01. Treatment at VA Centers
Do VA Medical Centers Treat Mesothelioma?
Veterans with mesothelioma can seek treatment at VA treatment centers across the country. Several VA health care facilities specialize in mesothelioma cancer treatment.
These treatment centers are equipped with the latest technology. Many of these VA centers are also affiliated with several top mesothelioma doctors.
Once a veteran is accepted into the VA health care system, they can get care from any VA health care facility in the country. This means mesothelioma patients can travel to the VA hospital of their choice.
However, veterans are not limited to seeking treatment at VA medical centers. Veterans may also consider undergoing treatment at a private cancer center that specializes in mesothelioma.
What Is the Cost of Mesothelioma Treatment at a VA Center?
The VA will cover most costs for mesothelioma patients whose illness was caused by military asbestos exposure. The VA rates mesothelioma at a 100% disability. This means eligible veterans will likely have minimal or no copays for health services.
Veterans with mesothelioma may also qualify for disability compensation. This may help cover any treatment costs and make up for lost wages.
02. Top VA Cancer Centers
Top VA Treatment Centers Specializing in Mesothelioma
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system has more than 1,200 care locations across the U.S. Several of these locations are VA treatment centers that specialize in treating malignant mesothelioma.
Veterans are disproportionately affected by mesothelioma due to military asbestos exposure. Approximately 30% of all mesothelioma cases are military veterans.
Mesothelioma is a rare disease that not all physicians have experience treating. Veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma should seek care from a VA medical facility that specializes in mesothelioma care.
Some VA centers partner with cancer centers with specialized mesothelioma programs. Mesothelioma specialists also work at VA treatment centers around the U.S.
There are several VA medical centers with programs dedicated to mesothelioma. Additionally, many VA treatment facilities offer top cancer care.
Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center
The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) provides health care services to more than 113,000 veterans in Texas. Along with the main VA hospital, there are 10 outpatient clinics affiliated with the MEDVAMC.
MEDVAMC offers a cancer program with diagnostic, treatment, prevention and support services for veterans impacted by cancer. Within their cancer program, MEDVAMC offers specialized treatment and support options for veterans with mesothelioma, including:
- The hematology/oncology program offers specialists experienced in treating patients with chemotherapy and radiation therapy
- The cardiothoracic surgery program has experienced surgeons who perform minimally invasive procedures and lung cancer surgery, including mesothelioma surgery
- MEDVAMC is also involved in clinical trials testing promising cancer treatments
- Patients can also access cancer support groups through the Cancer Program
MEDVAMC also supports a research and development program with 615 active research projects. The research program ensures veterans have access to up-to-date health care technology and medical treatments.
Miami VA Healthcare System
The Miami VA Healthcare System provides care for more than 149,000 veterans in South Florida. The Bruce W. Carter VA Medical Center is the main inpatient building for veterans.
In addition to their inpatient offering, the Miami VA Healthcare System operates two satellite outpatient clinics and five community-based outpatient clinics.
The Miami VA Healthcare System is affiliated with the University of Miami Health System. This allows veterans to get top care from mesothelioma experts. There are several doctors working in the Miami VA Healthcare System with mesothelioma expertise.
Dr. Dao Nguyen is a cardiothoracic surgeon with experience researching and treating mesothelioma. Dr. Nguyen has expertise in multimodal therapy and mesothelioma surgeries, such as:
- Pleurectomy and decortication (P/D)
- Lung surgery
- Lung removal (partial or complete)
- Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS)
Dr. Nestor R. Villamizar Ortiz is a cardiothoracic surgeon and director of University of Miami’s Lung Cancer Screening Clinic. Dr. Villamizar Ortiz has experience with multimodal therapies and mesothelioma treatments, including:
- Minimally invasive lung surgery
These two doctors and other specialists at the VA center work together to create personalized treatment plans for patients.
Resources for Mesothelioma Patients
VA Boston Healthcare System
The VA Boston Healthcare System provides care to the veterans of the greater Boston area with three main facility sites located in:
- Jamaica Plain
- West Roxbury
The VA Boston Healthcare System also operates five community-based outpatient clinics in:
The VA Boston Healthcare System offers veterans access to one of the country’s leading mesothelioma treatment centers. Through Boston’s VA Healthcare System, mesothelioma patients can access expert care due to its affiliation with top mesothelioma cancer centers, such as Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
The Boston VA system’s hospital affiliations are also part of the International Mesothelioma Program (IMP). The IMP is the largest research and treatment program of its kind for mesothelioma.
For veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma seeking treatment through the Boston VA, the West Roxbury campus offers specialized care. The campus’s division of general thoracic surgery (GTS) offers expertise in oncology care for veterans. The doctors at the center are noted for their expertise in mesothelioma treatments and their involvement in research.
Mesothelioma doctors working within the Boston VA system include Dr. Abraham Lebenthal. He is a top mesothelioma doctor and thoracic oncologist with expertise in pleural mesothelioma and lung cancer. Dr. Lebenthal has experience in VATs and pleurectomy and decortication surgery.
Veterans with mesothelioma may seek a variety of treatment options through the VA Boston Healthcare System. Mesothelioma doctors at Boston’s VA centers specialize in:
- Extrapleural pneumonectomy
- Radiation therapy
- Radical pleurectomy and decortication
Specialists at the Boston VA centers will develop personalized treatment plans to treat malignant pleural mesothelioma patients at minimal cost.
Fayetteville VA Medical Center (VAMC)
- Location: Fayetteville, North Carolina
- Awards: 2011 “Above and Beyond” Award from the North Carolina National Guard and Reserve
The Fayetteville VA Medical Center (VAMC) in North Carolina provides health services to more than 74,000 veterans. The facility is located within 10 miles of Fort Bragg and Pope Army Air Base.
