Friday, January 17, 2014

The Effect of Asbestos Diseases on Military Veterans

A Guest Post by Rachel Walker

Asbestos, a naturally-occurring mineral once used in a variety of products and at numerous job sites, is extremely dangerous when disturbed, and unfortunately, a disproportionate amount of military veterans have been exposed to its hazardous effects. Once the fine fibers of asbestos are inhaled, the risk of developing life-threatening diseases, such as malignant mesothelioma and asbestosis, increases.

Military Occupations Associated with High Asbestos Use

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA), military veterans who worked in any of the following occupations may have been exposed to asbestos, and therefore, may be at risk for serious health issues:

     Insulation work
     Shipyard work
     Installation and/or manufacturing of roofing and ceiling products

Ships in particular contained exorbitant amount of asbestos. Almost every ship made from 1930 until the 1970s contained massive amounts of asbestos in the insulation, boiler rooms, walls doors, engine rooms, and more. Since asbestos was used for its resistance to extreme heat and fire, it was a prime choice for use in naval ships until the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) placed strict regulations on it in the late 1970s. Yet, by the time the EPA enforced these regulations, numerous veterans had already been exposed for prolonged periods of time.

Veterans Rights Associated with Asbestos-Related Diseases

Although veterans may have developed asbestos-related diseases during service and qualified individuals can usually be treated for illness by the VA, it’s often difficult to claim asbestos health issues as a service-related injury or disability. Since an asbestos-related illness can lie dormant for up to 50 years, it’s hard for veterans to prove that their health issues and disabilities that stem from asbestos happened during their time in service. However, with the help of asbestos attorneys veterans suffering from mesothelioma can receive money from mesothelioma trust funds  set up to compensate military veterans and other mesothelioma victims. Although the United States government cannot be sued, the manufacturers of asbestos and asbestos-containing products can, and therefore veterans have a chance in recovering damages for medical expenses, lost wages, pain, suffering, and more.

Veterans and Asbestos Statistics

Each branch of the military used asbestos prior to the EPA regulations. For example, as mentioned earlier,  the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard used asbestos extensively for insulation in ships. In addition, the Air Force used asbestos in the majority of the aircraft cooling systems. Furthermore, the Army used asbestos in their army tanks, specifically in the brakes and bearings. Consequently, there is an excessive amount of veterans who’ve been diagnosed with asbestos-related illnesses. In fact, veterans account for at least 30% of all malignant mesothelioma cases in the United States.

If You Think You’ve Been Exposed to Asbestos

If you were in service prior to the 1980s, it’s imperative to seek medical assistance and regular health screenings immediately. Although the latency period for asbestos illnesses is extremely long, your physician may be able to get an early diagnosis and start a treatment plan. The outlook for victims of asbestos-related diseases is not favorable, but the earlier treatment is started, the better the chances become. 

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