Veterans Exposure to Asbestos and Hazardous Materials

Each year, about 3,000 individuals in the U. S. receive a mesothelioma diagnosis. However, many medical statisticians believing that this statistic is under-reported and/or underdiagnosed. This guesstimated under-reporting likely occurs for a number of reasons.

  • Because during the early course of cancer, many individuals exhibit no symptoms and,
  • Tumors and other identifying characteristics/markers can be challenging to identify on an x-ray.

Mesothelioma, according to the Mesothelioma Cancer Network, is considered a rare form of cancer generally caused by those individuals who have a history of being exposed to asbestos and other cancer-causing fibrous materials.

Mesothelioma typically impacts the cells of a membrane that acts as the protective covering across a number of the human body’s internal organs.  In the medical community, the membrane is called the mesothelium.

Asbestos was once a commonplace building material used in various ways in the construction of residential and commercial buildings. Veterans who have served in countries located in the Middle East (like Iraq) or Southeast Asia may have been inadvertently exposed to these carcinogen materials in older buildings, where the asbestos materials have been released and easily breathable.

Additionally, veterans may have been exposed to asbestos if they were involved in military occupations in the areas of –

    • Construction and/or Demolition.
    • Vehicle Repair/Upgrade
    • Shipyard work.
    • Mining.
    • Carpentry.
    • Milling.

Veterans that may have been exposed to asbestos if they worked with products that include –

    • Piping.
    • Insulation.
    • Friction Products that include the linings of brakes or clutch facings.
    • Roofing.
    • Flooring, among others.

The most common form of mesothelioma impacts the membrane that lines the chest/lung – the pleura. This mesothelioma type impacts more than 3/4 of mesothelioma patients. Mesothelioma’s symptoms vary from patient to patient but depend upon the location of cancer, the type of cancer, and the stage to which cancer has progressed.

If you are an active military member or veteran exposed to asbestos during your military career AND you weren’t on the receiving end of a dishonorable discharge, you may be eligible for disability benefits related to asbestos-caused mesothelioma, from the Veterans Administration (VA).

The VA encourages veterans to file disability claims if they believe their previous military asbestos service exposure contributed to ongoing and lasting health problems. Claims can be filed online; however, each asbestos-related claim is assessed on its individual merit and is, therefore, decided on a case-by-case basis. 

Elaine Allen
the authorElaine Allen