Veterans and Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma cancer is directly connected to asbestos exposure and can present years or even decades after a worker has come in contact with this naturally-occurring fiber. While many shipyard and chemical plant workers are at risk for developing any form of mesothelioma, another group at high risk is veterans who served aboard Navy vessels that were stuffed with asbestos to limit fire risk, worked in Navy shipyards that used frangible asbestos in everyday jobs, or slept in Army barracks lined with asbestos to keep them warm. Veterans across the United States are at risk of developing mesothelioma of the heart, abdomen or lungs but may often not be aware of this risk until the disease finally presents itself. Currently, there are a number of options for veterans to receive treatment under the Veterans Administration (VA).
Asbestos Exposure in the Military
The inhalation of asbestos fibers is thought to be the primary cause of mesothelioma; for veterans, this exposure typically happened over long months at sea or spending years in close quarters serving in the Army, Marines, Navy or Air Force. Every branch of the military used asbestos in some way to help insulate buildings or limit the possibility of fire in vessels and vehicles. This use continued well past the use in chemical plants and shipyards - many of the vessels containing asbestos were not decommissioned once the dangers of the material were discovered and remained sailing for decades after asbestos use was limited. Many military buildings filled with asbestos are still treated as safe unless the substance becomes easily breakable (frangible), meaning that veterans could have anything from a few years to decades of asbestos exposure thanks to their military service.
VA Claims and Other Benefits
Currently, the VA does recognize mesothelioma as a service-related illness and will provide some benefits for those who are diagnosed. In order to have access to the wide array of veterans hospitals, a veteran must first prove that they have mesothelioma and that it likely occurred during their time of service. This process starts by informing a primary care physician of potential mesothelioma symptoms as well as indicating time spent serving on military vessels. Once a mesothelioma diagnosis has been confirmed, a veteran can apply for support under the VA. The VA has a large number of treatment facilities across the country, many of which are now on the leading edge of care for mesothelioma, and once a veteran has been granted access to the veterans' health network they can request treatment at any facility in the US - not simply the one that is closest to home.
Veterans are at far higher risk to develop mesothelioma than the general population, but that does not mean all hope is lost. With early diagnosis and the assistance of the VA and its treatment centers it is possible to fight mesothelioma in all its forms. If you're a veteran whose life has been affected by mesothelioma, contact us today for more information about how to combat this form of cancer.