reviewed. If further evidence is still required, your claim will return to Step 3.
Preparation for Decision: A proposed decision on your claim has been reached by the Veterans Service Representative and documentation supporting the decision is being processed to send to you. If necessary, 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 your claim decision or award is assembled for mailing.
Complete: Your claim decision/award packet has been sent to you via U.S. mail by the VA.
What is an effective date?
If the VA decides that a veteran is entitled to compensation based on his/her claim, an effective date will be assigned to the claim by the VA. An effective date identifies when benefits are able to be paid. Several factors may determine the effective date, including the type of claim, the date of entitlement (date the disability was proven by medical records), and/or special circumstances that may be associated with the claim.
What is a fully developed claim (FDC)?
A FDC is an optional form of claim filing offered by the VA that calls veterans to submit all supporting evidence for their claim at one time. With this form of filing, veterans MUST certify that they have no further evidence aside from what they send with their initial claim request. This type of claim filing allows the VA to respond with their decision regarding compensation benefits in an expedited manner in comparison to traditional forms of filing.
How can I get assistance with filing my VA claim?
Our experienced staff can assist you with gathering the necessary evidence for submission of your VA claim and subsequently processing the paperwork involved with the claim. Please fill out the form below to get in touch with one of our representatives or call us now toll-free at 1-800-336-0086 to schedule an appointment.
Author: Tara Strand
Senior Content WriterRead about Tara
Reviewer: Jennifer R. Lucarelli
Lawyer for Mesothelioma Victims and Their FamiliesRead about Jennifer
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Compensation. http://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/index.asp. Updated February 3, 2016.