Marine Veterans and Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer found in the linings of the lung, heart, or abdomen. It is diagnosed in less than 15 percent of Americans every year. Even so, United States veterans make up 30 percent of the total 3,300 Americans diagnosed and receiving treatment each year. This is due to veterans being exposed to asbestos for longer periods than many civilians.
Asbestos was prized as a miraculous mineral for its durability, heat-resistance, and low cost. All five U.S. military branches relied on the toxic material throughout World War II and up until the 1980s. It was the perfect, cost-effective solution for a rapidly growing military. With asbestos, many bases, housing, vehicles, and even textiles could be produced faster and made stronger than the past.
What they didn’t realize was that friable (easily crumbled) asbestos could become airborne and inhaled. These fibers, once lodged inside a person’s esophagus or lung cannot be removed. Over time, these fibers accumulate and cause inflammation. This can eventually lead to developing cancerous tumors, known as mesothelioma, and requires treatment similar to that given to lung cancer patients.
While a small amount of exposure could be hazardous, everyone in the United States has been exposed to asbestos at some point in their lives. Conversely, the long-term exposure that veterans experience makes them more likely to develop mesothelioma or another asbestos-related cancer.
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Where Were Marines Exposed to Asbestos?
Marines could have been exposed on any base, military housing unit, or even vehicles and aircraft that were built before the 1980s. However, Marines stationed on Navy ships are more likely to have worked around asbestos. This is because durable, heat- and fire-resistant metal on ships was a necessity for times of war.
While the dangers of asbestos are now better known by the public, new products and structures are being built without asbestos. Nonetheless, working on or around older buildings and vehicles can still cause friable asbestos exposure. Certain occupations in the military can lead to a higher risk of exposure. These jobs include:
- Cement layers
- EMTs/ First Responders
- HVAC technicians
- Insulation Installers
Marines working on bases that are going through renovations, whether they are or are not personally working on the upgrades, may also face a higher risk of asbestos exposure.
Symptoms of Mesothelioma
If you worked in one of the occupations listed above, there is a chance that you could develop mesothelioma. It’s essential to meet with a cancer specialist to receive a diagnosis and lung treatment, as they may spot something that a general physician could miss. Consider reaching out to a specialist if you are experiencing:
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal swelling
- Chest pain
- Labored breathing
- Loss of appetite or weight loss
- Painful, persistent cough
The issue with the majority of mesothelioma symptoms is that they are similar to many other diseases, like the flu, and can be hard to diagnose in a person’s lung. However, if you are a veteran experiencing any of the above symptoms, you are at a higher chance of being diagnosed with mesothelioma. Speak with a physician about your role in the military and your chance of having been exposed to asbestos.
Veterans Benefits for Marines
Veterans of the United States military who have received a mesothelioma diagnosis may be eligible for treatment and financial benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs. These benefits may cover medical bills or compensate veterans for loss of income.
However, one must still prove their eligibility for this by compiling evidence that they were exposed to asbestos during their service. To do this, one must gather documentation of:
- Time of service
- Where they were stationed
- Job or role in the military
- Doctor’s note to confirm the relationship between disease and service
However, even if someone can confirm that they’ve developed mesothelioma during their service, it does not mean they are guaranteed certain benefits or enough to cover their expenses. In these cases, veterans are still eligible for other forms of compensation, including asbestos trust funds or legal claims against corporations that produced and sold asbestos products.
Legal Action for Marines
Legal action can be taken in cases where veterans’ benefits are unavailable or not enough to cover the veteran’s bills. While the public and consumers didn’t know the full health effects of asbestos when it was heavily used, companies mining and selling asbestos knew the risks. If this negligence caused your mesothelioma or cancer diagnosis, you are entitled to compensation.
It’s important to note that these class action or individual lawsuits do not and will not affect the United States military or prevent a veteran from receiving VA benefits. These cases are brought up solely against companies that supplied the asbestos-contaminated materials. To learn more about your legal options, try calling the number listed or fill out a free case evaluation form to speak with a mesothelioma specialist.
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