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Were You Exposed to Asbestos During Your Service? If You Have Mesothelioma, We Want to Help You Access Compensation.
Many Navy veterans who served prior to 1980 are being diagnosed with mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure in their past. The War-Related Illness and Injury Study Centers (WRIISC) has published an explainer on asbestos exposure among servicemembers. One of the most important points the group shares is that Navy veterans are at the highest risk of developing asbestos-related diseases. Anyone in this demographic deserves the best help and care possible if they were put in unnecessary danger while serving our country. Our attorneys are here to help you.
Military veterans comprise one of the highest risk groups for asbestos exposure and mesothelioma in the United States. It is estimated that many thousands of living American veterans were exposed to asbestos during their tours of duty. The impact of this tragedy has lately become obvious. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs acknowledges a disproportionate number of past service members have been diagnosed with the disease.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is valued for its insulation and heat resistance properties. As such, it was widely used by every military branch, mostly for insulation purposes in ships, planes, vehicles, buildings, and military housing. Exposure to asbestos is the most common cause of mesothelioma. The link between these patients’ service and their cancer is unfortunately too clear.
While mesothelioma in navy veterans can almost always be traced directly back to working onboard navy ships and in navy shipyards, the workers themselves were not the only ones who were placed at risk. Through a process called secondary exposure, the families and loved ones of veterans may have also come into contact with asbestos fibers that were carried from the job site on a worker’s skin, hair, and clothes.
Shrader & Associates L.L.P. has served thousands of mesothelioma patients, many of them veterans, to help them file claims for compensation. You may be familiar with the VA benefits application process, and if you are, you know it can sometimes be difficult to have your claim approved. Our attorneys can help you gather and submit all the information needed, offering guidance and making the process move more smoothly. We are proud to offer our services in your time of need.
Understanding the role asbestos exposure played in this terrible sequence of events first requires an understanding of the material itself.
Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that can be divided into two main types: chrysotile and amphibole asbestos. Both are silicate, or rock-forming, minerals that are mined from natural sources and used in consumer products.
When intact and undisturbed, asbestos materials present little to no risk. However, once broken apart, the microscopic fibers that compose asbestos are released and become airborne. When inhaled or swallowed by an unknowing bystander, the tiny crystals enter the linings of the lungs and abdominal cavity. While it is unlikely that minimal contact will cause significant damage, regular and repeated contact—such as in the case of occupational exposure—puts the individual at high risk for developing malignant mesothelioma and other types of cancer.
Asbestos was once considered a miracle of manufacturing, highly regarded for its exceptional physical properties—unusually strong and able to resist fire and extenuating heat.
During its heyday—much of the eighteen- and nineteen-hundreds—asbestos was a primary ingredient in the manufacturing of countless, common household products. Even children’s toys were not immune from its routine inclusion. Yet, the most common uses for asbestos remained within the construction industry—primarily, insulation for buildings as well as ships.
The dangers of asbestos did not become widely recognized until the later part of the 20th century when doctors began to see increasing numbers of illnesses connected to its use. The most prominent of these is malignant mesothelioma, but other illnesses—including asbestosis and lung cancer—are also connected.
Sadly, by the time the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal organizations began to take action, millions of people had already been exposed. Though asbestos is today recognized as a dangerous carcinogen, it continues to be found in limited use—in addition to within structures built prior to the 1970s.
For veterans of the navy, mesothelioma is likely the result of contact with asbestos that has been broken up and released into the air as tiny crystal fibers. To the naked eye, these appear as a fine powder or dust. Unsuspecting victims swallow or breathe in the crystals, resulting in its gradual accumulation within the linings of vital organs—most often, the lungs and stomach.
When asbestos fragments cause enough damage, mesothelioma is the result. A rare but terminal cancer, this illness strikes more than 10,000 people in the U.S. each year and has little sign of slowing down anytime soon.
Mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses generally take a long time—upwards of 30 years or more—to develop. For this reason, many veterans of the navy with mesothelioma do not even suspect that they are at risk for the illness at the time it is diagnosed.
Mesothelioma is a rare but serious type of cancer, which attacks the thin sheet of tissue that covers most of our bodies’ internal organs. Those most commonly affected are the lungs (covered by the pleura) and the stomach cavity (covered by the peritoneum). Diseases of these two organs are called pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma, respectively.
There is no known cure for mesothelioma, and its victims generally have a relatively short life expectancy after diagnosis—often a year or less. Around 3,000 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year, and about 30 percent of victims are veterans of the U.S. Navy.
Diagnosing Mesothelioma: Symptoms and Testing
Mesothelioma is diagnostically challenging, because it almost always takes several decades, from the time of exposure, to develop. Additionally, mesothelioma from asbestos symptoms are easy to confuse with common ailments and therefore are easily ignored by victims who are unaware of the exposure that places them in a high-risk category. Without knowing about a patient’s risk for mesothelioma, most doctors are not quick to suspect or test for the relatively rare condition.
