Veterans and Asbestos Cancer

Veterans and Asbestos Cancer is quite alarming according to recent studies, indicating a significant number diagnosed with Asbestos related cancer.  Asbestos is a toxic, naturally occurring mineral widely used in the Armed Forces for its strength, pliability and resistance to heat. The fibers, once broken and airborne, can become lodged with the lining of body’s organs and create scar tissue. Unfortunately, the body’s natural internal defense mechanisms can’t expel these fibers and the scar tissue becomes cancerous. Depending on the amount and length of the exposure, a victim’s chances of developing an asbestos-induced lung cancer, such as mesothelioma, can vary greatly. The risk of developing asbestos-related diseases is especially high for veterans, mainly because asbestos was found in hundreds of products frequently used by the military throughout much of the 20th century.

During World War II alone, the mineral was placed in more than 300 products used for shipbuilding. Primarily living in small, unventilated rooms below decks lined with asbestos, naval personnel were also subjected to asbestos in engine rooms and boiler rooms. Navigation rooms and mess halls all had insulation, pipe coatings, adhesives, cements, gaskets and flooring that contained levels of asbestos as well. Other branches of the Armed Forces, such as the Army And the Air Force, were also exposed to asbestos through brake and clutch pads. Additionally, many military buildings and housing contained asbestos insulation.

Although many veterans would like to look at their service time as a period of honor and dedication, doing so may be difficult for those diagnosed with asbestos cancer. While some view the typical warning signs — painful coughing, difficulty breathing and shortness of breath — as being related to flu, bronchitis or pneumonia, it is actually due to asbestos cancer, which is a common occurrence. Because of mesothelioma’s latency period, the condition isn’t often discovered until its later stages, when it is harder to treat.

This knowledge is important because veterans regularly face challenges when filing claims with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) for benefits and disability payments. Currently, the VA does not consider mesothelioma to be a service-connected medical condition, given that veterans could have been exposed to asbestos elsewhere. But if veterans can prove that the asbestos exposure occurred during their years of service and have a clinical diagnosis, they may have better chances. VA benefits can include medical treatments and care, pensions, survivor’s benefits and disability compensation.

The system is complex but some organizations, such as Veterans Helping Veterans, can help simplify the process. Veterans have fought and served their country in heroic ways. It is indisputable that they deserve necessary medical attention to combat their condition.