All cancer care at the Fayetteville VA Medical Center is given through the Specialty Care Patient Program. Through the program, mesothelioma patients are empowered during their cancer journey and treated like equals by medical staff.
Doctors at the VAMC specialize in:
- Extended care and rehabilitation
The center has more than 50 beds for patients with general medical, surgical or mental health needs. The VAMC also operates a long-term care unit that can accommodate 69 patients.
VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System
The VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System (VAGLAHS) serves approximately 1.4 million veterans in the greater LA area. In addition to three main centers operated by the health care system, VAGLAHS maintains eight community-based outpatient clinics.
The West Los Angeles VA Medical Center within the VAGLAHS focuses on asbestos-related cancer. The medical center is affiliated with UCLA’s Comprehensive Mesothelioma Treatment and Research Center run by Dr. Robert Brian Cameron.
Dr. Robert Cameron is the chief of thoracic surgery at the West LA VA Medical Center. Dr. Cameron and his team use cutting-edge surgeries and supplemental treatments to treat mesothelioma patients.
Dr. Cameron and other mesothelioma doctors at the West LA VA Medical Center specialize in:
- Pleurectomy and decortication
The West LA Medical Center is also notable for its expertise in sarcomatoid mesothelioma, a rare cell type that is considered the most aggressive and difficult to treat. Doctors at this center also specialize in treating side effects of mesothelioma, such as pleural effusion.
Albany Stratton VA Medical Center
- Location: Albany, New York
- Hospital Affiliations: Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (ACPHS) and Albany Medical College
The Albany Stratton VA Medical Center located in Albany, NY serves veterans from 22 counties in upstate New York, western Massachusetts and Vermont.
The Stratton VAMC Cancer Program at Albany Stratton features top oncology doctors offering various support services.
Oncologists at Albany Stratton offer specialized mesothelioma treatment options, including:
Each patient receives personalized treatment plans developed by a team of doctors in multidisciplinary fields.
VA Puget Sound Health Care System
The VA Puget Sound Health Care System serves more than 105,000 veterans living in the Pacific Northwest. The VA Puget Sound Health Care System has two divisions in Lakewood and Seattle, Washington.
It also operates seven community-based outpatient sites in Washington, including:
- Federal Way
- Mount Vernon
- North Seattle
- Port Angeles
- South Sound
The oncology division of the VA Puget Sound works to holistically treat cancer patients through multidisciplinary care. The VA Puget Sound oncology division specializes in:
- Diagnostic testing
- Stem-cell transplants
- Follow-up care
The oncology division also has a cancer survivorship clinic. The clinic helps develop a survivorship care plan to offer ongoing care and explain late-term side effects.
03. VA Health Services
Other Health Services Provided by VA Treatment Centers
VA treatment centers offer a range of services, including critical care, surgery, mental health and physical therapy. Most centers provide medical and surgical specialty services such as cancer care.
VA treatment centers also offer services that meet a variety of patient needs, including:
- Community-based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs): CBOCs provide common outpatient visits and checkups. Patients may access these clinics no matter where they live in the U.S.
- Community Living Centers: The VA has Community Living Centers where patients can live and receive 24-hour care. Some patients who require end-of-life or palliative care may also qualify for at-home care through the VA.
- Services for LGBT+ Veterans: LGBTQ+ veterans can receive specialized care at any VA medical center in the country. Each VA facility employs an LGBT Veteran Care Coordinator (VCC) to assist these veterans in accessing their desired service.
- Veterans Integrated Services Network: This network collects data and coordinates the administrative and clinical activities for each region. This allows a better distribution of services to veterans in need.
- Women’s Health Care Services: Every VA treatment center has a women veteran’s program manager to help female veterans access specific types of care. Women can access primary care, specialty care and telemedicine through the VA.
04. VA Treatment vs. Private Treatment
How VA Treatment Centers Compare to Private Health Care Centers
Veteran mesothelioma patients may be concerned about the difference in quality, timeliness and cost of care between VA treatment centers and private treatment centers. Many hospitals provide data in order to help patients decide where to get care.
Mesothelioma patients can access Hospital Compare Data to see how VA hospitals compare to other nearby hospitals.
VA Hospitals Offer Top Quality Mesothelioma Care
Many VA hospitals and private hospitals provide similar access to mesothelioma treatments and top mesothelioma experts. Some VA treatment centers are affiliated with the country’s top mesothelioma research programs.
Veterans are not limited to receiving care from the nearest VA facility. Through the VA health care system, they qualify for care at any VA treatment center. Therefore, veterans can access treatment from VA hospitals affiliated with mesothelioma experts.
Mesothelioma Patients Can Get Care Quickly at a VA Treatment Center
At VA treatment centers, mesothelioma patients are considered high priority for care. The priority is based on their 100% disability rating.
97.8% of veteran requests to see a specialist are resolved within 7 days.
Wait times for mesothelioma care at a private facility may vary based on availability and other factors.
VA Treatment Centers Offer Low-Cost Mesothelioma Treatment
Mesothelioma treatment may be more affordable at a VA hospital than a private hospital. Mesothelioma patients may have low copays at VA hospitals as a result of a 100% disability rating.
At private treatment centers, mesothelioma treatment may cost thousands of dollars. Veterans may use private insurance and other government programs to offset the cost of mesothelioma treatment at these health care facilities.
Although treatment through a VA center may be less expensive than private health care in many cases, veterans are not limited to health care at VA treatment centers. Veterans can access mesothelioma treatment at any hospital in the U.S.