Most veterans with mesothelioma were unaware of the occupational danger that the U.S. Military was inadvertently placing them in when working with and living amongst asbestos. And in their oblivion, many veterans also exposed their families at home to dangerous asbestos fibers. Military families were exposed to asbestos during the heyday of its usage—which stretched mostly between World War I and the Vietnam War—in at least two different ways.
First, many wives and children of soldiers received what is called primary exposure when living on military bases that used asbestos heavily in construction. In such instances, anyone living in those homes was potentially inhaling or ingesting carcinogenic dust-debris from damaged asbestos building materials, ranging from ceiling tiles to attic insulation.
Families of veterans were also at risk for something called secondary exposure, which occurs when someone who works with asbestos brings home fibers on his or her clothes, skin and hair. In such particularly tragic cases, even a hug from a father to a child could potentially plant the deadly seeds of mesothelioma cancer.
Families of Veterans with Mesothelioma are Eligible for Benefits
Veterans with mesothelioma are eligible for many benefits through the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, including disability compensation, which is paid out on a monthly basis. Other general VA benefits include pensions for vets as well as their spouses and children, education assistance for veterans and their dependents, VA-backed home loans and help for families with bereavement costs and other financial needs after the death of a veteran living in the household.
One particular type of benefit that veterans with mesothelioma qualify is designed to provide support for military spouses and their children directly. Called Survivor Benefits, this program qualifies retired and disabled spouses of veterans to full military benefits, even after the veteran’s death. Children are also eligible for full benefit coverage, through their graduation from high school or until they turn 18, and for even longer if a child is disabled.
To file a claim for disability and other benefits, you’ll need to contact your local VA office or request the assistance of your attorney if you already have one. (And if you don’t yet, you should—more on that in Part II.)