Asbestos was widely used throughout the military. As a result, about 30% of all mesothelioma patients are veterans. Veteran mesothelioma patients have options for treatment, whether seeking help at a veteran-specific facility or at a comprehensive cancer center.
More than nine million veterans receive care from the 1,243 Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care facilities across the country. These facilities may specialize in specific areas of care and offer a treatment avenue for veterans where their complex work experiences and occupational health issues may be better understood.
Top Medical Centers for Veterans Across the U.S.
The medical centers operated by the VA offer many different services including surgery, critical care, physical therapy, orthopedics, oncology, mental health care, dental and vision care. As such, they are equipped to treat a number of different conditions, including mesothelioma. Veterans can access these services at VA centers in their area, travel to a medical center that specializes in their needs or receive telehealth care if unable to travel.
The VA holds its medical centers to high standards and releases performance assessments for each center every year. The centers are rated on a scale of 1 – 5 based on their relative performance. According to the most recent Strategic Analytics for Improvement and Learning (SAIL) report, more than 60% of the VA medical centers experienced an improvement in the level of care provided from the previous year. Centers that received a perfect SAIL rating in 2018 include:
- Asheville, NC
- Bath, NY
- Bedford, MA
- Butler, PA
- Cincinnati, OH
- Cleveland, OH
- Coatesville, PA
- Erie, PA
- Hot Springs, SD
- Iron Mountain, MI
- Lebanon, PA
- Northampton, MA
- Saginaw, MI
- Salem, VA
- St. Cloud, MN
- Togus, ME
West Los Angeles VA Medical Center
The West Los Angeles VA Medical Center is one of the three centers operated by the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System (VAGLAHS). Approximately 1.4 million veterans live in the five counties served by VAGLAHS. In addition to the three main centers operated by the Healthcare System, VAGLAHS maintains eight community-based outpatient clinics. The center also has affiliations with the UCLA School of Medicine and USC School of Medicine, and it sponsors numerous medical residencies each year.
The West Los Angeles VA Medical Center features a Comprehensive Mesothelioma Treatment and Research Center under the direction of Dr. Robert Cameron. The West Los Angeles VA Medical Center’s services focus on the asbestos-related cancer. Dr. Cameron and his team use cutting-edge surgeries like pleurectomy/decortication and supplemental treatments like radiotherapy to aid mesothelioma patients. The center is also notable for their expertise in sarcomatoid mesothelioma, a rarer cell type that is considered the most aggressive and difficult to treat.The West Los Angeles VA Medical Center earned a SAIL rating of three for 2018, an improvement upon their 2017 score.
VA Boston Healthcare System
The VA Boston Healthcare System provides care to the veterans of the Boston area with their three main facility sites located in Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury and Brockton, Massachusetts. The Healthcare System also operates five community-based outpatient clinics in Boston, Farmington, Lowell, Plymouth and Quincy, Massachusetts. The VA Boston Healthcare System earned a SAIL rating on 4 in 2018, the second highest possible score.
The Boston VA is one of the leading pleural mesothelioma centers within the VA health care system and employs expert thoracic surgeons. Many doctors at the clinic are associated with Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s renowned International Mesothelioma Program, the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and the Harvard Medical School. The mesothelioma specialists at the Boston VA use personalized therapy to treat malignant pleural mesothelioma patients at minimal cost. The doctors at the center are noted for their expertise in extrapleural pneumonectomy and radical pleurectomy/decortication. The VA Boston Healthcare System has treated mesothelioma patients from across the nation.
- Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP)
- Geriatric mental health
- Pleural mesothelioma
- Radical pleurectomy and decortication (P/D)
Miami VA Healthcare System
The Miami VA Healthcare System provides care for more than 149,000 veterans in South Florida. Specifically, veterans from Miami-Dade, Boward and Monroe counties. There are 372 hospital beds in operation within the Miami VA Healthcare System. The Miami VA Healthcare System features many doctors with expertise in mesothelioma, including Dr. Dao Nguyen, who works on clinical trials for thoracic cancers. Dr. Nguyen and the Miami VA Healthcare System are affiliated with the University of Miami Health System, which enables veterans to receive care from top mesothelioma surgeons like Dr. Nestor R. Villamizar Ortiz. In addition to their inpatient offering, the Miami VA Healthcare System operates two satellite outpatient clinics in Broward County and Key West. Floridians may also access VA care at the five community-based outpatient clinics run by the healthcare system in Deerfield Beach, Hollywood, Homestead, Key Largo and Pembroke Pines. In 2018, the Miami VA Healthcare System maintained a SAIL rating of three.
