During the two World Wars, the number of ships increased dramatically, and the US Navy needed products like engines, turbines, pumps, valves, gaskets, pipes, or brake linings for the shipbuilding process. The products were coated with asbestos or contained the mineral in considerable amounts to prevent them from catching fire.
Many companies manufactured and provided these asbestos-containing elements for the US Navy, and none considered the toxic material's devastating impact on health. It is why nowadays, several thousands of veterans suffer from diseases stemming from asbestos exposure.
Service-connected cancers that occur due to inhaling or ingesting the toxic fibers are given a 100 percent disability rating by the VA and awarded with a monthly benefit. However, sometimes even a 100% VA disability rating payment may not be enough compensation. For these situations, there are other VA benefits veterans may qualify for.
Special Monthly Compensation Allows Veterans to Receive Greater Remuneration
The VA rating schedule aims to compensate veterans for reduced earning capacity due to their disability. Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) disability benefits are different because they pay veterans for non-economic losses due to:
- personal inconvenience
- social inadaptability
- the nature of the disability
When specific types of injuries significantly change a veteran's ability to live and function as before military service, regular aid and attendance or daily healthcare services may be needed. The disabilities that qualify a veteran for SMC are:
- anatomic loss or deterioration of using the limbs
- immobility of a joint or paralysis
- anatomic loss or loss of use of a reproductive organ
- total loss or loss of use of both buttocks
- inability to communicate by speech
- paraplegia with loss of bowel and bladder control
- to be housebound, bedridden, or in need of aid from another person
Receiving SMC is conditioned by a rating decision and an award of service connection for disability compensation by the VA.
What Qualifies Veterans for SMC- L?
Veterans rated at 100% service-connected disability and needing aid and attendance can generally apply for an SMC under the category "L." It's important to note that the providing caregiver doesn't have to be a nurse or a medical professional. A veteran can still be eligible for aid and attendance benefits if the person providing care is a family member, a friend, or a neighbor.
However, veterans requiring supervision by a medical professional may become eligible for additional compensation. With SMC - L veterans may receive further financial support, although the higher levels of SMC have stricter requirements. They can still receive the aid and attendance benefit even if their disability compensation is not 100 percent. To qualify for SMC-L, veterans must meet any of the following criteria:
- amputation of one foot and loss of use of the other foot
- amputation of one foot and loss of use of one hand
- amputation of one hand and loss of use of one foot
- amputation of one hand and one foot
- amputation of both feet
Alternatively, veterans may qualify for SMC-L if they have lost the use of:
- both feet
- one hand and one foot
Or, they may be eligible for SMC-L if:
- have lost vision completely
- have lost hearing completely
- are permanently bedridden
- require daily assistance with basic needs
The payment amount of this financial support will differ depending on the level of aid and attendance needed.
Understanding the Levels of Aid and Attendance
The SMC is one of the most complex programs in the VA. It is also a complicated program, given the approximately 60 levels divided into nine letter categories (K-T). Understanding the terminology is essential when applying for an SMC and comparing your disability with the listed requirements and limitations:
- permanently bedridden - incapable of getting out of bed for any reason and moving around, even on a restricted basis
- loss of use - amputation wasn't required, but the use of a limb is lost, and function can't be restored
- aid and attendance - condition is severe enough that it needs the help of another person
It's important to note that being hospitalized for a health condition doesn't meet the "aid and attendance" requirements. Severe circumstances that qualify under the term are the ones when a veteran:
- is mentally or physically incapacitated, and a patient at a nursing home
- requires the assistance of another person to manage and perform basic tasks
- is confined to bed except for taking part in treatment or therapy
Indemnity From Asbestos Trust Funds and VA Benefits for Navy Veterans Exposed to Asbestos
Veterans who served in the US Navy between 1940 and 1980 were most likely exposed to asbestos and should pay close attention to their health, considering that exposure to the tiny asbestos particles is behind life-threatening malignant diseases like:
- pharyngeal cancer
- laryngeal cancer
- bronchial cancer
- lung cancer
- esophageal cancer
- gastrointestinal cancer
- colorectal cancer
- urogenital cancer
Former Navy service members diagnosed with these illnesses qualify for compensation and may file claims if there's a service connection to their malignant disease, and the condition is medically documented.
Many veterans may have yet to be informed about the dangers of asbestos-containing products on the ships and that they were regularly exposed. We offer help by connecting them with legal experts who can assist them in successfully filing for the indemnification they deserve.