Veterans Diagnosed with Mesothelioma

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Many Veterans have Mesothelioma

Among the many tragic statistics associated with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases, one that stands out is the high representation of American veterans among mesothelioma victims. As a result of the military's extensive use of asbestos between 1930 and 1980, roughly 30% of people diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma served in the Navy, Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.

Long before the government was made aware that asbestos was carcinogenic, the military administration used it heavily in the construction of ships, buildings, vehicles, and aircraft. There were many reasons for this, including the low cost and availability, but the most crucial reason for its use was its ability to resist heat and protect against fire. The irony is that the material the government relied upon to protect its service men and women on the battlefield ended up causing significant harm years after.

The service members who were most impacted by exposure to asbestos were those who served onboard ships. Many other work responsibilities in the shipyards that built those vessels also put veterans at risk. These included:

  • Mining
  • Roofing and flooring installation
  • Pipefitting
  • Boiler work
  • Working with insulation
  • Demolition
  • Vehicle repair and maintenance
  • Construction of military equipment and structures

Many of the veterans who have been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma or asbestos-related lung cancer served during World War II. Their symptoms began appearing in the late 20th century, and many are still being diagnosed in these elderly veterans. Mesothelioma physicians are anticipating another surge in mesothelioma diagnoses among veterans who served during the Vietnam War in the late 1960s and early 1970s before asbestos was removed from military assets.

Veterans Benefits

The VA has recognized asbestos-related diseases as service-connected conditions: It provides benefits to veterans with diagnoses of malignant mesothelioma, asbestosis, pleural effusion, pleural plaques, and asbestos-related lung cancer. These benefits include VA Health Care at any VA health facility, monthly Disability Compensation, and monthly Dependency and indemnity Compensation for the surviving spouses of veterans who died from their service-connected condition. The compensation available to veterans with asbestos-related diseases varies and is dependent upon factors including the veterans' income level, the severity of their symptoms or disability, the number of dependents that they have, and the evidence that their illness is service-related.

The VA has established mesothelioma as being 100% disabling, creating a monthly benefit that ranges from $3,737.85 for single veterans with no dependents to $4280.77 for veterans with a spouse and two parents. Additional benefits are paid for each child. The monthly benefit for a spouse of a veteran who has died of mesothelioma starts at $1,562.74, with adjustments made for each dependent child. The VA also provides burial benefits, access to clinical trials, and special monthly compensation for veterans who are so disabled by asbestos illnesses that they can't live independently, are bedridden, or cannot leave the house.

Filing a VA Claim

There is significant paperwork required to obtain VA benefits. The government requires evidence of discharge from your military branch, a summary of your asbestos exposure, and evidence from medical professionals documenting that your service in the military led to the exposure that caused your illness. Danziger & De Llano can help you identify the source of your asbestos exposure and connect you with lawyers or claim agents accredited by the VA to help veterans with this confusing, labor-intensive process.

We can also help you determine whether you are eligible to seek additional compensation from the companies that supplied asbestos materials to the military. You may be eligible to file a claim with one or more of the Asbestos Trust Funds or to file a mesothelioma lawsuit against those companies that still exist and whose products you were exposed to during your service.

Navy Veterans

Out of all the military branches, veterans of the U.S. Navy have the highest rate of mesothelioma. This results from the extensive use of asbestos in fabricating Navy vessels built in the 20th century. These vessels include:

  • Auxiliary ships
  • Battleships
  • Cruisers
  • Destroyers
  • Aircraft carriers
  • Submarines
  • Minesweepers

Between the substance-insulating pipes, boilers, and engines in ships' boiler rooms and engine rooms, pumps, valves, and gaskets containing asbestos, and the poor ventilation characteristic of these ships, sailors were constantly exposed to airborne asbestos fibers. Veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma recount clouds of asbestos dust filling the air over living and eating quarters when their ships' guns fired.

