A mesothelioma diagnosis can be devastating, but you don’t have to deal with it alone. Many groups and organizations offer different types of support for patients with mesothelioma and their families. Finding and accessing those supports, though, can seem daunting when you’re already in the midst of dealing with the upheaval that comes with being diagnosed with mesothelioma. These are a few of the important supports available, and advice and tips on accessing them.
The three most important types of financial support for patients going through treatment and after treatment for mesothelioma are government programs, veterans’ benefits and legal compensation. Each of these have different standards of proof and application processes. Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security can help pay for treatment or provide basic income to help support yourself and your family. Many hospitals and treatment centers have patient financial advocates that will even help you through the application process for each of them.
Veterans, especially veterans of the U.S. Navy, make up a disproportionate percentage of people diagnosed with mesothelioma because of the widespread use of asbestos in furnace rooms and on board ship. Veterans who are diagnosed with mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos during the tour of duty qualify for special benefits through the Veterans Administration. Those with an approved VA claim for mesothelioma qualify for disability compensation, special monthly compensation and service-connected death benefits for surviving family members. In addition, they are entitled to free treatment at any VA facility, and free travel for veterans who want to access mesothelioma care at the Los Angeles or Greater Boston VA health care systems, which specialize in treatment for mesothelioma.
Asbestos was widely used in manufacturing before the 1970s. A series of lawsuits against asbestos manufacturers exposed that those manufacturers had not only lied about and hidden the hazards of working with asbestos, but that they had deliberately withheld simple safety measures that may have reduced the risks of exposure. Because of their egregious behavior and the widespread nature of it, the courts have set up special trusts and funds to pay out compensation to people who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma provided by certain businesses. The process for establishing a claim for compensation is complicated, but there are many lawyers and advocates who specialize in helping people prepare and submit the paperwork to be compensated under those settlements. Generally, the rules of the settlement establish fixed amounts of compensation based on the type and extent of the diagnosed cancer.
In most cases, it is to your benefit to at least contact a lawyer to find out if you may qualify for compensation.
Travel and Flight Help for Mesothelioma Patients
If you live far from a cancer treatment center that offers an approved treatment, there are organizations that will help with your travel or flight expenses. One of the best known is the Corporate Angel Network, whose sole mission is to get people who need cancer treatment to the treatment centers that offer the treatments they need. The organization connects patients with empty seats on private flights that are flying to the destination of an approved cancer treatment center. In order to qualify, a patient must meet specific conditions:
- They must be a cancer patient, a bone marrow donor or recipient, or a stem cell donor or recipient
- They must be traveling to an appointment for treatment, a consultation or a follow-up appointment
- They must be traveling to certain recognized cancer treatment centers or hospitals
- They must be ambulatory and able to board the plane without assistance
- They must not require medical assistance, including oxygen and IV medication while they are on the plane
- If there is a seat available, they may also bring an adult companion with them.
Learn more about the program at the Corporate Angels website.
Housing family members who travel with a mesothelioma patient can be expensive, but the expense shouldn’t bar someone from accessing treatment. Most cancer treatment centers provide some arrangement for family residence while a family member is an inpatient for cancer treatment. Check with the treatment center you’re considering to find out what options they offer for lodging while you or a family member is undergoing treatment. Members of the military also have the option of staying in a Fisher House, Among other things, Fisher House provides housing for military families when a family member is receiving medical treatment far from home.
Other support services exist for many different needs. Your treatment center, medical team or the social services office at your hospital can put you in touch with support groups and local groups that offer special services for people dealing with mesothelioma and other cancers. In many communities, for example, there are cleaning services who donate their time to provide house cleaning services for people living with mesothelioma, and Lipstick Angels, based in Los Angeles, CA, provides beauty services and information on cosmetics and toiletries that are especially suitable for patients undergoing cancer treatment.
Whatever your need is, there’s a good chance someone out there can help you access it. Your most valuable resource and ally is your cancer treatment team, including the social services office of your hospital or treatment center.