- Cardiothoracic surgery
- Chest pain
- Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP)
- Geriatric care
- Pleural mesothelioma
Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (Houston, Texas)
The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) provides health care services to more than 151,000 veterans in Texas. The VA Medical Center is affiliated with the Baylor College of Medicine and their Lung Institute, allowing veterans to access some of the best possible cancer care in the nation. Cancer care is provided within the hematology/oncology department and offers a chemotherapy clinic, radiation therapy, clinical trials and cancer support groups. The 10 outpatient clinics run by the southeast Texas center receive almost 1.4 million visits each year. MEDVAMC offers 349 acute care beds, 40 beds in their spinal cord injury center and 111 beds in the community living center. The MEDVAMC also features amenities including patio gardens, wheelchair basketball courts and a pool for rehabilitation purposes. The Houston-based center earned a SAIL rating of three in 2018, maintaining their score from the previous year.
- Cancer care
- Cardiovascular surgery
- Clinical trials
- Diagnostic care
- General surgery
- Nuclear medicine
Albany Stratton VA Medical Center
The Albany Stratton VA Medical Center located in Albany, NY serves veterans from 22 counties in upstate New York, western Massachusetts and Vermont. The center opened in 1951 and has earned the American College of Surgeons Comprehensive Cancer Center designation. The cancer center at Albany Stratton features top oncology doctors treating the entire patient, not just their cancer, by offering various support services. The center also has experience with numerous treatment options, including immunotherapy, radiotherapy, cytoreductive surgery and palliative care options to lessen symptoms. The center received an overall SAIL rating of three in 2018, which was an improvement upon their 2017 rating.
- Geriatric assessment
- High energy radiation
- Palliative care
- Radiation oncology
Fayetteville VA Medical Center
The Fayetteville VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Southeastern North Carolina provides health services to more than 74,000 veterans living in 19 counties. The center opened in 1940 and has more than 50 beds for patients with general medical, surgical or mental health needs. They also operate a long-term care unit that can accomodate 69 patients. All cancer care at the Fayetteville VA Medical Center is given within the Specialty Care Patient Program, where patients are empowered throughout their cancer journey and treated like an equal by all the medical staff. The VAMC received a SAIL rating of two in 2018, maintaining their 2017 rating.
- Extended care and rehabilitation
San Francisco VA Medical Center
The San Francisco VA Medical Center (SFVAMC) serves veterans from Santa Rosa, Eureka, Ukiah, Clearlake, San Bruno and downtown San Francisco, California. The center offers 124 operating beds and maintains a community living center with 120 beds. In 2018, SFVAMC earned a SAIL rating of three, improving upon their 2017 score. The medical center has been affiliated with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center for more than 50 years. The physicians that work at the San Francisco VA Division of Hematology/Oncology work simultaneously at UCSF.
The care teams include physicians, oncologists, social workers, dieticians and administrative staff working collaboratively to provide optimal cancer care. Additionally, the physicians are working on a joint project with the Department of Defense (DoD) studying the impact of neurological combat-related brain and spinal cord injuries. This research, as well as other studies occuring at the SFVAMC, benefits from one of the largest research budgets within the Veterans Health Administration. SFVAMC has just under $80 million in research expenditures.
- Electronic consultation services
- Inpatient chemotherapy
- Outpatient chemotherapy
- Outpatient clinic care
- Palliative care
VA Puget Sound Healthcare System
The VA Puget Sound Healthcare System serves more than 105,000 veterans in the Pacific Northwest. VA Puget Sound provides health care services for veterans living in Alaska, Idaho, Montana and Oregon. The oncology division of the VA Puget Sound, which has been accredited by the Commission on Cancer, works to holistically treat cancer patients through multidisciplinary care. The center offers diagnostic testing, cancer treatment like chemotherapy and radiation and follow-up care. The center has a Cancer Survivorship Clinic that helps develop a survivorship care plan to offer ongoing care and explain late-term side effects. The doctors also work to provide patients with access to clinical trials through their clinical research program. The Health Care System has two divisions in Lakewood and Seattle, Washington and operates seven community-based outpatient sites. The sites are in Bellevue, Bremerton, Federal Way, Mount Vernon, North Seattle, Port Angeles and South Sound, Washington. VA Puget Sound received a SAIL rating of two in 2018.
