Mesothelioma & Veterans

Mesothelioma & Asbestos VA Claims

Not all veterans realize that they are entitled to treatment and medication free of charge for conditions that are related to their service. This can be a problem when it comes to mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Although it is estimated that up to 30 percent those diagnosed with mesothelioma are former servicemen and women, unfortunately such asbestos diseases are not always recognized by the VA as being "service-related." Part of this is due to the lengthy latency period since symptoms of mesothelioma are usually not apparent for several decades. Many patients do no demonstrate symptoms for 20 to 50 years after initial exposure to asbestos occurred.

Because of this, it is often difficult to determine where and how someone was exposed to asbestos. It's even more of a problem if a veteran worked at any of the large number of "at-risk" occupations since leaving the service. This situation is exacerbated by three issues:

  • Recent underfunding of and financial strain on the VHA due to misplaced priorities
  • High demand for health care and rehabilitation services
  • Reluctance on the part of the military - particularly the Navy - to keep records and statistics on asbestos exposure and disease (current estimates suggest that over a quarter of all mesothelioma patients are veterans of the Maritime services)

Although there is little to be done for the second issue at present, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), daughter of a World War II veteran who has also led the fight to ban asbestos in the United States, sits on the Veteran's Affairs committee and has been at the forefront of the fight for veteran's health care services. In addition, there are veterans who work as liaisons between the VA and various organizations devoted to fighting for the right of asbestos patients who were exposed in the course of their service to receive treatment.

Veterans Rights

Legal action is usually filed against the manufacturer of the asbestos-contaminated products, not the military. However, all veterans suffering from this disease, or those who believe they were exposed to asbestos as a result of their service, have the right to file a claim with the VA. Unfortunately, this system follows elaborate rules and regulations that make it difficult and daunting for veterans to claim such benefits.

The triage system that prioritizes conditions made the process even more difficult. Veterans seeking health care services are assigned a number on a scale from 1 to 8. Patients suffering conditions assigned the number "1" are considered the most urgent, while those whose condition is classified as "8" receive the lowest priority. Unfortunately, mesothelioma patients do not even rate on this scale.

Veterans who suffer from mesothelioma may be best served by contacting an asbestos lawyer who specializes in litigation against the corporations that manufactured asbestos products, and who bear far more guilt than either the military or the government.

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