As a veteran or the family member of someone who served in the armed forces, you have given enough to this country. From protecting Americans here on home soil to doing tours overseas, military service comes with a huge physical and emotional toll – and that’s before a devastating disease such as mesothelioma.
If you have suffered from exposure to asbestos, therefore, it’s very important that you get the financial and medical help that you deserve. The medical bills, emotional distress, funeral expenses and impact on family members can all stack up. With the right assistance, you as the mesothelioma victim can make things easier on yourself and your family – or, in the case of bereaved family members, easier on other loved ones.
Anyone who has mesothelioma, which is associated only with asbestos exposure, has a significant case for mesothelioma compensation, but veterans have some additional options that others do not. It’s important to be aware of what they are and seek the reparations you deserve today. That starts with knowledge.
What Is Asbestos and How Does Exposure Occur?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral, of which most of us receive extremely small doses every day. However, those who worked in certain industries received high doses of it between the first half of the 20th century and the mid-1970s. When medical research started emerging in the 70s, bans were put in place here in the United States to restrict its use.
Unfortunately, bans were not enacted until later in many countries of the world – and even today, some do not restrict its mining and use. That makes it more possible for military members to come into contact with it than those working in the public or private sectors.
The mineral composition of asbestos is what makes it so dangerous. It forms naturally into long, insulating fibers that are composed of microscopic strands. These strands are highly breakable, and fracture to dust during the handling of asbestos. These particles become airborne when mined, purified, installed, removed, retrofitted, demolished and any other time they’re manipulated – and can then be inhaled.
Because of this, workers in a huge variety of industries and situations may receive exposure. Common military environments include:
- Ships and shipyards
- Submarines and docking station
- Power plants
- Construction and demolition of buildings or ships
- Carpentry, flooring, roofing, plumbing, insulating and more
Oregon State University Environmental Health and Safety points out that “Asbestos is most hazardous when it is friable. The term ‘friable’ means that the asbestos is easily crumbled by hand, releasing fibers into the air. Sprayed on asbestos insulation is highly friable. Asbestos floor tile is not.”
Therefore it’s important to avoid any situation where one is contacting friable asbestos, or destroying/working on non-friable materials. And, more relevant in this case, to know if you’ve been in such situations. You can obtain this information from your service records or by speaking with VA.
How Does Asbestos Cause Cancer?
When asbestos fibers are released into the air, they enter the lungs of workers. Because they are made of the same materials as glass, they embed and cannot be destroyed by the body. Instead, they remain there and fester over decades, sometimes as much as 40-50 years before disease is noted. Their presence causes thickening of the lung tissue, and also act carcinogenically, causing genetic changes that eventually lead to cancer – or more specifically, mesothelioma.
Note that mesothelioma and lung cancer are not the same thing. While the two are commonly confused, the latter affects only the tissue of the lung, while mesothelioma affects the lining of the lungs or other organs (called the mesothelium). The lining of the lungs, or pleura, is most commonly affected. However, abdominal mesothelium may also become cancerous, and the tissue surrounding the heart or testicles may be affected in rare cases. Common symptoms include:
- Pain and tightness in the chest
- Difficulty breathing and swallowing
- Swelling of the face and arms
- Rounding and bulging of the fingertips and toes (called “clubbing”)
- Chest and abdominal pain (in the case of non-lung mesothelioma)
No matter which type of mesothelioma you develop as a result of military service, you have options.
What Are the Qualifications for Claims Assistance from VA?
The requirements for getting help from the Veterans Association are fairly straightforward: you must have come into contact with asbestos while serving, and you must not have been dishonorably discharged.
Unfortunately, says the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, there are quite a few situations in which exposure might have occurred: “If you served in Iraq or other countries in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, you may have had contact with asbestos when old buildings got damaged, releasing toxic chemicals into the air. Or, you may have had contact with asbestos if you worked in certain jobs or settings, like shipyards, construction, or vehicle repair.”
In order to submit a claim, you must provide the following pieces of information: “Medical records that state your illness or disability, and service records that list your job or specialty, and a doctor’s statement that there’s a connection between your contact with asbestos during military service and the illness or disability.”
Here is a detailed to filing your claim with VA, as well as what to expect after you submit it.
How Can You Get Claims Assistance from Non-Military Employers?
Many service members, once they completed their service, moved into the private or public sector. Unfortunately, neither of these sectors was any safer than the military during the heyday of asbestos use. Many undertook similar work to their military years, which might mean you went straight from one asbestos-containing environment to another.
You have options in this case as well. Working with an attorney, you can file for a settlement or an award in court. The first is when a company pays you an amount of money to avoid going to trial, and the latter is an amount awarded by judge or jury in the courtroom. Because asbestos is such a well-known medical harm today, most plaintiffs do not have trouble receiving compensation.
Work with a Mesothelioma Attorney
Even though you do not have to take legal action to file a claim with VA, that’s not necessarily the end of the story. You may still need a lawyer if you must:
- Fight a government decision not to award you compensation
- Pursue compensation outside of the military
For that reason, it’s important to get a legal consultation as soon as possible. Your attorney can help you make contingency plans for the above situations and others, so don’t wait to get in touch with our team today.
- When Is Asbestos Dangerous? (2019). Retrieved from https://ehs.oregonstate.edu/asb-when
- Veterans Asbestos Exposure. (ND). Retrieved from https://www.va.gov/disability/eligibility/hazardous-materials-exposure/asbestos/
- How to File a VA Disability Claim. (ND). Retrieved from https://www.va.gov/disability/how-to-file-claim/
- Does Mesothelioma Cancer Cause a Cough? (2019). Retrieved from https://www.mesolawsuitafterdeath.com/mesothelioma/does-mesothelioma-cancer-cause-a-cough/