Members of the U.S. Navy, Army, Armed Forces, Coast Guard and Marines have faced a high risk of asbestos exposure during their time serving. Asbestos was found throughout military bases, ships, vehicles and equipment, putting veterans at risk of developing mesothelioma.
Veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma may be able to file a claim with the United States Department of Veterans (VA). A VA claim can help veterans and their families gain financial compensation and benefits to help with treatment costs, lost wages and pain and suffering.
Types of VA Claims
Veterans and their loved ones may have the option to file a mesothelioma lawsuit against the asbestos company responsible for their exposure. However, another option is to file a VA claim. A VA claim is filed with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and is a way for mesothelioma patients to get financial help, as the VA determines their eligibility for disability compensation. Compensation can help with treatment costs, lost income, pain and suffering and other associated damages.
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. Mesothelioma symptoms typically take 10 – 50 years to emerge after exposure to asbestos, so veterans are typically diagnosed after they have finished serving. This is usually the case for all asbestos-related VA claims, since asbestos diseases are considered a result of “Exposure to Hazardous Materials.”
Types of Veterans’ Compensation
There are three primary types of compensation that veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma may be eligible for, including disability compensation, Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) and Special Monthly Compensation (SMC).
- Disability Compensation: Monetary benefit for veterans that have a service-related disability. This covers post-service disabilities, like mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.
- Dependency and Indemnity Compensation: Monetary benefit for surviving family members, typically the spouse, child or parent of a servicemember that has passed. This covers survivors of veterans that died as a result of service-connected disabilities.
- Special Monthly Compensation: Benefit paid to veterans, their spouses and surviving family members as a result of special circumstances or a specific disability. When given to spouses and surviving spouses, this benefit is referred to as aid and attendance and is paid out based on need.
How to File a VA Claim
If considering filing a claim with the VA, veterans should discuss their options with an experienced mesothelioma lawyer. Asbestos attorneys can provide insight into the VA claims process, as well as what’s required to build a successful claim.
There are different ways to apply for VA disability compensation, and if applying for DIC or SMC, there may be additional requirements. Typically, veterans can apply online via eBenefits on the VA website, work with an accredited claims agent, submit in-person at a local VA office or via U.S. Mail using the VA Form 21-526EZ—Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits.
VA Claim Eligibility
In order to file a mesothelioma VA claim, veterans must present evidence to prove that they have an asbestos-related diagnosis and that exposure did happen during the time that they served. Evidence needed includes:
- Medical records that show a mesothelioma diagnosis
- Service records proving time of military service and showing job or specialty
- Doctor’s statement declaring connection between service, contact with asbestos and diagnosis
If more evidence is needed, the VA will state additional requirements after reviewing the VA claim. One option that veterans have is to file a fully developed claim (FDC). An FDC allows them to file a claim that submits all support evidence at one time. In this case, veterans must certify that there is no additional evidence other than what they are submitting. This could expedite the VA’s decision time.
VA Claims Process
The VA claims process is carried out by the Department of Veterans Affairs to determine a veteran’s eligibility to receive compensation. They generally follow eight steps to successfully process a disability claim. If patients have any questions regarding the process or how long their particular claim may take, they should discuss with a mesothelioma law firm that has experience handling such cases.
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.
The complexity of the claim, type of evidence and extent of evidence available for claim submission can impact the time that it takes for a claim to be fully processed. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the average time it takes to complete disability-related claims, as of January 2019 was 131.9 days.
Once a decision is made, an effective date will be given, which states when VA benefits should be paid out. This can vary based on the type of claim, when the disability was proven by medical records and any other special circumstances associated with the claim. Asbestos attorneys can provide veterans and their loved ones with legal support throughout the entire process, providing support to ensure they build the strongest claim possible to get compensation quickly, while focusing on their treatment journey.
Author: Tara Strand
Senior Content WriterRead about Tara
Reviewer: Jennifer R. Lucarelli
Lawyer for Mesothelioma Victims and Their FamiliesRead about Jennifer
United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Compensation. Updated October 2018.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Eligibility for VA Disability Benefits.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA Claim Process after You File Your Claim.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Types of VA Disability Claims and When to File.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans Asbestos Exposure.