Once mesothelioma is considered, early screening usually includes a chest x-ray and/or lung function tests. Advanced imaging techniques, like an MRI or CAT scan, are also commonly used to look for signs of the disease. To conclusively diagnose mesothelioma, however, doctors must conduct a biopsy—which involves the removal of affected cells from the site of the suspected cancer for analysis and laboratory testing.
Traditional Mesothelioma Treatment Options
The three most common cancer treatment options are surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy—all of which also constitute the go-to triad of mesothelioma treatment. Often, some combination of those three are used together and in some strategic order—called multimodal treatment.
Surgery to remove the cancer-affected tumor is usually considered to be the most effective mesothelioma treatment option, though it is often substantially invasive in nature. Chemo or radiation therapy is often used after surgery in an attempt to kill any remaining cancer cells that tumor removal may have left behind.
Alternative Mesothelioma Treatment Options
Treatment of mesothelioma cancer often extends beyond the lines of traditional medicine, with some sources reporting as many as 70% of mesothelioma sufferers using some form of alternative healing. When it comes to thinking outside the box of treatment, many different forms of natural and/or holistic methods have been identified by a wide variety of sources. And many patients choose to use alternative mesothelioma treatment options together with conventional courses of care.
Plants and herbs purported to have medicinal properties effective in fighting cancer are a popular alternative treatment option. Just a few that have been utilized for that purpose include:
- Ukrain, a much-studied, partially synthetic compound of a common kind of wild plant and a chemo drug called Thiotepa
- Cat’s Claw, a tropical vine native to parts of South America
- Astragalus, a Chinese dried root that has been clinically studied within the scope of its native region
- Iscador, an extract of a rare type of mistletoe found exclusively in Europe
Resources for Veterans with Mesothelioma
Who Is Eligible for Help?
Because asbestos was used to insulate structures and transportation, any military member might have been exposed during their service. Learn more about how we can help you based on your service:
- Air Force veterans
- Army veterans
- Marine Corps veterans
- Merchant Marines
- Navy veterans
Veteran Affairs (VA) Benefits
The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs now recognizes mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases as service-related medical conditions. This means that veterans are able to apply for Veteran Affairs (VA) benefits to pay for their mesothelioma treatment options.
The application process for VA benefits is arduous, and some veterans see their claims denied despite past exposure to asbestos. If you are a U.S. Armed Forces veteran who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, reach out to our attorneys for help with your claim. We can guide you through the process of recovering compensation for your military occupational exposure to asbestos.
Mesothelioma Treatment Centers for Veterans
The Department of Veterans Affairs advises any veteran who is concerned they may have been exposed to asbestos during their military service to contact the:
- Environmental Health Coordinator in their home state.
- Patient Care Advocate at the nearest VA medical facility.
Veterans who need treatment for mesothelioma can contact one of the VA hospitals that have oncology programs:
- Albany Stratton VA Medical Center – Albany, New York
- Aleda E. Lutz VA Medical Center – Saginaw, Michigan
- Alexandria VA Medical Center – Pineville, Louisiana
- Memphis VA Medical Center – Memphis, Tennessee
- Minneapolis VA Health Care System – Minneapolis, Minnesota
- San Francisco VA Medical Center – San Francisco, California
- VA Boston Healthcare System – (three locations), Massachusetts
- VA Maine Healthcare System – Augusta, Maine
Learn More About Mesothelioma
- The U.S. Veterans Administration has an agreement with the National Cancer Institute (NCI) that allows veterans to participate in NCI-sponsored clinical trials at VA facilities as part of their health benefits. To qualify, the veteran must be receiving care at a VA facility.
- The Department of Defense has an agreement with the NCI that allows TRICARE beneficiaries to participate in NCI-sponsored clinical trials as part of their health benefits. These treatments are covered regardless of whether they are provided at civilian or military facilities.
- The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration can provide copies of your military service record, important evidence for your claim for benefits.
- Military.com is a free organization for persons currently serving in the military as well as veterans. The page dedicated to veterans’ health care provides a comprehensive explanation of available benefits and eligibility.
- Disabled American Veterans is a non-profit organization that offers various quality-of-life services for disabled veterans. The organization operates a Transportation Network that provides free transportation to and from VA medical facilities for sick and disabled veterans.
How Veterans Were Exposed to Asbestos
One of the largest groups affected by asbestos is veterans of the navy with mesothelioma and other related conditions. Their stories are among the most tragic, detailing the dedicated patriotism, decorated military careers, and ultimate illness endured by many brave men and women.
