Veterans With Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other respiratory problems have been linked to being exposed to asbestos. Asbestos had been used for almost 100 hundred years in industries such as manufacturing, construction, and shipbuilding. Over time, the fibers in asbestos that are airborne, will accumulate in the lungs and cause scarring. Breathing becomes more difficult and often leads to cancer. It can be 10 to 50 years after exposure that the first symptoms appear. Almost every branch of the Armed Forces used asbestos until the 1970’s.
It was used in vehicles, ships and aircraft because it was highly regarded for its resistance to heat as well as its fire-proofing capabilities. It also exposed thousands of veterans to exposure which has resulted in asbestos related illnesses. The group highest at risk are veterans who served during the years from 1940 to 1980.
Military Veterans make up almost a third of all legal cases in addition to those who qualify for special benefits from the Veterans Administration.
Exposure By Military Branch.
Air force bases and military air craft used asbestos heavily and exposed many serving at the time to its deadly fibers. The Air Force also used it for its great ability to resist heat and its affordability. Not only did the Air Force use asbestos in its military bases, it was also heavily used in planes and radar stations. There are many Air Force occupations that likely put service members at risk for exposure to asbestos. Some of these include, aircraft mechanics, vehicle mechanics, aircraft electricians, welders, environmental support specialists and boiler workers. Most anyone who worked as a contractor and was in construction, electrical work or asbestos abatement was highly exposed. Air Force bases were heavily contaminated with asbestos and tons of asbestos containing materials have been disposed of since 2004. Planes used asbestos to protect the aircraft from heat and fire. It was used in the brakes, cockpit, engine heat shields, gaskets, and electrical wiring just to name a few. Air Force mechanics were at a high risk of exposure since they were more likely to breathe in the fibers as they worked on the aircraft. The Air Force has been proactive in trying to eliminate the exposure to asbestos throughout its entire branch of service.
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Army veterans who recently served in Iraq and other countries who still import asbestos to use in construction,are at risk for mesothelioma as are any who were stationed at approximately 32 Army installations. Even though the use of asbestos stopped in the late 70’s, the fibers remained in the walls and floors for decades after exposing every new batch of soldiers to the deadly disease. Army veterans especially should know what symptoms to be aware of and learn about where they could have been exposed to the fibers. For example, asbestos was used all throughout the buildings where soldiers ate, worked, and slept. It was used in caulking, roofing, the plumbing system and vehicles.
Marines are also at risk for developing the deadly disease from being exposed to asbestos related conditions during their service. The Marines were exposed to the airplanes, ships and armored vehicle’s that contained toxic asbestos fibers. Because the Marine Corps worked with the Navy, the Marines were exposed during their travel on Naval Ships which drastically increased their exposure. On land, every military installation contained thousands of asbestos containing products. Flooring tiles, roofing materials, ceiling materials, and insulation are just a few of the places this heat resistant insulation was used. Other places include bedding and piping around sleeping areas, and military vehicles.
Veterans who served in the Navy have the highest risk of developing asbestos related illnesses, including mesothelioma. Navy ships were filled with toxic asbestos because of outstanding fire proofing properties. The concern about asbestos was brought to light in 1939 by a Navy surgeon general, but those in command ignored any concerns as the need to build and protect ships and submarines grew. Although the Navy stopped using asbestos in their ships in the early 70’s, the ships remained in use for several years afterward. Asbestos could be found in Engine rooms, weapons and ammunition storage areas, boiler rooms and anywhere else that need protection from heat. It was also used to cover pipes and pumps and even in the walls and the floors. As asbestos ages, it becomes brittle, and even a slight disturbance will cause the fibers to go airborne. The contamination wasn’t limited to ships. Shipyards and barracks built around World War ll were heavily insulated with asbestos.
The Coast Guard service members fall under the same status as the Navy as they were heavily exposed to asbestos on the ships. Coast Guard personal should also know what the signs of mesothelioma are and be prepared to seek assistance if they believe they have been exposed.
Benefits Available For Veterans With Mesothelioma.
Thirty percent of all mesothelioma diagnosis are veterans. The military’s extensive use of asbestos until the 1970’s exposed thousands of soldiers, some of who are only now having symptoms of the disease.
