Past and present military service poses a high likelihood of asbestos exposure and risk of developing mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other asbestos disease. While you do not need to prove that your asbestos-related illness was the result of military service in order to be eligible for VA healthcare, you do need to prove that it is service-connected to receive disability compensation for your injuries.
Asbestos Use by the Military
From the 1930’s through the 1970’s asbestos was used heavily by the military. Those who were in the Navy are at the greatest risk for developing mesothelioma, but servicemen in all branches of the military were exposed. Their loved ones and family members were also exposed when they brought asbestos home in their clothing, hair, and belongings. Asbestos was used by the military in:
- Military bases
- Military vehicles
Although heavy use of asbestos by the military tapered off in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, military personnel may still be exposed today in buildings and equipment which still contain asbestos.
Military asbestos exposure
Military asbestos exposure has been a significant concern in the past, as asbestos was commonly used in various military applications due to its heat-resistant and insulating properties. This exposure occurred in a range of military contexts, and it posed a high likelihood of exposure for service members in the past. Here are some key points to consider:
- Historical Use of Asbestos: Asbestos was widely used in the military, especially during and after World War II. It was used in the construction of ships, aircraft, vehicles, and military buildings. Asbestos-containing materials included insulation, fireproofing, gaskets, and brake linings.
- Occupational Exposure: Service members who worked in trades such as shipbuilding, mechanics, construction, and aircraft maintenance were particularly at risk of asbestos exposure due to their proximity to materials containing asbestos.
- Secondary Exposure: Even service members who did not work directly with asbestos-containing materials could still be at risk due to the possibility of inhaling asbestos fibers released into the air during the maintenance, repair, and demolition of military structures and equipment.
- Health Risks: Asbestos exposure is known to be associated with serious health risks, particularly mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer. These diseases can have a long latency period, often not appearing until decades after exposure.
- Regulations and Changes: In response to the dangers of asbestos, regulations and safety measures have been put in place to reduce exposure risks in the military and other sectors. Asbestos use has been significantly reduced, and its replacement with safer materials is encouraged.
- Veteran Assistance: Veterans who were exposed to asbestos during their service may be eligible for compensation and healthcare benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) if they develop asbestos-related diseases. It’s essential for affected veterans to seek assistance from the VA to ensure they receive the support they need.
- Preventive Measures: For current and future service members, awareness of the risks of asbestos exposure and adherence to safety protocols and regulations are crucial to minimize the likelihood of exposure.
It’s important for anyone who served in the military during the era when asbestos use was prevalent to be aware of the potential risks and, if they experience symptoms related to asbestos-related diseases, to seek medical evaluation and support. Additionally, legal and medical resources are available to assist veterans who have been adversely affected by military asbestos exposure.
Asbestos Exposure in Other Countries Today
Today our soldiers are still at risk for exposure to high concentrations of asbestos when they serve in other countries. Soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan are currently being diagnosed with lung cancer and other respiratory disease, which may be due to asbestos exposure. Iraq does not regulate asbestos use and is known to import large amounts of asbestos.
Soldiers may be exposed when buildings are blown up, spreading debris including asbestos fibers. Lawsuits filed by Veterans against Kellogg, Brown and Root, for toxic exposure including asbestos exposure allege that the private contractor used burn pits in Iraq to dispose of waste, including medical waste and building ruble, exposing the soldiers.
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis, or another asbestos-related illness and you served in the military there is a very good chance that you are eligible for coast-free VA health care, whether your asbestos exposure occurred as a result of military service or not.
If your asbestos-related illness was caused by asbestos exposure while serving in the military, you may also be eligible for VA disability compensation. Unfortunately, it may be difficult to prove that your illness is service-connected.
VA Health Care
Most U.S. Veterans qualify for Veteran’s Administration (VA) health care. You do not have to prove that your illness or injury is service-connected in order to be eligible, and you did not have to serve in combat. It is much easier to qualify for VA Health Care than disability compensation, and if you have been turned down for disability compensation, you should still pursue your VA health care benefits.
VA Health Care Eligibility
VA health care is available to anyone who has been in active military service in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard and whose discharge was not dishonorable. Some Reservists and National Guard members are eligible for VA health care. Additionally, there are many groups, including civilian groups, which are eligible for VA health care because they provided military-related service.
Caregivers of Veterans are also eligible for some VA benefits. The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 authorized the VA establish services for caregivers of Veterans. Most of the new services and benefits are only available to caregivers of Veterans who were disabled in the line of duty since September 11, 2001, but there are some services available to caregivers of all Veterans.
VA Health Care Benefits
There is no monthly fee for using VA health care. You may have to pay co-pays for your VA health care, but many Veterans are exempt from co-pays. Several factors can qualify you for free health care through the VA including:
- Purple Heart
- Former Prisoner of War
- Compensable service-connected disabilities
- Low income
Other special circumstances may apply which can eliminate or reduce your co-pays, and in some situations you may be eligible for a refund for co-pays you have already paid.
When you travel, you take your VA benefits with you for streamlined care. You will not have to re-apply when you move or travel. Mesothelioma patients benefit most from treatment in a cancer center. The VA has cancer centers throughout the country.
To start taking advantage of your VA health care benefits, you must enroll. You can request an appointment when you apply for enrolment, you do not have to wait for approval. An appointment will be scheduled when your application is processed.