Though virtually all branches of the United States military—including the army, coast guard, and air force—were responsible for using asbestos products, no branch made greater use of them than the navy. As a result, the vast majority of mesothelioma veterans hail from that branch in particular.
Even those not involved in active combat—like janitors and cooks—were risking their lives without even knowing it.
The heroes who served in the U.S. Navy and worked in its shipyards are among the highest risk group for developing mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases. Between the 1930s and the 1970s, every ship and shipyard constructed by the U.S. Navy used a number of asbestos-containing materials. In fact, the material was so effective the Navy actually mandated its use for a time.
The most common uses of asbestos in Navy ships were in the boiler rooms, engine rooms, and other areas below deck where insulation and fireproofing were needed. Veterans who worked in these areas suffered repeated and prolonged asbestos exposure.
Below-decks staff weren’t the only sailors exposed to asbestos, however. As in private industry, the heat and fire-resistant qualities of asbestos made it popular with the military for use in:
- Floor and pipe coverings
Exposure was a possibility almost anywhere below the decks of a Navy ship. These vessels used asbestos-containing materials in the engine and boiler rooms, navigation rooms, sleeping quarters, and mess halls. This means there was a high probability of every sailor on a ship inhaling or ingesting asbestos at some time.
Risk Factors for Asbestos Exposure
According to the WRIISC, Navy members may have inhaled or ingested asbestos if they:
- Served on ships with keels laid before 1983.
- Worked in shipyards from the 1930s to the 1990s.
- Worked below deck any time before the early 1990s.
- Ever removed damaged lagging and re-wrapped pipes in the engine room
In addition, military personnel may have been exposed when:
- Renovating asbestos-containing structures and/or removing asbestos-containing materials.
- Handling any damaged asbestos-containing material.
- Working as pipefitters, welders, and boiler operators before the mid-1990s.
Who Was Affected?
As you can see, nearly any Navy veteran who served before the early 1990s was at risk of being exposed to asbestos. Though the source of exposure may vary, your rights do not. Learn more about how we can help those who served on or in:
- Aircraft Carriers
- Navy Shipyards
- Military Cruisers
- Military Frigates
- Military Submarines
- Other Navy Vessels
Similarly, you may be owed compensation for developing mesothelioma if you worked one of the following jobs in the military:
- Machinist’s mate
Mesothelioma & the Navy’s Removal of Asbestos from Ships
As the use of asbestos became more controversial, the Navy’s policies regarding the material changed. In 1975, the government eliminated asbestos insulation in new ships and called for the removal of any damaged insulation in older ships. Additionally, any asbestos-containing materials encountered through necessary repairs would also be replaced.
In 1979, as cases of mesothelioma among Navy veterans continued to trend upward, the policy was extended to include the replacement of asbestos-containing insulation in areas where repairs might occur when a ship was in operation. At the time of this added provision, it was anticipated that over the next five years, almost all shipboard thermal insulation would be removed and replaced.
The change was necessary but came too late. Thousands of service members had already been exposed to asbestos on Navy vessels, and thousands more would be while these removals and repairs were made. If you have contracted an asbestos-related disease, you deserve help and compensation.
Asbestos is relatively cheap and very plentiful, so it was used for the construction of Army bases all over the U.S. and overseas. Unfortunately, as these buildings aged, the asbestos weakened and often became airborne, leading to inhalation and ingestion hazards for millions of Army veterans and anyone in their household.
The Navy and the Marines of the United States have historically worked together, especially in times of war. Many Marines even serve on Navy ships, meaning they have faced the same threats of asbestos exposure as Navy veterans. Marines may have also been exposed to asbestos that was used in the construction of older buildings at bases or camps.
Air Force Veterans
From the 1930s to the 1970s, many Air Force planes were constructed with parts containing asbestos, including the engine, brakes, and other elements that needed insulation from the extreme heat of a jet engine.
Pilots, mechanics, and other personnel who worked on or with these planes were likely exposed to asbestos via inhalation. Asbestos was also used in the base buildings and military housing used by Air Force service members and their families.
We Serve Veterans Across the U.S.
Our team at Shrader & Associates L.L.P. is deeply appreciative of the sacrifices servicemembers made to maintain our freedom and keep America safe. We not only applaud you, but we stand for you. If there is anything we can do to help after a mesothelioma diagnosis, we are just a call away.
Our team can explain your legal options and provide guidance to you and your loved ones as you consider your next steps. We understand how difficult it is to receive such a diagnosis. Whatever we can do to make our clients’ lives easier, we do, no questions asked. With our experience, we can help your V.A. benefits claim move smoothly and ensure your application meets the agency’s rigorous standards. You once fought for us—now let us fight for you.
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Helping Victims of Mesothelioma Is Why We Do What We Do
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