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Veterans and Mesothelioma
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, there are currently about 21.5 million living individuals who have served in the United States' Armed Forces. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of these living veterans were exposed to toxic asbestos-containing materials during military service. This has resulted in an elevated rate of asbestos-related diseases in veterans.
Veterans & Asbestos Exposure
Widely used by every military branch, asbestos was highly regarded for its heat resistance and fireproofing capabilities. In fact, asbestos was so valued that the military even mandated widespread usage before eventually phasing out the material in the 1970s. As a result, veterans who served between 1940 and 1970 have a risk of developing asbestos-related illnesses. Additionally, Navy personnel and workers employed in shipyards from the 1930s through the 1970s hold a greater risk of developing a disease caused by asbestos exposure.
Learn how asbestos was used in your branch of the military
Veterans with an Asbestos-Related Illness
Receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis is difficult since many of the symptoms are indicative of other conditions. Early warning signs such as persistent cough, night sweats, and fever are frequently misdiagnosed as pneumonia or influenza, affording the cancer the opportunity to develop and spread throughout the body.
Mesothelioma treatment for asbestos-related illnesses varies depending on the condition. Thankfully, there are organizational resources for veterans that can offer assistance with the complications associated with asbestos-related illness.
Carl Jewett, Veterans Department Director, talks about what to expect when you contact The Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com and the services we offer to veterans.
VA Claims and Other Veteran Benefits
Veterans are allowed to apply for Veteran Affairs (VA) benefits for asbestos-related diseases, and the resources at Asbestos.com can assist veterans in applying for benefits. Initially, a veteran must provide proof that their disease is asbestos-related and that exposure occurred during military service.
Currently, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs recognizes mesothelioma as a service-connected medical condition. However, even if a veteran has been diagnosed with mesothelioma (nearly all cases are caused by asbestos exposure), the VA may not approve their claim for disability compensation for various reasons. If that happens, Asbestos.com can help.
The following resources offer more information about VA claims, benefits and eligibility requirements for veterans:
Asbestos.com offers free assistance with filing your VA claim and can make the process much easier. Our Veterans Assistance Department offers extensive experience in filing VA claims and can help any veteran coping with mesothelioma. For more information or free assistance regarding VA benefits, programs and eligibility, please call (800) 615-2270 or contact our Veterans Assistance Department by filling out the form on this page.
Veteran Access to Mesothelioma Specialists, Clinical Trials
Veterans who receive mesothelioma disability status can seek treatment anywhere in the VA system, giving them access to some of the best specialists in the country.
Surgeons like Abraham Lebenthal, M.D., at the Boston VA Healthcare System and Robert Cameron, M.D., at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System are lauded for their work as mesothelioma specialists, offering their services to veterans everywhere.
Navy veteran Odell Rankins, for example, traveled from Mendenhall, Miss., to see Lebenthal in Boston, where he underwent a complex, 12-hour surgery for his pleural mesothelioma. The VA helped with travel and lodging.
In Los Angeles, Cameron has spearheaded the drive to raise money to create the Elmo Zumwalt Mesothelioma Treatment and Research Center, affiliated with the VA Medical Center, catering to veterans everywhere. Admiral Zumwalt, who died of mesothelioma in 2000, was a war hero and the youngest man ever to become the U.S. chief of Naval Operations.
Veterans also can participate in clinical trials, where the latest experimental treatment procedures are being tested. There is no cure for mesothelioma, but advancements are being made through clinical trials.
Although VA hospitals do not do clinical trials, a veteran can participate in a trial for free at the National Cancer institute (NCI) in Bethesda, Md. A veteran also can participate in a trial elsewhere, but there is a cost involved. Supplemental insurance often will pay some of the expenses of a trial.
The NCI, for example, has an ongoing clinical trial involving immunotherapy drug SS1P, which has produced impressive results in reducing tumor size with late-stage mesothelioma patients. There are dozens of mesothelioma trials at various sites.
More than 300 products containing asbestos were used by the military, primarily by the Navy from the 1930s through the 1970s. Every ship and shipyard built by the Navy before the mid-70s was fitted with numerous asbestos-containing materials.
Asbestos in Ships & Shipyards
Virtually no portion of a naval ship was asbestos-free between the '30s and mid-70s, making Navy veterans and shipyard workers one of the most at-risk groups for developing asbestos-related diseases. Asbestos-containing materials were extensively used in engine and boiler rooms and other areas below deck for fire safety purposes, but all former sailors are at risk because the dangerous mineral was also used in navigation rooms, sleeping quarters and mess halls.