Every year in the United States, approximately 2,000 to 3,000 people are diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma. Unfortunately, this cancer disproportionately affects the men and women that have served our country. Some reports indicate that about one third of mesothelioma patients are Veterans.
Many Veterans have misconceptions about the VA and benefits eligibility. If you are a Veteran and you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma – free help is available.
Retired Naval officer, Lt. Cmdr. Carl Jewett helps Veterans and their loved ones receive compensation from VA as a result of asbestos illnesses like mesothelioma. Serving as a VA-accredited claims agent, he provides free assistance in filing for VA benefits.
“Most Veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma are entitled to disability compensation or pension benefits. Surviving spouses and dependents may also qualify for dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC) or survivor pension from VA,” said Jewett. “Veterans make up the largest group of people diagnosed with mesothelioma because asbestos was so widely used in the military. As a Vet who served your country, you are entitled to these benefits. They are your right. These financial benefits are how we, as a nation, take care of the men and women who helped to preserve the freedoms that we all enjoy in this country, especially those who are disabled as a result of their military service.”
Jewett is a retired Navy submariner who served in the military for just under 24 years, both enlisted and as an officer. Jewett understands that sometimes obstacles and concerns may keep a Veteran from filing a claim. Sometimes the greatest obstacles are misconceptions that many Veterans have about their eligibility for VA benefits.
“I’ve worked with hundreds of Veterans who were floored to hear that they were eligible for disability for their asbestos illness, even if it has been decades since they were in the military. Too often they assume – despite asbestos diseases taking 15 to 45-plus years to manifest after exposure to asbestos – that they can’t apply for a service connected disability decades after serving. But, the reality is that there is no amount of time that can pass that would make a Veteran ineligible,” Jewett explained.
“With the right help, it’s much easier to qualify and receive benefits than you realize,” he acknowledged, “over the past decade, I’ve had the honor of helping over 1,200 Veterans file, and get approved for asbestos-related illnesses.”
Many Veterans believe that they’re not entitled to compensation unless the military was the sole source of asbestos exposure. This is a myth.
In truth, the VA only requires that your illness is “at least as likely as not” to have been caused by the military. This basically boils down to whether your military exposure to asbestos was at least a 50 percent contributing factor in your developing an asbestos illness. To accomplish this, Jewett assists Veterans in detailing their exposures to asbestos and their entire work history in a statement in support of the Veteran’s claim.
“The VA acknowledges that asbestos is the only known cause of malignant pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma. However, they require a detailed asbestos exposure statement with each claim. I have helped thousands of Veterans convince the VA that their military exposure is at least as likely as not to have caused their asbestos disease. I streamline the claims process, assisting Vets in filling out the forms, writing their exposure statement, and gathering all the other supporting documentation for their claim. I do everything I can to make it easy for Veterans to file,” said Jewett.
One of the benefits of this compensation is that it’s tax-free. Furthermore, Veterans with these asbestos illnesses are eligible even if they are already retired and no longer working. Employment status and age do not affect eligibility. Neither does the Veteran’s income.
“I have talked to many vets who tell me that they aren’t eligible for VA benefits because they applied once in the past, and were denied because they made too much money. But this is only because they applied for non-service connected VA Pension, which is a means tested benefit, therefore your income does play a role. VA disability compensation is not means tested so their income is not a factor,” Jewett explained.
A large number of Veterans aren’t even aware that they have two of the nation’s best mesothelioma specialists available to them. Both Dr. Abraham Lebenthal and Dr. Robert Cameron offer mesothelioma treatment through their respective VA hospitals.
Lebenthal is a mesothelioma specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He is known for treating many Veterans through the West Roxbury VA Hospital in Boston.
Cameron is the innovator behind the lung-saving procedure known as pleurectomy with decortication (P/D). He is a specialist at the University of California Los Angeles Medical Center also treats Veterans with mesothelioma at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center.
“Finding a mesothelioma specialist for your diagnosis is the best way to extend your survival time. All too often, patients are misinformed of their treatment options by doctors who aren’t specialists. I am telling Veterans with mesothelioma all the time that they should take anything that a non-mesothelioma specialist says about their treatment options or prognosis, with a grain of salt. You have a rare disease, you need a specialist.” stated Jewett.
Veterans with private health insurance should see one of the handful of mesothelioma specialists around the country, including Lebenthal or Cameron. Veterans who only have VA Health Care can either get their VA doctor to refer them to a civilian doctor outside the VA system, or simply get a referral to Lebenthal or Cameron, and be treated for free in Boston or Los Angeles.
Many Veterans left the military and worked in civilian jobs that exposed them to more asbestos than they had in the military. If you are a Veteran with mesothelioma that isn’t service-related, you may still receive compensation in the form of a non-service connected VA pension. Pension requires that the Veteran served for at least 90 days, one of which was during a period of war, and their income must be below the amount prescribed by law. Pension can help both Veterans and their families by providing a tax-free monthly income to help with financial burdens.
Both Veterans and their surviving family members can apply for the VA’s pension program. In circumstances where an individual is housebound or requires care from another person, they may receive additional compensation.
Nicole Godfrey is the senior content writer at Mesothelioma Guide. When she isn’t updating and creating new content for the website, she enjoys spending time with her family and dogs.