The fire resistant material was used to protect service men and women from the hazards of fire related deaths on aircraft, military vehicles and in barracks. The exposure was largely unintentional as the risks of exposure were first unknown, and then later companies did not disclose that the items they were selling to the military were made with asbestos.
The Veterans Administration has recognized the connection between the exposure to asbestos and mesothelioma. Veterans are entitled to compensation which can help pay for their treatment as well as improve their quality of life. They are also entitled to medical benefits and medical treatment from the VA. The amount of compensation the VA will pay is determined by a “disability scale”. This scale rates the veterans level of disability from 0 (least disabling) to 100 (most disabling). Mesothelioma is always rated as 100 percent disabling.
In order to access your compensation if you are a veteran, you must file a claim with the VA.
Filing a Claim with the Veterans Administration
If you are a veteran and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you are entitled to compensation. In order to file a claim, there are 3 criteria that must be met:
- You must have been honorably discharged from a branch of the United States Military
- You must have been exposed to asbestos during service
- You must have a service connected disease or disability related to the exposure of asbestos.
Once the criteria has been met, the veteran must convince the Veterans Administration that the disease was likely a result of exposure to asbestos during active duty. This is accomplished through an exposure summary. An exposure summary is a history of military jobs, civilian work history and discharge status. An attorney can streamline this process for you very easily. There are also many qualified professionals that work with veterans and assist them in completing these forms.
Aside from servicemen and women, other members of the military may also be eligible including Public Health Service commissioned officers, Environmental Sciences Services Administration, or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
What Benefits Does The VA Offer?
The VA will pay tax free disability compensation every month. The amount of compensation received will depend on the veteran’s disability level. Mesothelioma and other related cancers have a disability of a 100 percent. The veteran’s compensation benefit rate for mesothelioma begins at approximately $2,800 a month and may increase depending on the number of dependents the veteran has.
Additionally, the VA also provides health care services, Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, and Special Monthly Compensation.
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation or DIC is a monthly benefit that is available to the surviving spouse of a veteran who died from a service connected disability. This benefit is 1,195 per month.
In order for a spouse to receive this benefit, he/she must file a DIC claim. This must be filed even if the veteran was already receiving compensation for mesothelioma prior to their death.
To file a VA claim for asbestos-related disability compensation, veterans can have their clam adjudicated by standard processing rules, or they can file a claim that is expedited under the “fully developed claim” rules.
For assistance in filing a claim for VA benefits, you should contact a Veterans Service Representative. These are people that are skilled at working with the VA and are available to assist you free of charge. It can be tedious, confusing and frustrating trying to file a claim with the VA. Since most representatives are experienced at dealing with the VA, you stand a much higher chance of success.
Additionally, utilizing the assistance of a Service Representative, leaves you and your family less stressed, and with peace of mind.
Special Monthly Compensation
Special Monthly Compensation is a benefit that is paid monthly to veterans who are bedridden, disabled or housebound to a degree that they are dependent on assistance for their care. This is also available to spouses and the parents of veterans. The amount of compensation received depends on how much assistance the veteran requires. Generally the benefit is from $250 to $650 per month.
Health Care Services
Health care is provided to qualifying veterans at several VA treatment facilities across the country. Some VA centers will offer specialized care for mesothelioma patients. Boston VA Healthcare System and Greater Los Angeles A Healthcare System both offer specialized mesothelioma services.
- Compensation. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Retrieved From: http://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/. Retrieved on 3/22/16.
- Pension. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Retrieved From: http://www.benefits.va.gov/pension/vetpen.asp. Retrieved on 3/22/16.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2014, December). Department of Veterans Affairs Statistics at a Glance. Retrieved fromhttp://www.va.gov/vetdata/docs/Quickfacts/Homepage_slideshow_09_30_14.pdf Retrieved on 3/22/16.
- War Related Illness & Injury Study Center. (2013, August). Exposure to Asbestos. Retrieved from http://www.warrelatedillness.va.gov/education/factsheets/asbestos-exposure.pdf Retrieved on 3/22/16.
- Cramer, T. (2014, August 4). Hope for veterans with asbestos-related cancer. Retrieved from http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/14948/hope-for-veterans-with-asbestos-related-cancer/ Retrieved on 3/22/16.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2015, August 18). Asbestos and Mesothelioma. Retrieved fromhttp://www.boston.va.gov/services/surgical/Asbestos_and_Mesothelioma.asp Retrieved on 3/22/16.