Mesothelioma and Veterans: Understanding the Connection and Your Legal Rights

Many people may recall hearing or seeing advertisements about mesothelioma settlements. But what exactly is mesothelioma and what is its connection to veterans? Our veterans sacrificed a lot to protect our country and many were exposed to a toxic substance known as asbestos that may have left them with severe medical conditions.

Now that they’ve retired, many face a new battle with mesothelioma. Thankfully, some protections and benefits are afforded to those dealing with mesothelioma. Learn about the connection between veterans and mesothelioma so that you can understand your legal rights or those of a loved one.

What is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer that occurs in the thin tissue layer covering most of your internal organs. Most often, mesothelioma affects the tissue around the lungs. This is because in most cases, mesothelioma develops due to exposure to the toxic substance asbestos.

Asbestos is a risk to health because it is a mineral made of tiny, sharp fibers that when inhaled cause inflammation and scarring in the lungs. This causes scar tissue plaques to form on the protective lining of the lungs which can cause malignant mesothelioma tumors to grow.

Symptoms of mesothelioma include:

  • Pain in the chest around the ribs
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lumps of tissue under the skin on your chest
  • Sudden weight loss

Although rare, mesothelioma can sometimes develop in regions other than the lungs such as in the abdomen. This type of mesothelioma is called peritoneal mesothelioma.

Understanding the Connection Between Mesothelioma and Veterans

The connection between mesothelioma becomes readily apparent when you consider that veterans account for over 30% of all mesothelioma diagnoses. Because of the extent to which asbestos was used by the military during the 1930s and 1970s, nearly all veterans that served in these periods were subject to high risk of asbestos exposure.

Asbestos saw such wide use by the US military because of its heat and fire-resistant properties. It was used in every naval ship built by the US military for most of the 20th century but also used in:

  • Electrical wiring
  • Insulation
    • Buildings
    • Ships
    • Aircraft
  • Vehicles
    • Brake pads
    • Clutches
    • Bearings
    • Gaskets
  • Aircraft
    • Rudders
    • Fuel systems
    • Hydraulic systems
  • Buildings/Barracks
    • Boiling systems
    • Plumbing and pipe systems
    • Cooling systems

This is not an all-inclusive list as the use of asbestos permeated nearly all military operations during this window.

Veterans could have also been exposed to asbestos if they did not work directly with the substance because it could be hidden within office areas, sleeping quarters, and weapons. Also, asbestos was used in buildings in Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries. When buildings containing the substance were demolished, desert winds could carry the fibers for miles where they can be inhaled by veterans.

It cannot be understated that all US military branches relied on asbestos during this period including the:

  • US Air Force
  • US Army
  • US Coast Guard
  • US Marine Corps
  • US Navy

If you served in any military branch between 1930 and 1970, you were likely exposed to the toxic substance asbestos and may be at risk for mesothelioma.

Luckily, there are protections in place for veterans with mesothelioma and they may be able to receive VA benefits or pursue other financial compensation.

Assistance for Veterans with Mesothelioma

In recent years, the VA has expanded its protections to cover veterans who developed mesothelioma due to their military service. Veterans with an illness like mesothelioma that is directly related to exposure from their service are eligible for VA disability benefits. To qualify, both of the following must be true:

  1. Asbestos exposure was a result of military service
  2. The veteran did not receive a dishonorable discharge

To receive benefits, veterans provide all of the following:

  • Medical records that state the illness
  • Service records that list their job or specialty
  • A statement from a physician establishing a link between asbestos contact during military service and mesothelioma

When this has been established, the VA may assign 100% disability compensation if at least 50% of the exposure happened during the veteran’s service. This means that single veterans could earn a monthly benefit amount of $3621.95 based on VA compensation rates.

Partnering with a law firm with experience in VA claims can help veterans by providing education to help veterans and families understand their benefit options, gather strong evidence for claim submission, and provide support through the claim process.

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