Memorial Day: Veterans Inspire Mesothelioma Patients to Keep Fighting

Veterans Memorial in New York

You may have noticed that many of the cases we talk about involve veterans. That’s because many veterans served alongside a hidden enemy.

Asbestos was widely used in the U.S. military during the 20th century, placing veterans at high risk of developing asbestos-related diseases.

This month we’ve been examining the asbestos lawsuit of one veteran, Jack Johnson, and what it can mean for other veterans. Next week, we’ll finish our series about defense tactics used in asbestos cases like Johnson’s.

But this week we want to pause to honor veterans who were exposed to asbestos during their military service. Let’s be inspired by their courage and consider what we can learn from their stories.

Asbestos and the Military

This is Memorial Day weekend, and thousands of veterans will gather at homes, at parades, at cemeteries and at monuments to honor friends and family members who died on the battlefield. I’d like to point out that many other veterans are still fighting for their lives because they were exposed to asbestos.

More than 30 percent of the people in the United States who are diagnosed with mesothelioma were exposed to asbestos while serving in the military. Between the 1930s and 1970s, the military used over 300 asbestos-containing products on shipyards or any manner of Navy ships —  battleships, aircraft carriers, cruisers, submarines and destroyers.

Veterans who served during this time, particularly those who served in the Navy, are at high risk of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

If you know a veteran who may have been exposed to asbestos, encourage him or her to get regular health screenings. If you are veteran who’s been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, support is available.

Veterans Affairs Claims

Veterans who have been diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases can apply for VA benefits. In fact, mesothelioma is now recognized as a service-connected medical condition by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans may be eligible for disability compensation, life insurance, medical and pension, among other benefits.

But be aware that the VA claims process can be complicated. Benefits are not guaranteed and may be denied for various reasons. Veterans must be able to trace their asbestos exposure to military service. Contact our Veterans Assistance Department for more information and free assistance with a claim.

Lawsuits

The court system may offer another option for veterans. They may be able to sue asbestos manufacturers and others who supplied the military with asbestos-containing materials.

Here are few of the courageous veterans, and their families, who have forced asbestos defendants to answer for their injuries:

  • Many people were exposed to asbestos at Brooklyn Navy Yard. As many as 70,000 were exposed during World War II alone. Many of these people filed lawsuits against asbestos manufacturers, bringing awareness to the harm caused by asbestos exposure.
  • Lt. Patrick O’Neil was exposed to asbestos on board the USS Oriskany during the 1960s. His family sued Crane Co. and Warren Pumps in a California court after he died of mesothelioma. They eventually lost. But the case is still important because the court acknowledged two exceptions to its ruling that could benefit future mesothelioma patients.
  • Navy veteran Ronald Dummitt, on the other hand, recently won a $32 million judgment against Crane. He was exposed to asbestos in Crane gaskets while replacing ship boilers on Navy vessels during the ’60s and ’70s. A New York jury found that Crane was 99% responsible for Mr. Dummit’s injuries. This case shows that the facts of each case are different. No two cases are guaranteed the same result, so you should talk to a mesothelioma lawyer about your specific claim.

So on Memorial Day, take time to honor those who died in battle. Also join me in remembering veterans who were exposed to asbestos during their service. Let’s honor those who have fallen and those who continue to fight.


Karen Marshall has more than 17 years of legal experience and is an attorney with The Peterson Firm. She has been contributing to The Mesothelioma Center since 2011 and writes about asbestos-related legal issues and blogs for Asbestos.com.

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