- Cancer care clinic
- Prostate cancer treatment
- Stem cell transplants
- Surgical oncology
Mesothelioma Treatment at VA Medical Centers
Mesothelioma cancer is a rare disease that not all physicians are familiar with. Veterans faced with a mesothelioma diagnosis should seek care from a facility staffed with mesothelioma specialists. These doctors will be experienced in the treatment modalities linked with favorable prognosis for patients, such as mesothelioma surgical options. Some VA medical centers offer specialized mesothelioma treatment centers to veterans, like the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center and the VA Boston Healthcare System.
VA treatment centers with dedicated mesothelioma programs as well as comprehensive cancer programs can offer the same treatment options that would be available at a public hospital. Many of these centers are also dedicated to research, offering clinical trials for promising emerging treatment options like immunotherapy and cryoablation.
Other VA Resources
In addition to the medical centers offered to veterans through the VA, servicemen and women can access other health care services through the organization. These facilities and services help to ease common issues faced by those that served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Community Living Centers
Community Living Centers offer nursing home type care for geriatric veterans. Contrary to nursing homes, these centers are modeled to look and feel like a typical residential home. The centers encourage family visiting and are pet friendly. Community living centers offer activities for entertainment and 24-hour care including bathing and dressing. There are 134 community living centers available within the VA system.
Founded after the Civil War, domiciliaries provide housing and assistance for homeless and economically disadvantaged veterans. The domiciliary program has been combined with the Mental Health Residential Rehabilitation and Treatment Programs (MH RRTPs). Together these programs work to address issues including homelessness, mental health, addiction and community integration.
LGBT Veteran Care
LGBT and related identity veterans can receive specialized care at any VA medical center across the country. Each VA facility employs a LGBT Veteran Care Coordinator (VCC) to assist these veterans in accessing their desired service. LGBT and related identity services include:
- Addiction treatment
- Cancer screening
- Heart health
- Hormone treatment
- Intimate partner violence treatment
VA vet centers offer community-based counseling to veterans across the United States. In 2018, almost 300,000 veterans and their families accessed care at the vet centers, which amounts to more than 1.9 million visits that year. These centers help veterans and their families re-adjust to life after serving their country. The vet centers are separate from other high-traffic VA medical centers to ensure the confidentiality of the veterans and their family members receiving services. The vet centers also observe non-traditional business hours to accommodate work schedules.
Veterans Integrated Services Network
The VA’s health services offerings are broken up into 18 geographic sections, known as the Veterans Integrated Services Network (VISN). This network collects data and coordinates the administrative and clinical activities for each region, which allows for a better distribution of services to veterans in need. Veterans looking to access care available in their area can contact the local VISN for assistance.
Women’s Health Care Services
Every VA medical center has a women veterans program manager to help female veterans access their desired care. Women can access primary care, specialty care and telephone care at the VA. Care offerings include:
- Human papillomavirus vaccine
- Maternity care
- Menopausal support
- Mental health treatment
- Military sexual trauma treatment
- Pap smears
- Reproductive care
Veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma, or other diseases, should consider potential care options available through the VA treatment centers.
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. About the Miami VA Healthcare System. Miami VA Healthcare System.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs. About the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas. Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Albany Stratton VA Medical Center Albany, NY. Health Care.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Asbestos and Mesothelioma. VA Boston Healthcare System.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs. A to Z List of Services. Fayetteville VA Medical Center.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs. About the San Francisco VA Health Care System. San Francisco VA Health Care System.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs. About the VA Boston Healthcare System. VA Boston Healthcare System.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs. About the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs. About the VA Puget Sound Health Care System. VA Puget Sound Health Care System.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs. About VA Health Care for Women Veterans. Women Veterans Health Care.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Cancer Program 2018 Annual Report. VA Puget Sound Health Care System.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Community Living Centers (VA Nursing Homes). Geriatrics and Extended Care.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Domiciliary Care for Homeless Veterans Program. Homeless Veterans. Updated January 2017.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs. End of Year Hospital Star Rating (FY2018). Quality of Care. Updated October 2018.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Fayetteville VA Medical Center. Health Care.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Hematology-Oncology Section. Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Mesothelioma Cancer Treatment. VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Vet Center Program. Health Care.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans Integrated Services Networks (VISN), Markets, Submarkets, Sectors and Counties by Geographic Location. Datasets.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) and Related Identities. Patient Care Services.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Where do I get the care I need? Veterans Health Administration. Updated January 2018.
University of California San Francisco Hematology and Oncology Department of Medicine. Patient Care. San Francisco Veterans Affairs Health Care System.
University of Miami Health System. Areas of Expertise. Thoracic Surgery.