Veterans who manned Navy ships and veterans who repaired Navy ships in shipyards were prime candidates for asbestos exposure. Virtually every ship commissioned by the United States Navy between 1930 and about 1970 contained several tons of asbestos insulation.
Veterans from other branches of the military were also exposed to asbestos. Hundreds of military installations were left with asbestos containing building products. Thousands of military vehicles were also left with asbestos found in the form of brakes, gaskets and insulation.
Vietnam veterans were exposed to asbestos that still remained in bases, transport ships and in vehicles used earily in the Vietnam deployment. Veterans who were involved with haphazardous asbestos removal projects have also been exposed.
How asbestos exposure occurs
Asbestos is most hazardous when the material is easily crumbled. Exposure occurs when its fibers are released into the air and get into the lungs by breathing the air. Veterans’ risk of developing an asbestos disease depends on several factors:
- Amount and duration of exposure. Veterans who were exposed to asbestos more frequently over a long period of time are more at risk.
- History of pre-existing lung condition. You may be at greater risk if you have an underlying lung condition and have been exposed to asbestos.
- Smoking. If you have been exposed to asbestos and smoke, you are far more likely to develop lung cancer
- Age. Studies have shown that the younger you are when you are first exposed to asbestos, the more likely you are to develop an asbestos disease.
Disability rights for veteran asbestos victims
The regulation on service related disability was written in 1988 and still stands. The VA will treat qualified veterans with asbestosis or mesothelioma cancer, but veterans must prove that:
- their disease is related to asbestos exposure
- the exposure occurred during active duty
- there are no other incidents of potential exposure either preceding or following active duty
This proof is not always easy when the disease surfaces decades after completing active duty.
Veterans who have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease such as mesothelioma have legal rights and may be able to recover compensation for their losses and suffering. Only an experienced mesothelioma lawyer will know if you have a valid legal claim.