Veterans and Mesothelioma
An experienced mesothelioma lawyer can help you identify where you may have been exposed to asbestos and file a claim for compensation to take care of you and your family.
How were Veterans exposed to asbestos?
Mesothelioma related Veterans’ Benefits claims may be difficult to navigate, but about a third of the 2,500 malignant mesothelioma diagnoses made each year affect Veterans. This rare but deadly disease is so prevalent among Veterans because asbestos was widely used in all branches of the military–including Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy, and Coast Guard–from the 1930s to the 1980s. Asbestos is a durable mineral with excellent fire resistance, insulating qualities, and fireproofing capabilities, which made it an ideal component for several materials that the military used, such as brakes, gaskets, valves, cements, adhesives, and floor and pipe coverings, called lagging.
Asbestos-containing materials that are not frayed, peeling or falling apart are not considered an immediate threat. But asbestos becomes a hazard when it is friable or, in other words, when the material is crumbled or damaged allowing the microscopic asbestos fibers to become airborne. These tiny fibers can get into the lungs where, over several years, they can cause mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases.
While asbestos-containing materials were used in all branches of the military, it was far more prevalent in Navy shipyards and ships built by the Navy before the mid-1970s. Asbestos was mostly used in engine and boiler rooms as well as other areas below deck. As a result, Navy Veterans have the highest rate of asbestos-related diseases among all military personnel.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, service members at risk for asbestos exposure include:
- Navy Veterans who worked in shipyards from the 1930s through the 1990s
- Veterans involved in renovation of asbestos-containing structures or the removal of asbestos materials
- Navy Veterans who served on ships whose keels were laid before 1983
- Navy personnel who worked below deck before the early 1990s since asbestos was most often used below the deck and ventilation was generally poor
- Navy Veterans who were frequently tasked with removing damaged asbestos lagging in engine rooms and re-wrapped pipes using asbestos paste, especially if wet technique was not used in the removal
- Veterans who worked with, handled, damaged or disturbed any materials that contained asbestos
- Pipe fitters, welders, boiler operators, building renovation and demolition workers in any branch of the military before the mid-1990s
Veterans’ Families at Risk – Secondary Asbestos Exposure
Veterans’ loved ones could be at risk for secondary asbestos exposure because service members who worked in asbestos-contaminated environments could have gotten asbestos fibers on their bodies, clothing and shoes. Hugging or even washing the clothing of someone who had asbestos fibers on them can expose others to the cancer-causing mineral and thus increase their risk for mesothelioma.
In fact, a 1997 study conducted by Durham and Duke University Medical Centers involving women with mesothelioma found that more than half were victims of secondary asbestos exposure. The source was either a parent, spouse, or child working in asbestos contaminated environments.
Do I Have A Mesothelioma Claim For Veterans’ Benefits?
Disability benefits such as health care or compensation may be available for Veterans who have an illness believed to be caused by asbestos exposure while serving in the military. Spouses, dependent children or family caregivers of Veterans may be eligible for benefits as well.
The VA decides these mesothelioma Veterans claims on a case-by-case basis.
Asbestos-related diseases recognized by the VA include:
- the chronic lung disease asbestosis;
- pleural plaques caused by scarring in the inner surface of the ribcage and areas surrounding the lungs that can cause breathing problems.
- Cancer, specifically lung cancer and mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that develops in the lining surrounding the lung (pleural membrane) or abdominal cavity (peritoneum).
Veterans who worked in certain jobs or with certain products should talk with a doctor about getting tested for diseases that affect the lungs if they worked in the following areas:
Or if they made or worked with products like:
- Cement sheet
- Friction products like clutch facings and brake linings
Spouses, surviving spouses, dependent children, or the family caregiver of a service member or veteran may qualify for health care benefits and, in certain cases, qualify for health care benefits due to a disability related to the veteran’s service.
Mesothelioma Treatment for Veterans
Some medical centers within the VA Healthcare network have expertise in treating the full spectrum of issues affecting Veterans with mesothelioma, including:
VA Boston Health Care System diagnoses and develops personalized therapy for Veterans with malignant pleural mesothelioma, including radical pleurectomy and decortication (P/D), extra-pleural pneumonectomy (EPP), as well as end-of-life options. The division of General Thoracic Surgery at the West Roxbury Campus has the largest complex, non-cardiac surgical volume within the VA Healthcare network–performing approximately 300 cases annually.
The Mesothelioma Center at West Los Angeles VA Medical Center treats Veterans with all stages of mesothelioma and offers surgical, radiation and medical oncology services. The Mesothelioma Center has partnered with the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) to provide Veterans with lung-sparing surgery and innovative inoperative and postoperative therapies that focus on quality of life as well as survival. The Mesothelioma Center also treats rare sarcomatoid mesothelioma.
