Every year, thousands of Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Because it can take many years for mesothelioma to develop, many veterans don’t discover their asbestos exposure until decades after their service has ended. If you are one of these veterans, you have a right to file a mesothelioma claim.
In addition to your right as a veteran to file mesothelioma claims, you also have the right to apply for benefits from the VA. The benefits available to veterans with mesothelioma include help with medical care and living expenses as you battle this serious cancer. The benefits include a payment of about $3,000 a month (from the date a claim is filed until death) for a determination of 100% disability by the VA.
Asbestos Exposure in the Military
Like many civilian industries, the various branches of the U.S. Armed Forces used materials containing asbestos for many decades, even after the dangers became well-known. Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral that forms tiny, sharp crystals. These bits of asbestos dust can easily become airborne. People who inhaled or ingested asbestos dust may become ill with mesothelioma, often much later in life. The latency period, the time from exposure to asbestos until one is diagnosed with mesothelioma, can be many decades. Many experts say the latency period is a minimum of 20 years and can be 60 years or longer.
In the 1970s, the military stopped using asbestos. Though some asbestos remains in older Naval vessels and military structures, those currently serving no longer have a high risk of military asbestos exposure because of preventive measures currently being used.
Service members who worked closely with materials containing asbestos are more likely to develop mesothelioma. Asbestos is useful as an insulator, so it was commonly used in boiler rooms on Navy ships. It was also used in brakes on military vehicles and in roofing and building materials, among other places.
Here are some of the military service positions most likely to result in asbestos exposure:
- Boiler operator
- Auto or truck mechanic
- Construction or demolition crew
- Ship builder
- Airplane mechanic
Veterans of the Navy have the highest rates of mesothelioma because of the wide-spread use of asbestos on ships. Those who sailed with the U.S. Coast Guard also have a higher risk of developing mesothelioma. In addition, veterans who served in Korea have an elevated risk for asbestos-caused diseases. Mesothelioma was not limited to fleet veterans. Veterans have been exposed to asbestos in all branches of the military.
If you or someone you love has developed mesothelioma after serving in the military, even if that service ended 60 years ago or more, you or they could have the right to file mesothelioma claims.
What Rights Do Veterans Have to File Mesothelioma Claims?
Veterans cannot sue the military for injuries they received while on active duty. Veterans do have the right to bring claims against the corporations who made and sold asbestos-containing products that led to their exposure and eventual mesothelioma diagnosis. In the U.S., military veterans account for nearly 30 percent of all new mesothelioma cases. This is astounding when you consider that veterans represent 7 percent of the total population.
You and your family have obviously been harmed by your mesothelioma diagnosis. Manufacturers knew for decades that asbestos made people sick, but they were negligent because they continued to use it while downplaying or completely ignoring the danger.
Mesothelioma claims filed on behalf of a veteran can be lodged against one or more corporations. Because there are so many claims for mesothelioma compensation filed by veterans, the names of most military suppliers that used asbestos are known to experienced mesothelioma attorneys.
When you file your claims, it’s important to choose a law firm with experience bringing claims for military exposure. A mesothelioma lawyer who works with veterans will know how to bring claims for damages from these corporations. That knowledge can help you receive the compensation you and your family deserve. Quite simply, you don’t want an inexperienced attorney trying to “learn” how to practice in this area on your case.
VA Benefits for Veterans Diagnosed with Mesothelioma
In addition to filing claims against companies, an experienced mesothelioma attorney can also help you apply for VA benefits. The VA offers monthly payments and healthcare benefits to veterans who have developed mesothelioma because of their military service. Veterans who have been dishonorably discharged are not eligible for benefits.
If you’ve ever worked with the VA, you know that the paperwork required to receive benefits can be complex and time-consuming to prepare. A lawyer who has VA accreditation is authorized to file a claim on your behalf. In a worst case scenario, your lawyer can also file an appeal if the VA rejects your initial application.
Because so many mesothelioma patients are veterans, some VA health care systems include clinics that specialize in mesothelioma treatment. Your medical benefits could include travel to one of these centers for care.
Filing Mesothelioma Claims for a Veteran
The costs of mesothelioma care are high, both on your finances and on your time and energy. It can seem overwhelming to add one more thing to your life at this time. It’s important to meet with an experienced mesothelioma lawyer so that you can understand the compensation you may receive from filing mesothelioma claims. Many veterans feel that the filing of claims gives them peace of mind as they know their family will be protected and they won’t leave their family with extensive medical bills.
You won’t have to pay any money up front to file claims. A good mesothelioma lawyer will represent you on a contingency fee basis. This means if you are successful, the lawyer’s fee is paid from the money awarded to you through a winning verdict or settlement.
You pay a fee only if your lawyer obtains compensation for you and it comes out of the compensation. There is not risk for you. Your attorney will be paid a percentage of your settlement or award.
Much of the work and energy it takes to file mesothelioma claims will not be your responsibility. The experienced investigators and lawyers at a mesothelioma law firm will do almost all of the work of researching, filing, and pursuing your case.
Before you file your mesothelioma claims, your attorney or the investigator will ask you questions to create a complete record of your military service. Your attorney will also try to determine any other ways you might have been exposed to asbestos. Your claims may include companies responsible for your asbestos exposure as a civilian.
Some manufacturers have filed for bankruptcy because of asbestos-related claims filed against the company. Many of these companies set up asbestos trust funds to compensate victims. Your mesothelioma attorney may apply for compensation from one or more trust funds, if appropriate. While compensation from these funds is often less than what you would get from other types of claims, you are likely to receive payment more quickly.
In almost all instances, claims brought do not go “to trial.” An experienced attorney who assists veterans in their mesothelioma lawsuits will work to negotiate fair compensation for you.
To protect your rights, consider getting help to apply for VA benefits and file the claims to get the compensation you deserve. In seeking compensation, you can protect your family’s financial future and limit the hardship of substantial medical expenses for mesothelioma treatment. You may also choose to hold those people and companies accountable for their negligence. Whatever your choice, ensure you get the information you need to make these decisions by meeting with an experienced mesothelioma law firm attorney that can guide you through this decision-making process.