Options for veterans with mesothelioma

Alaska Veterans Report

This is the second of a two-part series. Part one appeared in the February 2014 Senior Voice.

Thanks to all the veterans who took the time to comment on last month’s column. This is your column and the Senior Voice will try to address any matters important to you.

To recap Part One, many of our senior Alaska veterans were exposed to mesothelioma while serving our country and may just now be showing symptoms. Some veterans who have been diagnosed with lung cancer may in fact have this disease. This month’s follow-up addresses some avenues for compensation you may want to pursue.

Fortunately for veterans, many options are available.VA compensation is the first avenue because the process is simple and fast, thanks to technology.

Locally, you may visit one of the Vet centers in the state. The phone numbers and locations are listed in the U.S. Government section of your local phone book. These centers have set days when a service organization representative from the American Legion, VFW, DAV and other great groups are available to help you free of charge to file your claim. Just make an appointment, bring your DD 214 and your checking account bank routing number (these folks have a positive attitude about your claim, as well should you) and leave the rest to the professionals.

This will take so little time, you can leave the dog in the car (but roll down the window and don’t forget the water bowl). I can personally attest to the speed and professionalism of these groups and especially the American Legion rep that helped me.

Secondly, any illness you have the VA will treat, whether it is service related or not. However once the VA has assigned a service connected percentage to your claim, your status will be elevated to protect your health care in the future.

Finally, a $30 billion settlement was reached for anyone, service related or not, for compensation in a class action suit. The VA has no part in this settlement. This issue is between you and one of the many law firms handling the claim. Don’t confuse this settlement with a lawsuit, which you have the options of pursuing. If you qualify for a settlement check, the amount is normally a set amount and acceptance ends any further claim against the companies ceases.

Since I am not an attorney and have never played one on TV or the silver screen, I offer no advice, just information concerning your options. It’s important to note that any settlement will not affect your VA benefits.

To decide which is best for you, I suggest using any search engine for the mesothelioma settlement and click away at your own peril. Personally, before making any decision I would consult with my own trusted attorney, but I am not as smart as most.

Another option would be to listen to the drive time radio talk callers who seem to have an endless depth and range of knowledge on almost any subject under the sun. We are lucky to have these well informed members of our community and I am positive they would give you their opinion on this or any other subject.

Veterans who served in any branch of the service when asbestos was used are at risk because this material was used in almost every location where they might have served. Over 300,000 individuals are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year and over 30 percent are veterans. I for one do not think for one second it is a statistical anomaly and this matter is something our congressional delegation might want to spend some time exploring.

I hope this two part series has provided you with enough information to make an informed decision. If you or a loved one is suffering in silence with any of the symptoms, please take the first step and consult your health care provider. Advise them you were at risk due to your military service and have some of the symptoms of mesothelioma. Use your VA benefits because the VA has a long history with this disease.

Until next issue, best wishes and good health to you all.

Mike Dryden is a retired Army Major and current board member of Older Persons Action Group, Inc.