At the recent National VFW Convention in St. Louis, I had the privilege of speaking with hundreds of veterans. Many had questions about whether their Veterans Administration (VA) benefits would be at risk if they were to pursue legal action within the civil justice system.
The short answer is: No, the benefits are not at risk. Veterans’ well-earned VA benefits are independent of the legal rights they have as U.S. citizens.
It is an important distinction because veterans should understand that any compensation they may receive as a result of asbestos litigation is completely separate from their VA benefits. Put another way, any settlement a veteran may receive in no way cuts into or reduces his or her VA benefits.
Veterans Have Legal Rights Both Within the VA and Outside It
It is unfortunate that many servicemen and servicewomen were exposed to asbestos in the course of duty. In fact, a full one-third of all mesothelioma cases are linked to exposure that occurred in U.S. Navy ships or shipyards.
While we can’t undo the damage that’s been done, we can make sure each and every veteran knows the warning signs of an asbestos-related disease and that all are aware of their legal rights.
An estimated $30 Billion has been set aside by the courts to compensate those with an asbestos-related disease, whether it is service-related or not. This includes veterans who were exposed to asbestos during their military service and civilians who were exposed to asbestos through work in construction, roofing, brake manufacturing or any of the other trades that once put workers at higher risk of asbestos exposure.
For example, if a veteran is diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease such as mesothelioma or lung cancer and the illness is not recognized by the VA as “service related,” the veteran still has options.
Civil Justice System Is for Everyone
As a veteran, you have benefits under the VA. As a citizen, you have rights under the civil justice system, which exists to protect victims and to make those responsible for wrongdoing accountable for their actions. With asbestos-related diseases, it is not the military that is being held accountable, but rather those manufacturers that knowingly used asbestos in their products and then sold those products to the military and elsewhere, putting veterans and civilians alike at risk.
Justice Is Your Right
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, seek justice now. Claims you make will not be against the military, but rather against the manufacturers of the asbestos-containing products responsible for your illness. Any settlement you are awarded will not affect your VA benefits and will in no way interfere with any compensation that may be coming to you through the VA.