If you are a veteran of the U.S. armed forces and are diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, there is a very high likelihood you were exposed to deadly asbestos fibers during your time in service. This is not only true for Boston veterans with mesothelioma, but for veterans all over the country who have been diagnosed with this deadly form of cancer.
The reason these cases are different than a Boston mesothelioma lawsuit that doesn’t involve a military veteran, is that veterans must first file a claim with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). While we will discuss the specifics of filing a claim with the VA later in this posting, it is important to understand why there are some many military veteran mesothelioma cases in our area.Since the American Revolutionary War, some of the bravest men and women have defended our nation, and they have done so while based in Boston and the surrounding area. In the Second World War, the navy yard in Charlestown was a major hub for manufacturing warships and merchant marine vessels that were heavily used as part of the war effort.
These ships were built by civilians who worked in industry as well as the service members who would go on to sail the military vessels and the merchant marines who sailed the cargo ships though harm’s way in the South Pacific and the Europeans theater.
As our Boston mesothelioma attorneys have explained in other blog postings such as this one these shipyards and the boats they were building were filled with deadly asbestos fibers. There are many reasons that asbestos was used so heavily on ship construction. One of the first reasons is that there is nothing to fear more than a fire at sea. If the sailors cannot put the fire out, the boat will be lost along with many on board. They can jump from the ship or try to get in life rafts, but they would only find themselves in rough seas, that were infested with sharks in the South Pacific, and also they could be captured or killed by enemy forces before they were rescued. While these may seem like scenes for a movie, these were very real concerns from those brave souls at sea during World War II.
Asbestos has the incredible ability to withstand heat, fire, caustic chemicals, and even electricity. It is a naturally occurring substance that is easy to mine and cheap to process into consumer and industrial goods. They used it for insulation on the ships around engine parts and in bulkheads to prevent the spread of fire. There were asbestos blankets to suppress a fire, and it was used in many other gaskets and waterproof seals on ships. On gun ships, it was used to prevent a fire when powder charges were fired.
However, the deadly fibers were being ingested by military veterans of all branches as they were on the ships. While we tend to think only of the Marines and the Navy on these ships, there were no troop transport planes or large commercial airliners back then so they used large military troop transport ships to get troops to the operational theaters in Europe and the South Pacific. There was no U.S. Air Force at that time.
While there was much exposure during the Second World War, most of the sailors are shipbuilders are no longer living. However, many of these workers and sailors came home from work each day covered in asbestos where their family members, many of whom were small children at the time would get exposed to the deadly fibers. This continued for many years after the Second World War as the shipyards in Boston and around our area were used during the Korean War and the War in Vietnam.
Filing a Claim with the VA for Malignant Mesothelioma
The first thing you must do if you are military veteran and have been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma due to your years in service is to file a claim for disability benefits with the VA. This can be a very complex process even though it seems rather straightforward at first. The best thing you can do is to speak with an experienced Boston mesothelioma injury lawyer who regularly assists military veterans in filing these claims.
It should be noted that malignant mesothelioma is not the only disease caused by exposure to asbestos fibers, and it is not the only disease for which you can apply for VA benefits. The VA also covers sufferers of asbestosis and what are known as pleural plaques. As defined by the British Thoracic Society, a major researcher and treatment center for asbestos-related illness and other lung diseases, states that pleural plaques are discrete circumscribed areas of the hyaline fibrosis of the parietal pleura and sometimes the visceral pleura. These sacs, while benign (non-cancerous) are indicative of past exposure to asbestos.
While these plaques are non-malignant, they are caused by exposure to asbestos fibers and result in serious scarring to the inside of the ribcage and lungs. They can cause serious breathing problems and seriously reduce the victim’s quality of life.
This is similar to asbestosis. Here instead of plaques forming, we have scarring in the lung tissue that can cause serious breathing problems and can be fatal if not properly treated. The symptoms and treatment are similar to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) that we typically associate with smoking cigarettes.
The VA will also cover patients who development lung cancer due to asbestos exposure. This is different from malignant mesothelioma. While they are both cancer, malignant mesothelioma is distinct from the type of cancer we typically associate with smoking. That cancer can also form due to environmental factors, but mesothelioma is virtually always caused by exposure to asbestos.
One thing to keep in mind is that the Department of Defense has a program to provide benefits to military veterans who were exposed to asbestos and have developed one of these covered conditions, but that doesn’t mean the military will accept liability for making anyone sick. In fact, the exact opposite is true. The military takes the position that their suppliers hid the dangers of asbestos from the Department of Defense and they did not know they were exposing service members to the deadly fibers.
While this is certainly a questionable claim, it will not affect your ability to recover VA benefits, with the assistance of an experienced mesothelioma lawyer in the greater Boston area. There may be additional avenues for obtaining compensation that you can discuss with your attorney, but in most cases, the first step will be to file a claim with the VA.
Another thing to keep in mind is that just because you are able to obtain VA benefits, does not mean you will be able to automatically obtain Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits for your disability. This is true even if you have a 100 percent disability rating from VA. The reason for this is because even though both the VA and the Social Security Administration (SSA) are government agencies, they define disability very differently from each other. The best thing you can do is to speak with an attorney who handles both VA claims and Social Security Disability Insurance claims.
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
Rleural plaques, British Thoracic Society
More Blog Entries:
Montana Settles Asbestos Claims for $25M, Feb. 19, 2017, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyer Blog