Navy veterans at the highest risk for mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases are those who worked in jobs that put them closest to contaminated equipment. These include:

  • Boiler room workers
  • Pump maintenance workers
  • Electricians
  • Laggers
  • Machinists
  • Pipefitters
  • Gunner’s mates
  • Damage controlmen
  • Firefighters
  • Maintenance technicians
  • Welders
  • Water tenders

Shipyard workers, whether military or civilian, were also at significant risk of asbestos exposure from their work constructing or repairing ships. Many of the materials that they worked with were heavily contaminated with asbestos, including:

  • Adhesives
  • Fireproofing textiles
  • Firefighting gear
  • Safety gear
  • Insulation
  • Heat paneling
  • Gaskets
  • Packing materials
  • Paint
  • Flooring and ceiling tiles
  • Pumps
  • Valves
  • Paneling
  • Electric cables

Though veterans who left the military were no longer exposed to asbestos on their ships, many went on to careers built on the experience and skills they learned during service. These jobs often had similar exposure to what they had suffered during service, exacerbating their exposure history.

Army Veterans

Military veterans in the U.S. Army were exposed to asbestos in fireproofing materials, gaskets and valves, brakes, and engine parts in vehicles and aircraft. Those at the most significant risk were the mechanics, electricians, and welders who maintained and repaired these assets. Other exposures came from soldiers' living quarters, constructed with asbestos-containing flooring, insulation, drywall, ceiling tiles, and cement. Members of the Army Corps of Engineers and others responsible for building Army structures were at particular risk, as were any service members accountable for pipe fitting, welding insulation work, installation of equipment, or demolition for any other projects.

Marine Corps Veterans

Marine Corps veterans who served in the military before the 1980s had numerous exposure risks during their service. These included coming into contact with asbestos on ships, vehicles, and aircraft. Ships walls and panels, as well as the bedding and clothing that military members used daily, were often fabricated with asbestos to protect against fire, and insulation of the ships' electrical wires, pipes, ducts, boilers, and engine room components was heavily reliant upon asbestos. Brake pads in vehicles and insulation in tanks and other armored vehicles were all made with asbestos, putting mechanics, gunners, and anyone responsible for repairs at special risk. Marines who worked in shipyards were also at risk for exposure to asbestos during vessel repair and construction.

Regarding asbestos exposure, bases, and barracks were among the most dangerous military assets: The Yuma Marine Corps Air Station in Arizona was so heavily contaminated that it was listed as a Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency. Other problematic bases included Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base and El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.

Air Force Veterans

Asbestos exposure was an everyday occurrence for those who served in the U.S. Air Force. The aircraft used by the military during the 1940s were strengthened and insulated with asbestos, making them resistant to heat, fire, and corrosion. Though the material was meant to protect the service members, when they were exposed to its fibers and inhaled, their life was put at risk from a different threat. Those who did repair or electrical work on aircraft engines or brakes had the most significant risk of exposure to the carcinogenic material.

Coast Guard Veterans

As with Navy veterans, veterans of the U.S. Coast Guard were at significant risk of asbestos exposure as a result of the time they spent onboard heavily contaminated ships. Asbestos was relied upon for strength, insulation, and fire and heat resistance in ship construction during the 20th century. Asbestos was found throughout the Coast Guard's ships, from the insulation of boilers, pipes, and ducts to the engine room's ducts, pumps, and turbines. Many ships were coated with spray-on asbestos to add fireproofing, and ropes and safety gloves were made with the toxic substance.

Many of the shipyards used by the Coast Guard for shipbuilding and repair made such heavy use of asbestos that they had to be shut down by the Environmental Protection Agency due to asbestos contamination.

The Coast Guard members who are most at risk for being diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease are those who worked in boiler rooms and shipyards, as well as those responsible for renovation and demolition.

Assistance for Veterans

If you are a military veteran and you have been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, asbestosis, or any other asbestos-related disease, the attorneys at Danziger & De Llano are here to help you get the justice and respect that you deserve. For assistance filing a claim with the VA and to learn about other options available, contact us today.