Asbestos was used frequently prior to the 1970s, before its dangers were well-known. Occupational exposure has led to many United States’ workers developing asbestos-related illnesses, and one of the largest exposed groups has been veterans.
Around 30% of the total diagnosed cases of mesothelioma are veterans, since asbestos was used so frequently throughout military bases, equipment and vehicles. As a result, many veterans have developed mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses. Asbestos companies knowingly put people at risk, which is why veterans can exercise their legal rights. Legal support has allowed veterans to find financial compensation and benefits to help after their diagnosis.
Understanding Legal Options for Veterans
A mesothelioma diagnosis can cause pain and suffering, as well as a large financial burden on veterans and their families. Lost income from the inability to work and rising mesothelioma treatment costs can make it difficult to take care of a family and afford ongoing care. Fortunately, there are resources available that can help those who have served and their loved ones.
It can be difficult for patients to fully understand what types of legal action they can take to get help after receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis. However, there are mesothelioma law firms dedicated to taking such cases, with asbestos attorneys trained and experienced in providing veterans with the best options for their individual case.
Compensation for Veterans with Mesothelioma
Veterans may pursue the same options for compensation as other mesothelioma victims. However, they may be eligible for additional benefits after serving. Mesothelioma lawyers have experience exploring these routes for financial help and can offer insight into what will deliver the most compensation possible.
Veterans’ Mesothelioma Lawsuits
One way in which veterans or their surviving loved ones can get financial help is through an asbestos lawsuit. While they cannot sue the U.S. Government, they can sue the asbestos companies that produced the materials or asbestos products leading to asbestos exposure and a mesothelioma diagnosis. The two primary types of mesothelioma lawsuits include:
- Personal Injury: A personal injury lawsuit is filed by the mesothelioma patient, against the company responsible for asbestos exposure, claiming damages due to an asbestos-related disease. Recovered funds can help with medical bills and other health care costs, loss of income, pain and suffering.
- Wrongful Death: A wrongful death lawsuit is filed by a surviving loved one, against the company responsible for asbestos exposure leading to a family member’s death. Recovered funds can help pay for outstanding medical bills, funeral expenses, lost income and other related costs.
Patients or family members will work with a lawyer to gather evidence of their exposure, diagnosis and time served to build a case. Once the mesothelioma case is filed, it will be reviewed. In many cases, asbestos companies offer a mesothelioma settlement, providing compensation before the case goes to trial. The individual may accept or reject the settlement, and if rejected, the case will go to trial where a verdict will be reached.
Due to a growing amount of asbestos lawsuits, many asbestos companies have gone bankrupt. However, many were forced to set up asbestos trust funds with adequate funds to pay out current and future claims, allowing veterans to collect compensation years after the asbestos company was in operation.
Members of the U.S. Military that have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness may be able to file a VA claim. Most claims have been filed by members of the U.S. Navy as a result of high risk of asbestos exposure, but have also been seen among members of the Air Force, Army, Marines and Coast Guard. A VA claim allows individuals to file for veterans’ benefits through the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Claim types for veterans 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
For veterans filing an asbestos-related claim, it will likely be a post-service disability claim, which covers disabilities from exposure to hazardous materials. Once the claim is filed, it will go through a claims process that will hopefully result in a financial award. A mesothelioma lawyer will be able to gather the necessary evidence and ensure the claim is strong before being submitted.
Compensation from a VA claim may include disability compensation, Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) or Special Monthly Compensation (SMC).
- Disability Compensation: A tax-free monetary benefit that is paid out to veterans with a disability (like mesothelioma) as a result of something that happened during active military service (asbestos exposure).
- Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC): A tax-free monetary benefit paid out to surviving family members of a veteran who has passed away from a service-related disability. For parents, DIC is income-based.
- Special Monthly Compensation (SMC): A tax-free monetary benefit paid out to veterans or their surviving family members under specific circumstances or for specific disabilities. Not all veterans and loved ones are eligible for this benefit. Oftentimes, it’s referred to as aid and attendance for spouses.
In addition to monetary benefits, there is other help that veterans may get from a VA claim. The VA may be able to offer housing or additional insurance benefits to veterans, such as Adapted Housing grants, Service-Disabled Veterans’ Insurance and Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance.
Legal Considerations for Veterans
Mesothelioma attorneys have experience working with mesothelioma patients to get these VA benefits and will be able to determine potential eligibility. They will also take stress and work off of veterans and their families by organizing information, collecting evidence and making any necessary court appearances on the patient’s behalf, allowing them to focus on their treatment journey.
It’s important for patients and loved ones to note that there is also a statute of limitations, requiring lawsuits and claims to be filed within a certain amount of time after receiving a diagnosis or after an asbestos-related death. Each state has its own statute of limitations, and patients or family members should discuss with a mesothelioma lawyer to ensure they are filing in time.
Author: Tara Strand
Senior Content WriterRead about Tara
Reviewer: Jennifer R. Lucarelli
Lawyer for Mesothelioma Victims and Their FamiliesRead about Jennifer