Mesothelioma VA Hospitals

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) administers health programs for eligible veterans through a nationwide system of over 1,400 medical centers and clinics, the largest integrated healthcare system in the United States. In addition to medical care, VA benefits include education and training, home loans, life insurance and disability compensation.

Veterans who've been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma may be eligible for VA disability compensation and health benefits if they can demonstrate that they were exposed to asbestos during the course of their active military service.

Mesothelioma and Asbestos

Until the late 1970s, the U.S. military used asbestos in practically every aspect of its operations. Asbestos was used to insulate the heavy machinery used on ships and to reduce friction in the brake pads and clutch plates which equipped the tanks and other vehicles the military manufactured. Asbestos was used as a construction material, incorporated into cement, bricks, caulking, paint, floorboards, roof tiles and almost 300 other commercial products. Asbestos was prized for its unique properties that include resistance to flame, heat, electrical currents and most forms of chemical corrosion.

Over time however, it became clear that asbestos was associated with the development of certain diseases, among which is a cancer called mesothelioma that targets the membranes lining the pleural, peritoneal and pericardial spaces. Although medical scientists first began publishing reports on this linkage in the 1930s, it wasn't until the late 1970s that federal agencies began regulating asbestos in the workplace.

Today medical scientists cite occupational asbestos exposure as the definitive cause for mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is characterized by a prolonged incubation period that ranges from 20 to 50 years. Veterans who were first exposed to asbestos in the 1960s and 1970s may be hearing about their mesothelioma diagnosis for the very first time today.

VA Medical Benefits Eligibility

In order to qualify for medical benefits, a veteran must have served on active duty in the Army, Navy, Air Force, or some other branch of the U.S. military, receiving an honorable discharge or release. Under certain circumstances, National Guard members and reservists may also qualify for medical benefits.

When applying for VA for the first time, a veteran must submit a copy of his or her service discharge form. This form documents the type of discharge and service dates. In cases where the service discharge form is not available, a veteran can submit his or her full name and military identification number. Once a veteran has qualified for VA medical benefits, he or she remains enrolled in the program. VA medical benefits are portable; after a veteran qualifies, he or she is eligible to receive care at any VA facility in the VA system.

VA Mesothelioma Eligibility

VA benefits will cover mesothelioma treatments for eligible servicemen and servicewomen. The VA recognizes mesothelioma as a service-connected medical condition if the veteran who's been diagnosed with mesothelioma can demonstrate that he or she was exposed to asbestos during active military service.

This can be a difficult process because asbestos was also widely used in the civilian sector, and many servicemen and servicewomen after discharge continued in jobs similar to the ones they'd held in the military. The Veterans Assistance Network was created to help veterans negotiate the tricky VA application process.

A veteran who is applying for mesothelioma-related VA benefits will also need to document his or her mesothelioma diagnosis. This documentation must take the form of an affidavit from a physician who's qualified to make that diagnosis.

VA Treatment Hospitals

The VA system is associated with two internationally-renowned mesothelioma treatment centers. The University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) operates the Comprehensive Mesothelioma Program at the VA's West Los Angeles Medical Center, under the direction of Dr. Robert Cameron. Dr. Cameron is a surgeon who has received international attention for the pleurectomy/decortication surgery he helped pioneer which removes the diseased portion of the pleural mesothelioma, thereby allowing the affected lung to reexpand. Dr. Dao Nguyen at the Miami VA Healthcare System has spearheaded research into mesothelioma treatments that use molecular cellular properties. Other VA medical centers that provide outstanding care for mesothelioma and thoracic cancer patients include the VA Boston Healthcare System, the Michael DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston, and the Atlanta VA Medical Center.