Hundreds of occupations caused workers to become exposed to asbestos. Of these, many workers who are consequently suffering from mesothelioma are or were members of the United States armed forces. Currently, there are about twenty-five million individuals alive today who served in the United States military. It is thought that millions of these veterans suffered exposure to asbestos material while in the service of the country. Although all branches of the service used asbestos, the Navy probably used it most extensively, since it was utilized by every shipyard and on every ship from as far back as the 1930s right through the 1970s.
Military Asbestos Use
Because of its excellent resistance to heat and fire, asbestos was used below deck on naval vessels in boiler and engine rooms and other high-temperature areas for fire safety. All former sailors suffered exposure in mess halls, sleeping quarters and navigation rooms, and even more so for those who worked below deck. The dangerous mineral was used in products such as pipe and floor coverings, adhesives, cements, valves, gaskets and brakes, and no part of a naval vessel could be guaranteed asbestos-free. Amazingly, once the military began to phase out asbestos use in the mid-1970s, knowing of its danger, it still mandated as much widespread use as possible before it was terminated, because it was considered so valuable.
The United States Department of Veteran Affairs may not always recognize mesothelioma as an illness that is service-connected, so a veteran may not have his or her claim approved for a number of reasons. The veteran faces an uphill battle since he or she must provide proof that the illness is a result of exposure to asbestos while serving in the military, and not from any other time or place, which can be a challenging prospect.
By law, compensation for asbestos-related diseases cannot be sought through the court system from the United States Government. What veterans are allowed to do is seek compensation through the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. Many veterans do not receive the help they need or deserve since they often do not have the knowledge or resources to pursue their applications until they are approved.
The only other recourse open to the veteran is making a claim against the company that produced the product. However, it can be very difficult to determine which product containing asbestos caused an individual’s illness, and which company produced it.