Veterans Exposed to Asbestos: How the Veterans’ Choice Program Extension and Improvement Act Can Help


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Veterans have had their share of misfortune in dealing with the VA health care system in the past years. Despite their right to benefit from support after years of military service, veterans often face long wait times, insufficient resources and delayed claim responses.

In this context, the Veterans’ Choice Program Extension and Improvement Act brings hope for a better access to healthcare. Let’s find out more about this reform and how it benefits veterans who require medical assistance and support in filing a claim for asbestos exposure.

When Was this Bill Passed?

This year, on the 18th of April, the Veterans’ Choice Program Extension and
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Improvement Act was signed by president Trump. The aim of this act is to help veterans gain faster access to medical services. As summarized by president Trump:“this bill will extend and improve the Veterans Choice Program so that more veterans can see the doctor of their choice…and don’t have to wait and travel long distances for VA care.”

This bill is an amendment to the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 which set the program’s deadline in August 2017. With the amended act, the deadline is extended until the remaining resources in the Veterans Choice Fund which amount to $950 are used.

What Changes Does this Act Bring?

First and foremost, this bill extends the funding period in order to ensure that the full amount of money which was allocated to the Veterans Choice Fund are properly expended.

Yet, the most significant change veterans directly experience is ease of access to health care services in the private sector.Instead of seeking assistance at the VA medical center, these people can now go to private facilities and still receive financial support from the VA in covering their medical expenses. Besides the possibility of choosing from a larger array of medical services, under the current bill, veterans will also benefit from a different payment method. They will have their copays and deductible covered by the VA after receiving treatment in the private system. Before this amendment, they had to pay up front after each medical visit and get reimbursed afterward.

Last but not the least, the Veterans’ Choice Program Extension and Improvement Act also aims to reduce the long wait time veterans usually bear at VA medical facilities.

How Does this Act Help Veterans Affected by Asbestos?

Veterans who have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease will probably benefit in various ways from this bill. A significant number of veterans are impacted by asbestos because this toxic mineral was massively used in the military decades ago. This hazardous substance was present everywhere in the military from ships, tanks or aircraft to the buildings and barracks where they were temporarily stationed. Prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers causes irreversible health damage and triggers conditions like asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma, which is a rare and severe cancer form. In fact, statistics show that nearly a third of mesothelioma patients are veterans.

Due to the severity of these conditions, the correlated medical requirements are often hard to meet in VA medical facilities. Asbestos victims need costly and complex investigations which are frequently provided only in private facilities. Furthermore, the number of specialists with solid expertise in this area is reduced and many of them are affiliated with private clinics. Under the new law, asbestos victims will have the possibility to receive assistance directly in private clinics.

When filing a claim for asbestos exposure, veterans were frequently required to wait for a long time before they got an answer from the VA. Then, the waiting period extended furthermore before they actually received their compensation. Hopefully,theVeterans’ Choice Program Extension and Improvement Act will be the solution to eliminating these long delays as well.

Finally, there’s room for hope since the bill is accompanied by a long-term plan that also aims to tackle the issues arising from veterans’ claims, among other aspects.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gregory A. Cade
Mr. Cade is an attorney at Environmental Litigation Group. He has over 20 years of experience in the field of asbestos exposure. He handled thousands of individual and community claims all over the Southeast. Mr. Cade is always driven to help asbestos victims, be it in an occupational, environmental or a class action setting.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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