Misconceptions Concerning VA Claims
VA benefits, as they relate to mesothelioma, can be confusing and lead to various misconceptions. Not fully understanding the process of VA benefits and how they are obtained can result in veterans opting to not even attempt to apply for them. A better understanding of the myths surrounding veteran benefit claims are outlined below.
VA Benefit Myths and Misunderstandings
- If a veteran applies for VA benefits, the VA requires the patient to only receive medical care from a VA doctor.
This is a common misunderstanding, and is untrue. Veterans are generally eligible for VA health care once they have secured a VA disability rating. However, the veteran is under no obligation to enroll in the VA Health Care System. Even if the patient is already a member of the VAHCS, they are not required to utilize VA doctors and services if the patient maintains outside insurance and medical care.
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- If a member of the U.S. Armed Forces did not serve their country during a period of war then they are not considered a veteran.
This is a sometimes confusing misconception. However, even if the member in question never served during wartime they are still considered a veteran and eligible for most VA benefits, including disability compensation.
- The veteran in question did not serve as a member of one of the four main military branches (Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines) and therefore is not eligible for benefits.
Active duty for training within the National Guard and Reserve does not qualify as full-time service, which is synonymous with active military service. However, if the veteran was activated for reasons other than training, then they should qualify for VA benefits. Members of the Armed Services, as well as a commissioned officer of the Public Health Service, Environmental Services Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (and its predecessor, the Coast and Geodetic Survey) can be considered eligible as long as they were considered as being in a full-time service status.
- The veteran has either an Other Than Honorable (OTH) or Bad Conduct Discharge (BCD) and is subsequently not eligible for benefits.
Eligibility in most cases is based on discharge from active military service under other-than-dishonorable conditions. A veteran may still be eligible for most VA benefits, even with a BCD or OTH.
- A veteran has died of mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease or illness, but never filed a VA Disability Compensation Claim resulting in their spouse not being entitled to survivor benefits such as Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC).
This is untrue, the VA can approve claims for DIC even if the veteran themselves never filed a disability claim. This does not mean that the process will be without difficulty, but it is possible to obtain if the spouse is able to convince the VA that the deceased veteran’s asbestos-exposure occurred during active duty.
- Military retirees receiving a retirement check will have their retirement amount reduced if they also receive VA disability compensation.
It is true that military retirees with a disability rating of 40 percent or less will have their retirement checks reduced by the amount of their VA disability compensation. However, for most retirees with a disability rating 50 percent or higher, Concurrent Retirement and Disability Payments (CRDP) restores retired pay on a graduate 10-year schedule. Veterans with a 100 percent disability rating are usually entitled to a full CRDP without a phase-in period.
Mesothelioma and Veterans
A diagnosis of mesothelioma often means a veteran will incur difficult and expensive medical treatments. Currently, the Federal government does not designate mesothelioma as a service-related disease or illness. This means that veterans might not be eligible for various government-issued benefits. If a veteran can prove that they were exposed to asbestos while on duty, they might be eligible to receive compensation for medical care through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. These types of claims can be complex and veterans may want to consider consulting a legal firm with expertise and experience concerning mesothelioma-related cases.