Between 1930 and 1970, asbestos was used heavily in several areas of the US Army, US Air Force, and the Marine Corps and mostly in the US Navy, over the years, resulting in mesothelioma Navy veterans. Millions of people who served in their respective military units were exposed to asbestos over the legal permissible limits. In fact, for most of the period, the hazard of asbestos was not even known, meaning that for quite a time during this period, there were no threshold limits to asbestos exposure at all. It was in the early seventies that asbestos began to get banned from use in various fields. But the damage had already been done. And, here is the fatal twist in the tale of asbestos exposure by Navy Veterans.
The symptoms of excessive exposure to asbestos manifest themselves after decades. So, even if a person were exposed to asbestos during the course of their service tenure in the armed forces, the symptoms of any asbestos-related disease would only appear several years after they returned to civilian life. This occurrence has led to numerous court cases featuring Navy veterans.
There are restrictions imposed on military personnel and their families who seek compensation from the US armed forces, by law, specifically outlined on the “Feres Doctrine”. Due to this reason, there is very little public information regarding mesothelioma claims for navy veterans. Although some cases have been cited, there is no specific information available, and usually names and dates are not publicized.
However, there was a recent case which came to light, where a law firm by the name of Weitz & Luxenberg managed to get a sizeable settlement for a Navy veteran from 26 companies who had supplied asbestos material to the Navy. The specific details are not available, but the amount that the court instructed to be awarded to the family of the Navy veteran who died in 2011 was a total of $10 million.
Although Navy veterans are unable to enter into litigation against the US Navy, it is possible to get a settlement through the Department of Veteran Affairs, VA. There is great activity in the in the area of VA compensation, and we highlight later in the article the benefits that are available from this department for Navy Veterans afflicted with asbestos-related diseases and how one can avail of these benefits.
History of Asbestos Exposure in the Navy
By the 1970s, the hazards of exposure to asbestos became known and its use was discontinued on naval vessels. However, the vessels still continued to be used, and the Navy personnel onboard those ships continued to be exposed to this hazardous substance. This was further exacerbated during the process of renovation or demolition of these ships. Boilermakers, boiler tenders and boiler technicians were considered to be the highest risk group, due to the excessive use of asbestos in boiler rooms.
Another high-risk group was the sailors who slept in bunks beneath pipes that were covered with asbestos. Over an extended period, these men would have inhaled very high levels of asbestos.
High reliance on asbestos for building materials during the early years is another cause for concern. For example, residential naval quarters in Klamath County, Oregon were built using a high volume of asbestos sheets. In 2011, the EPA declared these quarters as asbestos contaminated.
Free Help is at Hand with the Department of Veterans Affairs
The US Department of Veterans Affairs has a dedicated Mesothelioma Center where VA-Accredited Claims Agents are available to give free advice and assistance on Mesothelioma claims. These agents are retired Navy officers, so they have a good grasp of the ins and outs of VA claims with a specific focus on Mesothelioma cases. These agents provide an effective bridge of communication between Navy veterans, their families and the VA. This speeds up the process of getting VA claims under way.
How do I file a VA Claim?
The best way to file a VA claim is to log on to benefits.va.gov and follow the steps to file a VA Claim. You need to follow the steps mentioned below, to ensure that your claim is valid.
- First, you will need to document your service, get your medical records, document any doctor visits you have taken, and ensure you have all your Navy documentation showing the ships you served on.
- Then you should seek one of the representatives at the VA mentioned on their website (above), or go to a VA Hospital near you to help you to file your claim.
- If you need help filing a claim, contact one of the Veteran Service Organizations who volunteer to help vets with their packet submission. Some notable ones are Disabled American Veterans and Wounded Warriors.
- Once you tried all of these and if you are still having trouble, you could always Google a mesothelioma claim lawyer to help you. But they don’t come cheap and will take a good chunk of your benefits over the next few years.
Social Security Benefits for Mesothelioma Navy Veterans
If a person has made payments to Social Security and has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, they will be able to get Social Security benefits. The condition is, however that they should not already be taking retirement benefits from Social Security. Several claims are reviewed individually, but in the case of Mesothelioma, the disease is considered to be severe enough to receive Social Security benefits without much delay.
Mesothelioma Benefits from Medicaid
Medicaid is another viable source of getting benefits for those suffering from Mesothelioma. Medicaid is usually applicable to the lower income bracket, but then, a major chunk of retired Navy personnel do come under this category. Your VA disability and any other entitlement programs you receive typically do not count toward your income when calculating Medicaid income thresholds. The process for claiming Medicaid assistance is quite similar to that involved in claiming Social Security benefits.
So, in retrospect, it becomes quite clear that even though this deadly disease, mesothelioma manifests itself literally decades after the last exposure to asbestos, there are sufficient legal channels for getting assistance and be awarded a settlement. Hence, Navy veterans who fall ill to mesothelioma and their families should not lose hope, as help is at hand and by following these basic guidelines, it will pave the road for a settlement.
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