Mesothelioma and the Military

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Asbestos was –and still is – used for numerous purposes including insulation, concrete, and ship building.  Of the many different sectors to use asbestos, the military was one of the largest over the past decades. There was even a mandate for the prevalent usage of asbestos in the US military because of the material’s qualities like heat resistance and durability.  Asbestos usage in the military was eventually phased out in the 1970s but not before it took its toll: approximately 30% of all patients diagnosed with mesothelioma are veterans.

Veterans who served in the military from WWII to the 1970s are at the greatest risk of asbestos exposure.  In addition, veterans receiving vaccines in the 1950s and 1960s that were accidentally contaminated with the Simian Virus 40 are now suspected of being at risk of developing mesothelioma.1 Of the veterans, Navy veterans are particularly at risk. This is because asbestos was frequently used in shipbuilding and virtually every area of a Navy ship had asbestos.  Also, Navy recruits mainly lived on ships where they could be constantly exposed to asbestos, thus increasing the likelihood of mesothelioma.

Unfortunately, veterans were exposed to asbestos in many ways besides shipbuilding. For example, they were involved in the demolition of old buildings containing asbestos and worked on many military vehicles that had asbestos in friction products like brake linings. In fact, a lot of military equipment and buildings contained and contains asbestos putting veterans at risk of developing mesothelioma. WWII veterans were regularly exposed to the asbestos types called crocidolite and amosite.

However, veterans of all branches of the military from these time periods are at risk of mesothelioma as well as other asbestos diseases. Recent studies have also researched veterans and world war participants who were exposed to asbestos around the world during the last major wars because of asbestos released by the bombing of ships manufactured with asbestos. The long latency of mesothelioma means that many people exposed to this dangerous mineral don’t understand the potential fatal consequences until cancer has spread.2

 Compensation for Veterans for Asbestos Diseases 

Veterans who have asbestos-related diseases can receive benefits through Veterans Affairs.  As of the current time, Veterans Affairs does acknowledge mesothelioma as a medical disease linked to military service.3 The U.S. government recognizes that health problems related to asbestos include asbestosis, pleural plaques and cancer or malignant mesothelioma. However, this does not mean that all veterans will receive benefits automatically for mesothelioma. Veterans can contact a government Environmental Health Coordinator, but many choose to retain a private attorney experienced in mesothelioma claims.  There are disability compensation benefits available but you have to proved you were exposed and that the exposure led to your illness. That can be difficult to do since it takes decades for mesothelioma to develop.

Filing a claim for mesothelioma benefits can be problematic for many older veterans because the disease has such a long latency period.  Veterans exposed to asbestos in the 1970s are likely just now experiencing symptoms.  As part of the claims process, they will be required to account for their exposure to asbestos in detail – something very difficult when the exposure occurred 40 years ago. In order to receive benefits, you will further need to provide evidence that at least 50% of the asbestos exposure you experienced in your life was during active duty. Clearly, it can be difficult to prove a claim without legal assistance.

Did You Expose Your Family?

Family members of veterans may also be eligible for benefits due to mesothelioma.  This is because exposure to asbestos could have occurred when the military serviceman/woman brought the asbestos home on clothing or other items. Even if a veteran or family members are unable to receive benefits from the military, they still may be able to receive compensation from asbestos manufactures.  An experienced mesothelioma lawyer can help you find out your options and file a claim.

Though you can attempt to file a government claim for asbestos, the difficulties you may face can delay collecting the compensation and disability due you. Since the prognosis is poor once mesothelioma presents itself, the last thing you need is having to deal with years of government red tape. An attorney experienced in mesothelioma claims who is already familiar with the government claims process can potentially shorten the timeframe from claim to benefits approval. It’s your life and your health at stake.

References

Rollison1, D. E. M., William F. Page, Harriet Crawford, Gloria Gridley, Sholom Wacholder, Jennifer Martin, Richard Miller and Eric A. Engels. Case-Control Study of Cancer among US Army Veterans Exposed to Simian Virus 40-contaminated Adenovirus Vaccine. (2004) American Journal of Epidemiology, v160:4. 317-324, doi: 10.1093/aje/kwh212.

 Hedly-Whyte, J. and Milamed, D. R. (Sept 2008) Asbestos and Ship-Building: Fatal Consequences. The Ulster Medical Society, v 77:3, 191-200. 

3 Occupational and Environmental Exposures: Asbestos (2011) Retrieved from the Department of Veterans Affairs at: http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/occupational_environmental/asbestos.asp