There are currently around 21 million veterans in the United States, yet they only comprise 7 percent of the nation’s population. However, surprisingly, 30 percent of all diagnosed mesothelioma cases in the nations are veterans. This is due to the military’s prior heavy reliance on asbestos, which ended up causing numerous asbestos-related illnesses and deaths.
The Military and Asbestos
From the early 1930s until the late 1970s, the military used asbestos extensively in numerous products. Everything from barracks, chow halls, vehicles, products, and machinery was once built with asbestos-containing products and materials due to mineral’s strong resistance to heat and fire.
Consequently, there are now a plethora of men and women who served our country who are now living with or passed away from toxic illnesses such as malignant mesothelioma, asbestosis, and asbestos-related lung cancer.
Veterans Were Never Warned About Asbestos
Asbestos was initially used to help protect veterans from present danger, such as fires and extreme temperatures, but the military also created long-term health conditions that veterans were not aware of at the time. Although the military knew about the risks of using asbestos, they failed to warn all of the people who were constantly exposed to it. In fact, records indicate that in 1939, the Surgeon General of the United States Navy warned about the risk of asbestos and the dangers it poses when inhaled or ingested.
Instead of discontinuing the use of asbestos, the military began to rely on it more and more until 1975, when it cut down significantly. By 1980, the military stopped using asbestos altogether in new construction, but the toxic mineral was still found in a myriad of previously-constructed products.
Filing for Compensation for Asbestos Illnesses
The Veterans Administration (VA) often frustrates many veterans with its lack of awareness and organization when it comes to asbestos-related illnesses. For instance, a recent report from the Center for Investigative Reporting indicates that the VA has an error rate of over 30% when determining which veterans are eligible for compensation. However, it’s important to note that if you were exposed to asbestos in the military and you’ve developed an asbestos-related illness, you are eligible for compensation.
To help ensure your claim isn’t denied, there are steps you can take to make sure your application is as thorough as possible the first time, which includes:
- A copy of your DD 214 discharge paperwork
- VA Form 21-526EZ: Complete the Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits
- Copies of your medical records, including a full summary of your exposure to asbestos in the military
- Copies of your marriage, divorce, or widow paperwork (if applicable to you)
- If you have dependents, complete and turn in the VA Form 21-686c, Declaration of Status of Dependents
- A statement from a physician that verifies your asbestos illness
Asbestos Diseases Recognized by the VA
Fortunately, the Va recognizes most asbestos-related illnesses, including the following:
- Asbestos-related lung cancer
- Bronchus cancer
- Gastrointestinal tract cancer
- Pleural plaques and effusions
- Pharynx cancer
- Urogenital system cancer
Mesothelioma and lung cancer generally always receive a disability rating of 100%. Other asbestos diseases are rated individually, depending on how severe the illness is. In addition, it’s important to keep in mind that the VA will honor asbestos-related claims as long as the exposure happened in the military. According to VA guidelines, you will need to prove that “it is at least as likely as not, that your asbestos illness was caused by your military service, rather than your civilian exposure.” You must also have an honorable discharge from the military.
Additional Help and Resources for Veterans
If you or a loved one were diagnosed with mesothelioma or any other illness due to asbestos exposure, you may be entitled to substantial compensation. Use our free Asbestos Attorney Locator Tool to find a top mesothelioma attorney in your area. With over $30 billion currently in asbestos trust funds, now is the right time to take the first step in determining what you may qualify for. For additional assistance, contact us toll-free at 800-694-4856.