Today I am posting a guest blog by Michelle Y. Llamas, who is a writer for the Mesothelioma Center. She is committed to generating awareness about the dangers of asbestos exposure and providing information regarding breakthroughs in mesothelioma treatment.
As a side note, my husband, an Army veteran, is living with asbestosis. While having surgery several years ago, the doctor found asbestos in his lungs. He’s also been diagnosed with BALT Non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
How Asbestos Affected U.S. Veterans
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is resistant to heat, chemical corrosion and electricity. It is exactly because of these properties that the military used it often for a variety of uses including construction of base facilities, in battleships, on vehicles and in weaponry.
When asbestos is broken or damaged, mineral fibers become airborne and are easily inhaled or ingested. Asbestos-containing materials were regularly disturbed during military drills, artillery tests, routine machine repair, renovation of base facilities and maintenance of vehicles.
Even servicemen and women who worked in civilian jobs as construction workers, electricians, plumbers, AC workers and other trades were exposed to asbestos. After the new regulations regarding the new uses of asbestos were created in the 1980s, existing uses of asbestos remained.
While all branches of the military used asbestos, the army owned or leased thousands of buildings around the world, more than any other military branch. Many of these properties contain asbestos. In addition to community areas on bases such as post offices, health clinics, exchanges, laundry facilities and libraries, service men and women frequently worked on the army proving grounds, testing and repairing equipment.
However, veterans of the Navy are highly susceptible to asbestos diseases because so many of them served in close quarters on ships. And war ships were constructed with numerous asbestos parts and insulation.
Health Effects of Asbestos Exposure
Because of the widespread use of asbestos in the military, one of the largest risk groups for asbestos-related cancers is veterans. Asbestosis and mesothelioma are diseases that are almost exclusively related to asbestos exposure. Symptoms of these diseases can take 15 to 50 years to surface.
Asbestosis is a condition that occurs when asbestos fibers enter the lungs and cause the buildup of scar tissue. Scarred lung tissue does not expand as well as healthy tissue and can cause difficulty breathing, chest pain and a chronic cough.
Mesothelioma is a deadly cancer that primarily affects the lining of the lungs – called the pleura – although it can also affect the lining of the abdomen, the heart and other internal organs. Veterans with pleural mesothelioma usually suffer from chest pain, fluid buildup (pleural effusion), shortness of breath or painful breathing and weight loss.
VA Benefits for Asbestos-Related Diseases
For veterans with asbestos-related diseases, the VA provides Disability Compensation, VA Health Care and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). Veterans must not be discharged dishonorably and provide medical proof that they contracted their illness as a result of military service.
Depending on the disease, the disability level can range from zero percent to 100 percent. The amount of Disability Compensation varies based on the disability percentage. Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is paid to surviving spouses of a veteran who dies as a result of a service-connected disability.
For more information on these benefits, please visit the VA’s website.