Mesothelioma is a rare but aggressive form of cancer that affects the lining of organs, most commonly the lungs. This disease is caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral once commonly used in a variety of industrial and construction applications due to its heat-resistant and insulating properties. Unfortunately, veterans account for a large percentage of mesothelioma cases in the United States.
If you are a veteran who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, there are several important steps you can take to protect your health and your legal rights. In this mesothelioma guide for veterans, we will outline some of the key things you need to know and do if you are facing this devastating diagnosis.
The Connection Between Mesothelioma and Veterans
It’s a shocking statistic the first time you see it: Veterans account for more than 30% of all mesothelioma cases in the United States. But once you understand the connection between asbestos and the military, it’s less surprising. (Equally as frustrating and terrifying, but not all that shocking.)
The link between veterans and mesothelioma can be traced back to the military’s heavy reliance on asbestos. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was used extensively in a variety of industrial and commercial applications throughout much of the 20th century. Its heat-resistant and insulating properties made it a popular choice for use in construction materials, including insulation, roofing, and flooring products. Unfortunately, exposure to asbestos fibers can lead to serious health problems, including mesothelioma.
Many veterans were exposed to asbestos during their military service, particularly those who served in the Navy, Coast Guard, Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps. Asbestos was widely used in the construction of ships, aircraft, and military buildings, as well as in a variety of military equipment and machinery.
For example, asbestos was used in boiler rooms, engine rooms, and pipes on Navy ships, and in aircraft brakes and insulation on military planes.
Due to the widespread use of asbestos in the military, veterans are at a higher risk of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases than the general population. As noted, veterans account for more than 30% of all mesothelioma cases in the United States.
It’s important to note that exposure to asbestos can take decades to manifest into mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases. This means that veterans who were exposed to asbestos during their military service may not experience symptoms of mesothelioma until many years later.
The VA recognizes mesothelioma as a service-connected disability for veterans who were exposed to asbestos during their military service. This means that veterans who were exposed to asbestos during their military service and later develop mesothelioma may be eligible for VA disability benefits, including compensation and healthcare.
5 Steps to Take if You Experience Mesothelioma Symptoms
Veterans who were exposed to asbestos during their military service should be aware of the symptoms of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases and to seek medical attention if they experience any of these symptoms.
Here are several tips:
1. Seek Medical Treatment
The first and most important step you should take if you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma is to seek medical treatment. This may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of these treatments. Depending on the stage of your disease and other factors, your doctor will recommend the most appropriate treatment plan for you.
It’s important to work closely with your medical team to ensure you are receiving the best possible care for your condition. Be sure to ask questions, express any concerns you may have, and follow your doctor’s instructions carefully.
2. Notify Your Family and Friends
Mesothelioma can be a difficult and emotionally challenging disease to cope with, both for you and your loved ones. It’s important to notify your family and friends of your diagnosis so they can provide you with emotional support during this difficult time.
Consider asking a trusted family member or friend to accompany you to medical appointments, as they can help you remember important information and provide a second set of ears when discussing treatment options and other details.
3. Understand Your Legal Rights
As a veteran diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may be entitled to compensation through a legal claim. This is because many veterans were exposed to asbestos during their service in the military, often without their knowledge or consent.
To pursue a legal claim, you will need to work with an experienced attorney who can assist you in determining your legal options and guide you through the process of filing a claim. Your attorney will be able to investigate your exposure history and determine who may be liable for your illness, such as manufacturers of asbestos-containing products or the military itself.
4. Explore Your VA Benefits
As a veteran diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may also be eligible for certain benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). These benefits can help cover the costs of medical treatment, as well as provide financial assistance to you and your family.
To explore your VA benefits, contact your local VA office or visit the VA website. Be prepared to provide documentation of your military service and your mesothelioma diagnosis.
5. Join a Support Group
Living with mesothelioma can be a lonely and isolating experience. Consider joining a support group for veterans with mesothelioma, where you can connect with others who are facing similar challenges.
Support groups can provide a sense of community and a safe space to share your feelings and experiences. They can also offer practical advice and resources for coping with the physical, emotional, and financial effects of mesothelioma.
Don’t Delay – Get Help
As a veteran, you have an increased risk of contracting mesothelioma. So if you experience these symptoms and/or receive a positive diagnosis, it’s absolutely imperative that you take proactive steps. This includes seeking medical attention and following your medical team’s treatment plan.