Military Asbestos Exposure: What Veterans Should Know
Individuals who served the United States armed forces may have experienced asbestos exposure in the military. Asbestos is a dangerous substance that can lead to a number of diseases. Fortunately, individuals who have one or more asbestos-related diseases may be eligible for disability benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. This guide will outline who may have been exposed to asbestos during military service and what these individuals should do next.
Who May Have Had Asbestos Exposure in the Military?
Veterans in all the military branches that served from the 1930s through the 1970s are at a high risk of developing Asbestos-related illnesses. Even veterans that may have served following this period are at an elevated risk of asbestos exposure as well. The U.S. Army and Air Force used asbestos in electric wiring, insulation, and in the brake pads and the clutches of vehicles. The U.S Navy and Marines used it in ships and shipyards, airplanes, and other armored vehicles.
Even veterans who did not work with the material directly may have been exposed to asbestos hidden in their sleeping quarters or within other vehicles, weapons, or buildings like engine rooms. Vehicle mechanics were exposed to asbestos while performing routine maintenance work on wheeled vehicles. The toxic fibers were once buried in brake pads, clutches, bearings, and gaskets. Aircrafts also had asbestos in the rotors, fuel systems, hydraulic systems and other parts that required heat resistance, putting air force veterans at risk. Veterans who worked in close proximity to boiler systems, piping, or cooling systems are also at high risk. Navy ships had poor ventilation. An abundance of asbestos fibers often circulated throughout ship compartments, exposing sailors and marines. The toxic mineral was frequently released from insulation around pipes, engines, and boilers.
According to the VA, any veteran who worked in shipyards, construction, carpentry, demolition, mining, and milling should be tested for military asbestos exposure. The same goes for veterans who worked with insulation, pipes, roofing, flooring (such as floor tiles), cement sheets, and friction products.
Think about your MOS and what your individual duties were.
Could you have been exposed?
Diseases Linked to Asbestos Exposure
Exposure to asbestos materials may put service members at higher risk for these asbestos-related illnesses:
- Mesothelioma: Cancer that occurs in the thin layer of tissue that covers the majority of internal organs.
- Asbestosis: Scarring of lung tissue that causes breathing problems.
- Lung Cancer: Cancer that forms in tissues of the lung, usually in the cells lining air passages.
- Pleural Plaques: Scarring in the inner surface of the ribcage and area surrounding the lungs that can cause breathing problems.
As you can see, asbestos products most often affect the lungs. However, these conditions may appear years after exposure. One of the main dangers of asbestos is that it can remain in the body for decades before having any effect. So, you may still experience an asbestos-related illness, no matter when you served in the military.
If your health care provider has diagnosed you with one of the above diseases, and you may have been exposed to asbestos during your time in the U.S. military, you may be eligible for disability compensation.
Applying for Benefits: How to Support Your VA Claim
If you had military exposure to asbestos, you may qualify for benefits. Veterans may file a claim for disability compensation for lung problems that they believe are related to exposure to asbestos during military service. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, these benefits are available in the forms of VA health care and compensation.
It is important to provide any medical record evidence concerning your diagnosis and how you’re treating your condition. The VA states that the following are key parts of evidence and supporting documents:
- Medical records that state your illness or disability, and
- Service records that list your job or specialty, and
- A doctor’s statement that there’s a connection between your contact with asbestos during military service and the illness or disability
You’ll also be required to prove your exposure to asbestos in order to qualify for VA benefits. In order to do so, you will need to look at your military duties and examine how and when you were exposed. Providing a statement detailing the duties involved with your MOS, how you were exposed, and how often you were exposed will be beneficial in proving your claim. Remember, when proving service-connection, there must be a disease or disability diagnosed in medical records, proof of exposure in service, and a link between the two. Unlike Agent Orange, there is no presumption for Asbestos Exposure so you will need to provide evidence to the VA in order to receive a favorable decision.
If you have a concern about asbestos exposure and whether you may be entitled to benefits for your VA disability, call Hill & Ponton for more information. Our law firm specializes in veteran’s disability and social security disability cases. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.