Veterans Mesothelioma Benefits
Veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure during their active-duty military service are entitled to several benefits through the Veterans Administration (VA). The most common of these benefits include:
Free Medical Care
The single most important benefit that veterans are entitled to is cost-free or subsidized medical care through the VA healthcare system. Qualifying mesothelioma patients who can prove their disease is the result of exposure during active duty are entitled receive world-class cancer treatment at one of three hospitals employing mesothelioma oncologists (Boston, Los Angeles, and Miami), at no cost to them.
This benefit is critical for mesothelioma patients, since the cost of treatment is astronomical. Lung cancer surgery costs on average $40,000 out of pocket. Chemotherapy can cost $7,000 per session, with some estimates as high as $30,000 for a standard eight-week treatment. Radiation treatment is billed on average around $2,000 per month. Depending on the severity of the cancer and the lifespan of the patient, mesothelioma treatment can total in the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Additional unanticipated medical expenses include in-home caregivers, prescription medications, or associated medical equipment. Even with private health insurance, the out-of-pocket expenses can place cancer sufferers and their families seriously in debt.
Free or Subsidized Travel To and From VA Hospitals
Although the VA offers free mesothelioma treatment through VA medical centers, only three of these centers employ mesothelioma specialists and the necessary resources to provide world-class care. Located in Boston, Los Angeles, and Miami, these VA medical centers are equipped to deal with the difficult treatment regimen of mesothelioma patients; however, not every veteran mesothelioma patient lives in close proximity to one of these locations.
Luckily, the VA provides travel benefits to these medical centers through the Beneficiary Travel Program. Qualifying patients receive mileage reimbursements, ‘common carrier’ transportation (plane, bus, train, etc.), or in special circumstances ‘special mode’ transportation (ambulance, wheelchair van) for travel to and from a VA medical center.
Individual medical centers also offer free lodging options for visiting patients and their families, whether through hospital ‘hoptel’ programs or affiliated charities like the Fisher House Foundation.
Disability Compensation Through the VA
Veterans may also file a claim for Disability Compensation or Dependency and Indemnity Compensation. Disability compensation is meant to offset costs related to the disabling effects of a mesothelioma diagnosis—in other words, to compensate you for losses related to your disease other than the cost of medical treatment. This generally includes lost wages or lost ability to work. The VA determines disability compensation based on their assessment of the degree of disability; mesothelioma patients are automatically rated 100, or fully disabled, and are thus entitled to no less than $2,769 per month. This amount is further supplemented if the following conditions hold:
- A veteran with a spouse will receive an additional $155 per month
- A veteran with a spouse and dependent children will receive an additional $113 per month
- Each additional dependent child under the age of 18 supplements this amount by $77 per month
- Each additional dependent child between the ages of 18 and 23 who is a full-time student supplements this amount by $248 per month
Disability benefits granted through the VA are paid monthly, and are tax-free.