The Army and Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is a cancer that affects the mesothelium, a thin layer of tissue surrounding the abdomen, lung, and chest cavities. The disease is rare, affecting only 3,330 people a year in the United States. However, a disproportionate amount of mesothelioma diagnoses, around 30 percent, are veterans of the United States military.
Asbestos is a naturally-occurring, fibrous mineral mined underground. Durable, cheap, and fire-resistant, it was considered the perfect material to insulate military housing, ships, and vehicles. From the 1930s until the early 1980s, the military relied on asbestos-containing products to protect service members and expensive equipment.
Though the military stopped using asbestos in the early 1980s, the material still exists on Army bases across the U.S. Active duty soldiers may even handle asbestos when repairing older structures or equipment, exposing yet another generation of service members to the toxic dust.
Army Veterans and Asbestos: Where Was I Exposed?
Asbestos was often mixed with cement, flooring, and roofing materials to make structures stronger. In the Army, soldiers and other personnel were likely exposed to the toxic substance while living in barracks or fixing military vehicles, where asbestos was used in automotive gaskets and to line brake pads.
Undisturbed, asbestos isn’t dangerous. However, when soldiers cut pipes, repair equipment, or perform maintenance on military structures and vehicles, microscopic asbestos fibers are released into the air, where they are inhaled or even ingested. These fibers stick to the lining of the lungs and chest cavity and are impossible to remove. Over time, the fibers create scar tissue that may develop into cancerous tumors.
Army Roles and Occupations at Risk for Asbestos Exposure
Certain occupations or roles on Army bases may lead to a higher risk of asbestos exposure. They include:
- Construction Workers
- Demolition Technicians
- Vehicle Maintenance Worker
Symptoms of Mesothelioma
Army veterans who worked in any of the occupations listed above were likely exposed to high levels of asbestos and are at a greater risk of developing mesothelioma. If you notice any of the symptoms listed below, it’s essential to meet with your primary care physician, as well as an oncologist who specializes in diagnosing and treating mesothelioma. Seek medical attention immediately if you experience:
- Pain or swelling in the abdomen
- Chest pain
- Extreme fatigue
- Breathing Difficulties
- Sudden weight loss or a decrease in appetite
- Painful, persistent cough
Many mesothelioma symptoms are similar to other common illnesses, like the flu, making it more challenging to diagnose. Soldiers who exhibit these symptoms are more likely to be diagnosed with mesothelioma than the average civilian. It’s important to discuss any past or current military service with your doctor or mesothelioma specialist.
Veterans Benefits for Soldiers
Army veterans who are diagnosed with mesothelioma may be eligible for benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). In most cases, compensation is used to cover medical bills or lost income.
In order to receive government benefits, veterans must first prove their eligibility. This process involves gathering evidence to show asbestos exposure occurred during their time of service. The paperwork can be confusing or complicated, so it’s best to work with a qualified VA specialist when filing this type of claim.
Soldiers should provide the following documentation to the VA:
- Medical records stating illness or disability
- Service records listing the specific military role and location
- Doctor’s note confirming the relationship between asbestos exposure and time of service
If you need help applying for veterans benefits or filing a VA claim, call the Mesothelioma Hotline number below. A member of our advocacy team will be happy to guide you through the process.
Legal Action for Army Veterans
While VA benefits are available, they’re not always guaranteed or may not cover all medical expenses. In those situations, veterans are often entitled to other forms of compensation. Our experienced attorneys can help victims access payment through asbestos trust funds, or filing a claim against the corporations that manufactured and sold asbestos-containing products.
It’s important to note that filing an individual lawsuit will not affect the VA benefits you receive. For more information on filing a claim, fill out a free case evaluation form or call the number below to speak with a mesothelioma patient advocate.