Mesothelioma and Veterans

US Veteran
World War II veteran Frederick Carrier, 90, who says he help liberate the Buchenwald concentration camp during the war, waves a small American flag as he marches up Fifth Avenue during the Veterans Day parade in New York, Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

There are approximately 23,442,000 military veterans living in the United States. Many of these individuals, who dedicated their lives to serving the United States and its people, have been faced with serious medical conditions in connection with their service. Mesothelioma is one of these conditions, having afflicted many veterans, from those who served in World War II, to Vietnam, and potentially are even serving today.

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that is diagnosed in approximately 2,000 to 3,000 people each year in the United States, many of whom are veterans. This cancer affects the mesothelium, which is a protective layer and sac surrounding most major organs in the body. The most common risk factor related to the development of mesothelioma is prolonged or heavy exposure to asbestos.

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that was popular in the use of a number of building products and in shipbuilding. It has been a widely used product because it is heat resistant, a fire retardant, and does not conduct electricity well. The fibers, which may be released into the air when a wall is drilled into or cut, do not break down easily, do not evaporate, and do not dissolve. Also, when they enter the body, it is not easy for the body to expel the fibers. Unfortunately, asbestos is also recognized as a human carcinogen (or cancer causing agent).

Asbestos Exposure in the Military

Veterans may have been exposed to asbestos in a variety of ways. Many veterans of the U.S. Navy were exposed to asbestos on ships; for many years asbestos was a component of most parts of Navy, Merchant Marine, and Coast Guard ships, from walls, to boilers, to insulation. During World War II alone there were approximately 300 different asbestos based products used in shipbuilding. It was a required component of Navy ships beginning in 1939 until the 1970s, when the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration began issuing guidelines about the use of asbestos. In addition, asbestos was used in brake and clutch pads on military vehicles, from automobiles to aircraft. It was also used as insulation in buildings, as well as in other parts of military buildings, such as roofing and in electric wiring on planes.

Read more in the book “100 Questions & Answers About Mesothelioma

At the time that people in the military were working around asbestos products, they did not have knowledge of the dangerous health affects attributed to asbestos exposure. Thus, they did not typically utilize safety precautions, such as respirators or masks, that would be required today.

Mesothelioma has a long latency period, meaning that it may remain dormant in a person’s body for 20 to 40 years after he or she has been exposed to asbestos. This means that military men and women who were exposed to asbestos during World War II, or during any other periods of service, may just be showing signs of mesothelioma today. Survival rates can sometimes be very low.

VA Claims and Other Potential Benefits

Veterans who are suffering from mesothelioma are currently unable to seek compensation from the government through the legal system. The government guides veterans to seek support from the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) but the government does not consider mesothelioma to be a service-related illness. For veterans trying to prove that their mesothelioma is indeed a result of asbestos exposure from their military service, it can be an arduous process.

If turning to the government for support, veterans must to prove their asbestos exposure did not come from any other sort of job or exposure they may have had before or after their military service. Unless asbestos exposure and the development of mesothelioma is absolutely, directly tied to military service, veterans are directed to seek compensation from the manufacturers of asbestos products.

To support veterans who have been afflicted with mesothelioma as the result of asbestos exposure from their military service, a number of law firms and advocacy groups are available. These firms and advocacy groups will help veterans seek compensation from asbestos product manufacturers for their medical expenses, rehabilitation, lost wages, and the pain and suffering endured. There is also support for families of veterans in the event that a loved one has died as the result of mesothelioma. In such cases, law firms specializing in mesothelioma cases will help families pursue wrongful death claims.

If you are a veteran who developed mesothelioma as the result of asbestos exposure during your period of military service, or you are the family member of a mesothelioma victim, it is important to seek legal assistance. A lawyer who specializes in asbestos mesothelioma will guide you through the legal process and help you determine what steps you should take to obtain compensation for your losses.