Asbestos-related mesothelioma has been a known and growing health issue for years, forcing changes in the commercial and residential construction industries. Yet, tens of thousands of America’s military servicemen and servicewomen remain at risk because so many of the nation’s military facilities and Navy ships were built prior to 1970. Though much of the asbestos has been removed from military buildings and vessels, traces may remain, and the health effects can be devastating.
Beginning in the 1930s, virtually every US Navy ship commissioned had asbestos insulation installed throughout, as well as asbestos coating on engine room boilers and on pipes that ran the length of the vessel. That would remain the case for a full four decades before doctors discovered the adverse health consequences of long-term asbestos exposure. By then, it was far too late for many of our military veterans to recover.
Asbestos exposure is to blame for two primary diseases:
- Asbestosis: A progressive, incurable condition that causes scaring of the lungs and impairs the victim’s ability to breathe;
- Mesothelioma: An aggressive, deadly form of cancer that typically forms in the membrane layer that lines the outside of the lungs, the heart and the walls of the chest and abdominal cavities.
Among the most troubling factors in mesothelioma is that symptoms won’t appear for some 20 years after exposure. That’s why so many of our military veterans who may have retired decades ago are just recently being diagnosed. At particular risk are Navy veterans who served aboard ships or in ship repair, as asbestos exposure was virtually a given.
Statistics show that nearly 30 percent of American patients diagnosed with mesothelioma over the past 40 year have been US military veterans, most of whom served in the Navy. Yet, securing fair compensation for these devastating diagnoses can be extremely difficult. Veteran’s Administration hospitals regularly treat patients suffering asbestos-related lung problems and even diagnose many with mesothelioma. But claims for VA disability benefits will almost assuredly be denied unless a patient can prove that the condition was caused by exposure that occurred as a direct result of active duty service – a near impossible task.
If you are a US military active duty service member or veteran suffering from mesothelioma, contact an experienced attorney for help in filing your claim for VA benefits.