Veterans who served in any branch of the US military between the 1930s and 1990s are at risk of having been exposed to asbestos during their period of service and could be entitled to disability benefits from VA. Veterans who were exposed to asbestos in-service and have since developed mesothelioma, asbestosis, pulmonary fibrosis, or other respiratory illnesses may apply for disability benefits from VA for these conditions. Most Americans have heard of asbestos or mesothelioma, but many of us do not know what the conditions are or who is affected by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral with valuable traits such as fire resistance, fire proofing capabilities, and insulating qualities. These qualities made asbestos perfect for use in the construction of ships, tanks, trucks, aircraft, and even barracks and other military structures in use from the 1930s until the 1990s. All branches of the US military used asbestos widely from 1935-1975 and continued use of structures, vehicles, and vessels with asbestos into the 1990s. When asbestos breaks apart, they release fibers into the air that, when inhaled, can cause mesothelioma and other respiratory problems.
Asbestos exposure, and the diseases that result from exposure, disproportionately effect Veterans. Specifically, of the 3,000 malignant mesothelioma diagnoses made each year, one-third of those affected are Veterans. Each branch of the military posed its own unique risk of exposure to asbestos:
Navy: Nearly all naval ships during the affected time period contained asbestos from bow to stern. Those at the highest risk of exposure and illness include boilermakers, boiler tenders, boiler, and pipe fitters as well as all Naval Veterans who worked below deck before the early 1990s.
Air Force: Asbestos was commonly used in the building and maintenance of aircraft, construction of bases, in radar stations, and inside aircraft themselves.
Army: All Army vehicles built prior to 1960 contained asbestos. Asbestos was also contained in the barracks. Those involved in the construction of those barracks are at a higher risk of exposure and illness.
Coast Guard: Those Coast Guard Veterans that served during World War II have the highest risk of asbestos related illness as many were exposed to asbestos during the construction of ships as it was used to insulate and fireproof the vessels.
Further, Naval Veterans who worked in shipyards prior to the mid-1970s are at a heightened risk of exposure and are more likely to develop asbestos related illnesses. While asbestos was mainly found in the engine and boiler rooms of ships, it was also present in navigation rooms, sleeping quarters, and mess halls.
On a local note, Veterans who were stationed or worked at Pensacola Naval Air Station, Pensacola Naval Shipyard, or Eglin Air Force Base are at an increased risk of having been exposed to asbestos in-service. Specifically, Naval Pensacola Air Station is currently in the process of a $165 million cleanup effort to remedy 68 hazardous sites at the Air Station. This cleanup is scheduled to be completed by 2031. Further, Eglin Air Force Base is currently in the process of a $264 million remediation effort to remedy 185 hazardous sites found on the base which is scheduled to be completed by 2045.
If you have questions about asbestos exposure, are diagnosed with mesothelioma or another respiratory illness, believe you were exposed to asbestos, or have any other questions regarding claims against the VA please contact the experienced Veterans' disability attorneys at Gardberg & Kemmerly, P.C. today for a free case evaluation. Gardberg & Kemmerly serves Veterans across the United States from their home office in Mobile, Alabama.