Asbestos Exposure an Ongoing Issue for Navy Veterans

Many Older Ships Created Exposure

 

Last updated 12/11/2023 at 1:57pm

Courtesy Mesotheliomaveterans.org

Asbestos was used in multiple locations aboard ships as well as other locations throughout society. If completely "encapsulated" it is a low-risk substance, but when disturbed and exposed to air it is considered "friable" and can quickly become very hazardous.

Asbestos was once a celebrated building material, a staple in shipbuilding during the 20th century due to its singular heat resistance and insulating properties. The mineral was a lurking danger, emerging when its microscopic fibers became airborne and were inhaled. It was too often an ignored threat,

Every branch of the U.S. Military - including the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy - applied products made with asbestos for decades. However, Navy personnel were at an exceptionally high risk of asbestos exposure. They worked and lived near asbestos-containing items during duty, mostly unaware of the danger they were facing. With the precarious materials in every part of the naval vessels, everyone onboard risked exposure to asbestos.

\The consequences of asbestos exposure can be severe. The inhaled or ingested asbestos fibers may cause incapacitating illnesses in the long term after lodging primarily in the lungs and the body's tissues afterward. The fact that asbestos-related diseases often take several years to develop means that Navy veterans exposed to asbestos during service may only now be experiencing devastating outcomes.

Discovering the link between their diseases and military service can be overwhelming for veterans. Aside from the physical challenges, there's an emotional toll that is usually overlooked and often underrated. Many vets can feel unsupported and isolated, an extra emotional burden that can exacerbate their health problems.

Situations like these call for reflexes deeply ingrained during their duty in the Navy, and veterans should take proactive steps to safeguard their health:

Regular health check-ups: Medical examinations done periodically are crucial. So is talking to the doctor about military service and possible asbestos exposure.

Early detection enhances treatment results and may add years to life. Lungs are primarily harmed by inhaled asbestos fibers. Therefore, veterans should request chest X-rays and pulmonary function tests (also known as the breathing test), as they immediately reveal any changes and are an accessible diagnostic tool for malignant and benign asbestos-related illnesses.

Asbestos diseases are complex and, therefore, often misdiagnosed because their symptoms also correspond to common respiratory affections, so asking for a second doctor's opinion is advisable. Veterans with Medicare or Medicaid should also go outside the VA and ask for a pulmonary specialist's evaluation. Also, private insurance may provide extra coverage for Medical needs so that former Navy service members may access various specialty consultations. In some cases of advanced asbestos-related diseases, Navy vets were correctly diagnosed after a separate consultation with a pulmonologist.

Veterans exposed to asbestos during their duty should know their legal rights and options. Legal avenues and compensation programs are available to assist those injured by asbestos exposure.

If you are a veteran you have the legal right to seek compensation from asbestos trust funds and apply for VA disability benefits. Asbestos trust funds are an important source of remuneration for individuals harmed by occupational exposure, including former Navy personnel. These funds were put together by liable companies that entered bankruptcy protection and have approximately $37 billion currently available for future claimants.

Navy vets affected by asbestos exposure during service can file a claim for indemnification with both asbestos trust funds and Veterans Affairs. The same trust funds may compensate those exposed second-hand. Veterans' family members may apply for indemnification if their health is affected by their indirect encounter with the toxic asbestos fibers.

Veterans can play a pivotal role in educating their communities and fellow servicemembers about the risks of asbestos exposure. By sharing their experiences and the knowledge they gathered, they can ensure that others who served the country are also informed.

Courtesy Mesotheliomaveterans.org

The danger of asbestos aboard ships was of special concern due to long-term exposure of sailors working in close quarters with the material.

As we honor the commitment and devotion of our Navy veterans, let us also recognize our responsibility to protect their health and well-being. Awareness of asbestos exposure is a central part of this responsibility. By shedding light on this hidden danger, we can make sure that those who served at sea receive the rightly deserved care and support.

About the author:

Cristina Johnson is a Navy veteran advocate for Asbestos Ships Organization, a nonprofit whose primary mission is to raise awareness and educate veterans about the dangers of asbestos exposure on Navy ships and assist them in navigating the VA claims process. For more information, please visit asbestos-ships.com. or MesotheliomaVeterans.org.

 

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