Military Asbestos Superfund Sites
In 1980, Congress established the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), informally called Superfund, which allows the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to clean up contaminated sites and forces parties responsible for the contamination to either perform cleanups or reimburse the government for EPA-led cleanup work. The Superfund is designed to protect human health and the environment, and return the sites to productive use.
Veterans who have been stationed at or worked in areas that are now designated Superfund sites should know that they could have been exposed to toxic substances like asbestos during their time there. This potential exposure may put them at higher risk for asbestos-related injuries and they may have a mesothelioma Veterans claim.
The following military bases have been designated as EPA Superfund sites where asbestos exposure may have occurred.
Curtis Bay Coast Guard Yard, Baltimore MD
Curtis Bay Coast Guard Yard just south of downtown Baltimore, Maryland, was established in 1899 to support the U.S. Coast Guard with design, construction and the repair of ships and boats. It is the Coast Guard’s only shipbuilding and major repair facility, and is part of the Coast Guard’s core industrial base and fleet support operations.
Previous activities at the yard included operation of an on-site incinerator, manufacturing operations, and ship repair and maintenance, which contaminated the soil and groundwater with hazardous materials, including asbestos. Cleanup, operation and maintenance activities are ongoing.
Veterans and retirees who either worked on or were assigned to permanent duty on a Coast Guard cutter constructed prior to 1991 may have been exposed to asbestos used in building the vessel.
George Air Force Base, Victorville CA
George Air Force Base was established in World War II and closed in December 1992. The 5,347-acre base supported tactical fighter operations and provided training for air crews and maintenance personnel that mandated the use and disposal of non-hazardous and hazardous materials, including asbestos.
A February 1989 preliminary review of the environmental requirements and concerns conducted by the Environmental Planning and Compliance Branch at George Air Force Base found that of the 1,970 buildings on-base (including 1,641 housing units) of which 10 percent were surveyed for asbestos, “Forty percent of those facilities tested has asbestos containing materials (ACM) (80 percent nonfriable, 20 percent friable.)”
The EPA is continuing investigations and long-term cleanup at the site.
Naval Weapons Station Earle, Colts Neck NJ
Naval Weapons Station Earle (NWSE) covers 11,134 acres in New Jersey. Beginning in the 1940s, the U.S. Navy has renovated, stored and maintained munitions at the station, preserving and maintaining ammunition, missile components and explosives.
The base does not contain as much asbestos as other naval installations, but several buildings on the site were known to have been built with asbestos-containing materials.
In 1990, the EPA designated 27 acres of concern within NWSE as a Superfund site for proposed cleanup. An investigation in this area revealed the presence of asbestos along with lead, chromium and VOCs, all of which are considered harmful to human health.
Pensacola Naval Air Station, Pensacola FL
Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola is a 5,900-acre active U.S. Navy installation that provides facilities, service and support for the operation and maintenance of the Navy’s naval weapons and aircraft.
The base has 68 hazardous sites, including a sanitary landfill on the base that from the 1950s to 1976 was used to dispose of asbestos-containing materials from building demolitions.
The military has spent $102 million to clean up the hazardous sites at the Pensacola Naval Air Station and must spend another $63 million to complete the cleanup by 2031, according to the Department of Defense’s Defense Environmental Restoration Program.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Can Beasley Allen Help Me?
We understand that your number-one priority is your treatment, and we will never do anything to interfere with that. We also understand that legal action is not appropriate for everyone.
Unfortunately, however, our experience shows that all too often mesothelioma related Veterans claims are complicated to pursue. An experienced mesothelioma lawyer can help you identify who is responsible for your asbestos exposure and mesothelioma diagnosis. While a mesothelioma lawsuit will not restore you to health, it can provide peace of mind for you and your family as you undergo treatment. A mesothelioma Veterans claim also can help other people identify where they may have been affected by asbestos in the military and ask for help.
At Beasley Allen, our team of attorneys and support staff understands that mesothelioma is a devastating cancer that harms many families each year. Your lawyer must do more than just handle the claim on your behalf. We want to help your family make it through a very difficult time and we want to make certain the manufacturers of these unsafe asbestos products compensate you fairly.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma and want to pursue legal action, Charlie Stern, Beasley Allen’s mesothelioma lawyer, can help you navigate a complex mesothelioma lawsuit to help ensure adequate compensation for you and your loved ones. For more information, contact us today and get your free case evaluation by our legal team.
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