Veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma as a result of active duty are entitled to benefits from the federal government
Did you know that veterans have a higher incidence of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases than the general population? In fact, veterans make up approximately 30 percent of ALL U.S. cases of mesothelioma.
What is the cause of this disturbing fact? The military made widespread use of asbestos from 1930s to the 1990s. Asbestos was used in everything from shipbuilding to the construction of barracks. Each branch of the military used asbestos.
Every naval ship constructed in this time period contained asbestos. Asbestos was used in boiler and engine rooms, as well as in electrical products.
This means that U.S. Navy veterans are especially at risk for getting mesothelioma, particularly those that worked at shipbuilding facilities, or in engine and boiler rooms. U.S. Coast Guard vets face similar risks of exposure.
Asbestos was also widely used in military buildings and equipment, such as military vehicles and aircraft. This means veterans of the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Marines also faced potential exposure.
Asbestos fibers are dangerous when airborne. Veterans who served in any of the following occupations faced the highest risk of exposure to asbestos: mechanics, pipefitters, boiler tenders, electricians, carpenters, steamfitters and firemen.
What is mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a serious, incurable cancer that can affect the lining (mesothelium) of the lungs, chest, abdomen or heart. It usually takes 15-60 years to develop. This is why veterans who served years ago remain at risk. It is primarily caused by exposure to asbestos fibers that are inhaled or ingested. The fibers become lodged in the body, which can cause internal tissue scarring and eventually the growth of cancerous cells.
Like other cancers, mesothelioma is diagnosed in stages depending on its severity at the time of diagnosis, with Stage 1 the least severe and Stage 4 the most progressed. While it cannot be cured, there are some potential treatments, like surgery and chemotherapy.
What benefits are available?
Veterans with duty-related mesothelioma can receive monthly disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The amount of benefits depends in part on the degree of disability, as determined by the VA, although vets with duty-related mesothelioma are usually given the 100 percent disability rate.
If eligible, single veterans can get about $2,800 in monthly benefits. Married veterans could collect more. Spouses and dependents may also qualify for compensation under the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation program. That monthly benefit of $1,195 is paid to the surviving spouse of a veteran who died from a service-related disability. The VA also offers benefits to support caregivers of veterans, including home-based care.
How to claim disability benefits
To qualify, a veteran must have been honorably discharged from the service, and contracted mesothelioma from his or her time on active duty. To obtain benefits, a veteran must file the required VA form, along with supporting medical records, including a physician’s diagnosis of mesothelioma. Because it can be complicated to complete the form and gather needed records to prove mesothelioma was contracted during active service, consulting with an attorney experienced in pursuing mesothelioma disability claims is usually helpful.
After reviewing a patient’s complete record, the VA will make its benefits decision. The crucial factor is demonstrating to the VA that the asbestos exposure was primarily, if not exclusively, related to active service. The VA will assess the level of asbestos exposure during a veteran’s military service compared to any exposure during civilian occupations.
Once the VA determines a veteran is eligible for disability benefits, it then assesses the degree of disability on a scale starting at 10 percent. The VA typically gives 100 percent disability ratings to veterans with service-related mesothelioma.
Other legal options
Veterans should also file a lawsuit against asbestos manufacturers and suppliers, which, despite long knowing about the dangers of airborne asbestos fibers, kept that information hidden for years. A lawsuit against asbestos manufacturers, suppliers, and any other responsible parties would not involve suing any branch of the military, nor would it impact your ability to get veteran’s benefits.
- Agent Orange advocacy for children of Vietnam Veterans including second and third generation victims of Agent Orange and Dioxin Exposures worldwide.
- US Department of Veterans Affairs: http://www.va.gov. Accessed December 6, 2013