Navy Veterans With Mesothelioma

The U.S military used asbestos containing materials extensively from 1930 to 1980. This toxic material was used in virtually all the infrastructure of the military especially in ships that were mostly used by the Navy and the Coast Guard. As such, veterans who served in the U.S Navy and the Coast Guard have a higher risk of developing mesothelioma. These service men usually served in shipyards and ships where asbestos-related operations were prevalent.

How the Navy and the Coast Guard are affected by asbestos and mesothelioma

Although asbestos was used in virtually all U.S military branches for insulation and other purposes, the Navy and the Coast Guard were the primary asbestos users from the 1930s to the late1970s. Actually, every shipyard and ship that was used by the Coast Guard and the Navy at this time had a wide range of asbestos containing materials.

Commonly used asbestos containing materials included brakes, gaskets, valves, ropes, insulation, ceiling, walls, flooring, sound proofing, fire and heat-proofing materials, adhesives, and pipe covering, among others.

These toxic materials posed a serious threat to those working with them directly as well as Coast Guard and Naval officers. Asbestos containing materials were found in boiler rooms, engine rooms, sleeping quarters, shipyards, navigation rooms, and mess halls. Ships that had asbestos containing materials included amphibious ships, battleships, airships and aircraft carriers, cruisers, auxiliary ships, submarines, minesweepers, escort aircraft carriers, frigates, patrol boats as well as destroyer escorts and destroyers.

Although the U.S Navy and the Coast Guard serve different functions, their ships and work environments posed the same level of asbestos exposure. Thus, all these environments and materials pose the same level of asbestos exposure as well as the risk of developing mesothelioma to both the Navy and Coast Guard veterans.

Why the Navy were affected by asbestos

Inside the ships, veterans or sailors occupied tight spaces. They could stay in enclosed areas like the engine rooms and boiler rooms for up to several months. When working on the components of the ships, mechanics had to deal with asbestos containing materials routinely. Such materials include pipes, valve’s and gaskets. Consequently, these materials would release the toxic airborne asbestos fibers into these tight spaces. Once released, asbestos fibers remained in the air for hours thereby being inhaled by the Naval officers as well as the mechanics.

In the shipyards, operations like decommissioning, overhauling and building of ships, led to massive releases of asbestos fibers into the air. These airborne fibers remained in the air for hours thereby being inhaled by the people that worked there.
Additionally, exteriors of the components of Coast Guard and Navy ships that had asbestos wore down as they age. That means asbestos-containing materials became brittle and they could easily release their toxic fibers to the surrounding air even with slight disturbance.

Are the Navy and Coast Guard officers safe now?

Although the peak of asbestos use in shipbuilding was between the 1930s and 1970s, the U.S military continued its use for certain purposes. That means asbestos exposure continued for the Navy and Coast Guard offers.

Additionally, though the U.S military has reduced its use of asbestos over the recent decades, asbestos industry in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and other war-torn nations is booming. That’s because these countries are still using low-cost materials in rebuilding their infrastructure. For instance, many Middle East countries still use asbestos in manufacturing their shipbuilding products. This clearly shows that the U.S Navy and Coast Guard officers are still not safe since they are facing the risk of occupational exposure to asbestos.

Asbestos containing materials are also found in the building and housing structures around the bases of the Coast Guard and the Navy. That’s why Coast Guard members are required to append their signatures on a contract for the Disclosure of Environmental Health Hazards in Coast Guard Housing when relocating to structures that were constructed before 1981.

It’s important to note that although the U.S Navy stopped using asbestos containing materials in shipbuilding in the 1970s, vessels that had asbestos were still in use several years after their production was stopped. Again, even in the 1990s, the U.S Navy could sell off its older ships to civilians that needed scrap materials. Usually, these ships were sold to ports yet workers in these ports were not trained properly to handle asbestos-containing materials. This has led to further, needless asbestos exposure not just to the Navy and the Coast Guard, but also to the civilians.

Available benefits for the Coast Guard and the Navy veterans

Mesothelioma presents itself 20 to 50 years after asbestos exposure. That means the U.S Coast Guard and Navy veterans especially those who served during the World War II, Vietnam War, Korean War, Afghanistan War and Iraq war are at a higher risk of developing mesothelioma.

Today, there are about 22 million U.S veterans that had asbestos exposure at some point while serving in the military. Some of these will eventually develop asbestos-related diseases while others are already suffering from mesothelioma. Fortunately, several benefits for the U.S military veterans are available for the U.S Coast Guard and Navy veterans. This implies that those suffering from mesothelioma or any other asbestos-related illness can seek compensation via the Department of Veterans Affairs.

This department operates several programs that offer medical, financial and other forms of help to veterans. For veterans that received general or honorable discharge, there are four benefit programs.

These are:

  • Disability Compensation

This refers to a monthly benefit that is based on the disability level of the veteran. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, disability level ranges from 0 to 100%. Veterans with higher rate or percentage of disability receive more compensation. Mesothelioma and other cancers are considered as 100% disability rate and veterans with this rating qualify for a maximum benefit that starts at $2,800. The benefit can increase on the basis of the number of the dependents of the veteran.

  • Dependency and Indemnity Compensation

This is a monthly benefit that is paid to a surviving spouse of the veteran that died of a service-related disability. This benefit is usually $1,195. The spouse of a veteran that was receiving Disability Compensation for asbestos-related cancer or mesothelioma at the time of his/her death should file a DIC claim. Spouse of a veteran that was not receiving any service-related compensation can still be eligible for this benefit as long as they can produce information that relates to the veterans exposure to asbestos.

  • Health care

Health care benefit eligibility depends on several priorities that include income levels and service-related disabilities. However, special circumstances are also considered. A veteran with an asbestos-related illness can have an enrollment that is tied to the determination of the relationship between the service and income level. VA considers two income limits. These are the Geographical-Adjusted Income Threshold and the National Income Threshold. Qualifying for this benefit under the category of income level may require health services co-pays.

  • Special Monthly Compensation

This is a benefit that is given to housebound veterans, bedridden veterans or veterans that are disabled to a level where they need attendance or help of another person. Parents and spouses of the veterans can also qualify for this benefit. The SMC amount that is awarded depends on the attendance and aid that is required. However, it usually ranges between $250 and $650 per month.

Navy and Coast Guard veterans that have been affected by asbestos

Almost every ship that was used by the U.S Navy and the Coast Guard from 1930 to 1970 had asbestos. As such, many veterans that lived their lives defending their country came home after years of asbestos exposure only to die from the effects of this toxic material.

According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, 4,000,000 veterans are receiving compensation while 380,000 survivors are receiving death benefits. Currently, VA is paying $60.17 billion as death and compensation benefits every year.

Today, 30% of mesothelioma patients are veterans who served in the U.S military. And, although veterans in all branches of the U.S military are at the risk of developing this disease, the Navy and the Coast Guard have been reporting the highest mesothelioma incidences.

Important things that present day Navy veterans should know

It’s important for present day Navy veterans to know that before asbestos use was regulated by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, shipbuilders used asbestos in different applications. Officers that served in the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as other countries where older buildings and ships were damaged may have also been exposed to asbestos.

Therefore, present day Coast Guard and Navy Veterans should be keen on possible signs of asbestos-related illnesses such as mesothelioma. Mesothelioma symptoms mimic those of respiratory problems like chronic coughing or common colds. Therefore, important for veterans with a history of, or a possibility of asbestos exposure to talk to their doctors, oncologists or mesothelioma specialists immediately. This will ensure that any possible health complications that relate to asbestos get identified and that the proper action takes place immediately.

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