Corpsmen and Asbestos Exposure

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All U.S. military branches applied materials made with asbestos during the last century, incorporating it into ships, aircraft, and vehicles but also into housing, dining, recreational, and medical structures on the bases throughout the country.

Asbestos was inexpensive and abundant on the market, and its fibers gave strength to the products supplied to the military, simultaneously offering heat and sound insulation and fire-resistant properties. No one considered the health risks arising as those products became worn with time and use, releasing toxic fibers into the air that put service members, among them corpsmen, at a high risk of asbestos exposure.

Asbestos dust was common on Navy ships due to the ongoing repair and maintenance the vessels required. It is why veterans of the Navy were at the highest risk of asbestos exposure. Ripping out and replacing asbestos insulation contributed substantially to air contamination in the often poorly ventilated spaces under the deck. Asbestos fibers are microscopic and thus easy to inhale or ingest. Once in the body, they cause permanent damage in significant organs over many years, eventually leading to cell mutation and tumors that may result in asbestos-related cancer, such as:

Veterans diagnosed with these cancers are eligible for expedited claims and immediately qualify for compensation if they have proof of asbestos exposure and medical documents stating one of these malignant diseases.

Risking Asbestos Exposure by Being Assigned to a Navy Ship

The Navy and the Marine Corps don't have medics; they have corpsmen, a name derived from the U.S. Navy's Hospital Corps, established in 1898. The Hospital Corps gave enlisted sailors formal medical training, and as corpsmen, they assisted doctors on naval vessels and submarines while some were assigned to Marine units. When in combat, corpsmen were trained to be in the action to help the wounded, often risking their own lives.

During World War II, Navy corpsmen had the rating of Apprentice, Hospital Apprentice, or Pharmacist's Mate. They began duty as an Apprentice while in training and would be promoted to a Hospital Apprentice First or Second Class after finishing Hospital Corps School. Corpsmen could then advance in rank to Pharmacist's Mate, Third Class, up to Chief Pharmacist's Mate.

Sailors usually had no training or experience in healthcare before enlisting in the Navy and had to learn everything from the basics to become corpsmen. After passing their Navy training, they would move on to Hospital Corps school, where they learned:

  • first aid
  • anatomy
  • hygiene

They would also learn to operate all the necessary medical equipment, including X-ray machines. After completing school, corpsmen were assigned to Navy hospitals, ships, or naval air stations, where they usually provided routine medical care. On naval vessels, they also performed emergency operations if needed. Corpsmen received training in combat skills to protect themselves and their comrades. In combat, they helped provide emergency first aid to the wounded by:

  • disinfecting and bandaging wounds
  • treating burns
  • setting broken bones

When in action on land, corpsmen were responsible for ensuring the wounded survived the trip from the battlefield to a hospital ship. On submarines, well-trained corpsmen were accountable for handling health issues without a doctor's assistance. Submarines on war patrol couldn't surface while hunting for enemy ships, and they were often far away from any friendly ships or ports to ask for help. It quickly led to situations where only due to the deep-ingrained training could a corpsman face various problems.

Ongoing Health Issues Due to Longtime Asbestos Exposure

Intending to ensure a fireproof space on the ships built for the WWII war effort, the Navy mandated using asbestos on its vessels. The decision created a new business boom for the manufacturers who sold asbestos products, and they took advantage of the situation and neglected to inform others about the health risks.

Consequently, Navy personnel inhaled hazardous levels of asbestos fibers when the material was disturbed by maintenance, repair, renovation, or removal work on the ships built before the 1980s. It only made things worse that sailors often handled asbestos without protective gear, increasing the chances of inhaling the toxic fibers. It's why veterans should immediately seek professional help and tell the doctor about their military service when experiencing:

  • pain in the chest or shoulder
  • persistent dry cough
  • shortness of breath
  • night sweats
  • fatigue
  • general weakness
  • unintentional weight loss
  • respiratory system complications

Asbestos-related diseases are complex, and doctors can easily misinterpret the symptoms and misdiagnose less dangerous, regular respiratory conditions like asthma or COPD. You can prevent a time-wasting misdiagnosis by telling your doctor about the chances of asbestos exposure while serving. It is essential information for receiving a proper diagnosis and treatment of severe diseases like cancer or non-cancerous diseases stemming from asbestos exposure, such as:

Because asbestos illnesses manifest symptoms only after decades, it is best to schedule regular checkups and an appointment with a pulmonologist experienced in caring for patients with lung diseases caused by asbestos exposure. To be sure you were adequately assessed and correctly diagnosed, ask for a second doctor's opinion outside the VA.

Although non-cancerous asbestos conditions don't qualify veterans to receive compensation, they should be checked periodically, as they have the potential to turn into cancer. Periodic chest X-rays and pulmonary function tests help monitor them. If they evolve into a malignant condition, veterans diagnosed with cancer become eligible for asbestos claims.

We Offer Support for Navy Veterans to Receive the Rightful Compensation

With asbestos present on ships built before the 1980s, thousands of Navy veterans have to face conditions that significantly impact their health and finances. Filing for compensation from the asbestos trust funds and VA benefits can seem challenging, even if the monetary reward could help with financial issues.

Many veterans never apply and miss the chance to receive the deserved remuneration. Getting help from a lawyer specializing in asbestos claims takes the burden of paperwork off, and a legal expert can help collect veterans' service-related documents faster and establish a connection between the job and how the exposure occurred. We offer support by connecting you with the best professionals ready to help with your case.

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