Mesothelioma Diagnosis in Army Veterans

Summary

The United States Army is America’s largest military branch and employer with 1.02 million uniformed personnel serving. The army also employs 330,000 civilian workers across the nation and around the world. Many of these dedicated service people suffered asbestos exposure. Many still have the same potential to inhale or ingest airborne asbestos fibers.

The uniformed personnel serving is broken down into three sections:

  • 476,000 regular force soldiers
  • 343,000 National Guard members
  • 199,000 belong to the reserve forces

Asbestos Exposure in Army Veterans

The U.S. Army wasn’t the largest consumer of asbestos products over the 5-decade span when asbestos was a popular military material. That distinction went to the Navy who crammed asbestos in every ship in their fleet.

From the late 1930s when World War II approached to the mid-1980s when asbestos phase-outs began, asbestos products surrounded soldiers in their buildings and vehicles. Army soldiers also traveled in asbestos-laden ships and airplanes.

Diseases caused by asbestos exposure range from non-life threatening disorders like pleural plaques and pleural effusions to serious, potentially fatal diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Asbestos-related diseases are difficult to detect. There is a long latency period of 10-50 years between exposure time and when symptoms present. By the time a diagnosis is made, the disease may be too advanced to treat effectively.

High-Risk Asbestos Occupations in the U.S. Army

Field soldiers were at relatively low-risk for asbestos exposure on a daily basis. High-risk exposure surrounded veterans who directly worked with asbestos-containing materials (ACM). When asbestos materials were encapsulated and stable, they presented little health threat. It was cutting, drilling, sawing, sanding and installing ACM that released airborne fibers. Loose fibers embedded in the lung tissue or lining and caused scar tissue that eventually caused diseases.

The U.S. Corps of Army Engineers were the highest-risk group.

They were tasked with building structures using ACM products. Next on the list were army mechanics who repaired vehicles and heavy equipment containing asbestos insulation, fireproofing and friction-reducing asbestos in brakes and clutches.

Other high-risk army occupations were:

  • Carpenters and construction workers
  • Demolition and renovation specialists
  • Drywallers, insulators and painters
  • Electricians, plumbers and pipefitters
  • Firefighters

MJN Brief

The U.S. Army stopped using asbestos domestically in the 1980s. They conducted a serious abatement and containment program to protect American-based service people. However, many army veterans serving abroad in Afghanistan and Iraq unknowingly suffered asbestos exposure from war-torn foreign buildings.

 

Sadly, diseases caused by duty-related asbestos exposure are nearly impossible to reverse. Mesothelioma is usually fatal with no known cure. For many army veterans, the best financial and medical assistance is by applying for benefits and healthcare compensation through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Compensation and Benefits for Army Veterans

United States Army veterans can apply for compensation and special benefits through the Administration of Veterans Affairs. You can receive these benefits and entitlements if you file a claim and meet certain requirements.

In order to receive full disability benefits, there are two main eligibility requirements:

  • Honorable Discharge: You must have been discharged from your Army service honorably.
  • Disability During Active Duty: Your injury or illness must be the result of something that occurred during active duty, such as exposure to asbestos that caused mesothelioma.

The VA administers all benefits for eligible U.S. Army veterans. There are several types of benefits that veterans and their families can receive, including:

  • Disability Compensation: The VA’s disability compensation is a monthly amount paid to veterans due to an injury from active-duty causes.
  • Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC): Surviving dependents and spouses of veterans who passed away as a result of active duty causes may be eligible to receive DIC.
  • Special Monthly Compensation (SMC): Some veterans require special types of care or treatments as a result of their injury and can be paid SMC to cover these costs.
  • Additional Special Circumstances: In special circumstances, veterans may be eligible to receive additional compensation to cover these costs, such as highly specialized treatments or hospitalization.

Army Veteran Benefit Claim Types

The VA breaks down all veteran claims into categories based on how and when the incident, injury or illness occurred in relation to their service tim.

The VA has 5 main claim types:

  • Pre-Discharge Claims: Claims made within 180 days of discharge for injuries the Army already knew of.
  • Pre-Service Claims: When Army members join the military with pre-existing illnesses or conditions, they can file a pre-service claim if the injury or illnesses was aggravated due to active-duty responsibilities. 
  • In-Service Claims: Service members who get injured during active duty and continue active duty can file in-service claims.
  • Post-Service Claims: In some cases, veterans experience latent conditions after they’ve been discharged. In these cases, such as with mesothelioma, veterans can file post-service claims.
  • Special Claims: In some cases, there are special circumstances that don’t fall into the above claim types. In these cases, the veteran will file a special claim.

Other VA Benefits for Army Veterans

Army veterans also have opportunities through the VA to receive additional benefits focused on improving the veteran’s life after service. 

The VA offers the following extended benefits to eligible veterans:

  • Disability Pensions
  • Preventive Healthcare Services
  • Personal Health Programs
  • Education and Training
  • Home Loans
  • Insurance
  • Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment
  • Mental Health Assistance and Counseling
  • Survivors Benefits
  • Burial and Memorial Services

Applying for VA Healthcare Benefits

United States Army veterans are eligible for VA benefits after being honorably discharged. If you’ve developed an illness or injury as a result of active duty, you can file a claim to receive VA benefits.

You can apply for VA benefits in the following ways:

  • Fill out an application online at the VA’s eBenefits portal
  • File a claim in person at your local VA branch
  • Work with a third-party VA Accredited Claims Agent who can help you file your claim or file it on your behalf
  • Hire a specialized law firm to file a claim for you

Retaining a Specialized Mesothelioma Law Firm

In addition to VA benefits and compensation for mesothelioma, U.S. Army veterans can also file lawsuits as a civilian against negligent asbestos product manufacturers and suppliers. Claims are normally settled out of court and do not affect payments or benefits provided by VA.

For more information on filing VA or personal injury claims, contact our Justice Support Team today.

View Author and Sources
Sources
  1. The United States Army, “Mission and Organization”, Retrieved from https://www.army.mil/info/organization/ Accessed on January 2, 2018
  2. The United States Army, “Asbestos Can Only Pose Danger When Airborne”, Retrieved from https://www.army.mil/article/137053/Asbestos_can_only_pose_danger_when_airborne/ Accessed on January 2, 2018
  3. Department of Veterans Affairs, War Related Illness and Injury Study Center, “Asbestos Fact Sheet”, Retrieved from https://www.warrelatedillness.va.gov/WARRELATEDILLNESS/education/factsheets/asbestos-exposure.pdf Accessed on January 2, 2018
  4. Department of Veterans Affairs, “Compensation – Asbestos”, Retrieved from https://www.benefits.va.gov/COMPENSATION/claims-postservice-exposures-asbestos.asp Accessed on January 2, 2018
  5. Department of Veterans Affairs, “I am a Veteran” Retrieved from https://va.gov/opa/persona/index.asp Accessed on January 2, 2018
  6. Department of Veterans Affairs, “Exposure to Hazardous Materials – Asbestos” Retrieved from https://www.vets.gov/disability-benefits/conditions/exposure-to-hazardous-materials/asbestos/ Accessed on January 2, 2018
  7. VA/Vets.gov website, Veterans Disability and Healthcare Benefits”, Retrieved from https://www.vets.gov/ Accessed on January 2, 2018
  8. Military.com, “Asbestos Illness Related to Military Service” Retrieved from https://www.military.com/benefits/veteran-benefits/asbestos-and-the-military-history-exposure-assistance.html Accessed on January 2, 2018
  9. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, “Asbestos Fact Sheet” Retrieved from https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tfacts61.pdf Accessed on January 2, 2018

Last modified: August 2, 2018