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 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

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.

Asbestos Exposure in Army Veterans

The U.S. Army wasn’t the largest consumer of asbestos products over the five-decade span when asbestos was a popular military material. That distinction went to the Navy who crammed asbestos in every ship in their fleet. But, from the late 1930s when World War II approached to the mid-1980s when asbestos bans began, the army was content to let asbestos products surround the soldiers in their buildings and vehicles. They also let soldiers travel in asbestos-laden ships and airplanes.

Diseases caused by asbestos exposure range from non-life threatening disorders like pleural plaque and pleural effusion 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 between exposure time and when symptoms present. Often, this can be from 10 to 50 years. By the time a diagnosis is made, the disease may be too advanced to treat.

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 benign and malignant 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

The Department of Veterans Affairs administers disability compensation and special benefits to United States Army veterans. Benefits and healthcare compensation are entitlements. Veterans who honorably served their country are entitled to various compensation and healthcare benefits.

Two main eligibility criteria exist:

  • The veteran applicant had military service resulting in an honorable discharge. Dishonorable dismissals are not eligible.
  • The claimed disability was caused by some event occurring while on duty. That includes a latent disease like mesothelioma that manifests decades after an honorable discharge.

The VA administers all veteran affairs for the Army, including regular pension payments and compensation for special circumstances. There are a variety of compensation classifications, claim types and special healthcare benefits available to disabled veterans, including:

  • Disability Compensation: This is the standard tax-free monthly monetary compensation plan where claimants receive guaranteed income supplements for being disabled as a result of active-duty dangers like asbestos exposure.
  • Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC): DIC is paid to surviving spouses and child dependents of army veterans who died from active duty causes. That includes death from mesothelioma.
  • Special Monthly Compensation (SMC): Army veterans with special requirements receive additional monthly compensation. This covers costs like home care workers and other special care requirements.
  • Additional Special Circumstances: Additional compensation is available for special circumstances like being totally unemployable or requiring breathing-assistance apparatus, extensive medical treatment and hospitalization.

Army Veteran Benefit Claim Types

Army veteran disability claims cover a wide scope of contributing factors. Therefore, the VA has specific types of claims to help determine how compensation payments are made.

The main VA claim types are:

  • Pre-Discharge Claims: Active service personnel within 180 days of discharge may file for already-known disabilities.
  • Pre-Service Claims: Service personnel with pre-existing disabilities prior to entering service may claim when occupational hazards increased or aggravated the condition.
  • In-Service Claims: Disabilities clearly incurred during active service may claim benefits but continue duty.
  • Post-Service Claims: Disabilities that arise after discharge can be claimed provided proof exists they were caused by in-service conditions.
  • Special Claims: Special circumstances occasionally dictate claims being processed on their particular merits.

Other VA Benefits for Army Veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs is structured to help disabled army veterans readjust to life after suffering service-related injuries and illnesses. It’s an overall approach ensuring veterans are cared for in the long-term.

Extended healthcare benefits available through VA include:

  • 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

Every United States Army veteran remains eligible for compensation and healthcare assistance after discharge as long as the initial cause was somehow related to military service. That includes service personnel discharged before pension eligibility and those whose condition worsened during service time.

Application for healthcare benefits takes these forms:

  • Online application with the eBenefits portal on the VA website
  • In person at a VA field office
  • Having assistance from an accredited third-party representative
  • Retaining a specialized law firm to file claims

Retaining a Specialized Mesothelioma Law Firm

Department of Veteran Affairs compensation and health care benefits aren’t the only recourse U.S. Army personnel have in mesothelioma cases. Like civilian victims, veterans can file lawsuits against negligent asbestos product manufacturers and suppliers. Claims are normally settled out of court and do not affect payments or benefits provided by VA.

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: February 2, 2018