Currently, there are more than 25 million United States military veterans living throughout the world. All the branches of the military used asbestos-containing materials between 1930 and 1980 because of its properties such as insulation, non-corrosiveness, lightweight, and stability.
It was considered a magic mineral and was used extensively in the production of military equipment and construction of buildings belonging to the armed forces. Unfortunately, asbestos was later proven to be extremely harmful to human beings and the effects of its exposure surface only after several decades of initial exposure.
The Navy veterans were unknowingly exposed to large amounts of asbestos fibers during their service on ships. Asbestos exposure can cause several diseases including asbestosis, lung cancer, and malignant mesothelioma. Therefore, asbestos exposure poses the largest health threat to veterans.
The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) Is Responsible for the Veterans' Benefits
The VA considers service-related asbestosis and other asbestos cancers 100 percent disabling, which means that the veteran who develops a service-connected illness is entitled to receive disability compensation. In case of the death of a veteran due to service-connected illness, the family members are eligible for dependency indemnity compensation (DIC).
Asbestos-related diseases differ from most of the service-connected illnesses as these have a long latency period, because of which these diseases do not develop until the veterans retire. This will mean that veterans will never have the symptoms or diagnosis of asbestos-related disease while on duty. Thus, veterans will have to prove to the VA that they were mostly exposed to asbestos while serving in the military than before or after the service. For this, a well-compiled exposure summary providing information on duties assigned and description of the asbestos-containing material is crucial. In order to prove military asbestos exposure, the written exposure history should convince the VA that at least 50% of asbestos exposure took place in the military.
Submit the Accurate Wordings for Asbestos-Related VA Claim Approval
To have your asbestos-related, military service-connected disability claim approved by the VA, your diagnosis should be recognized by the VA as asbestos-caused. According to the M21-1 Compensation and Pension Manual Rewrite, the VA recognizes the following asbestos-related diseases as eligible conditions for filing a VA claim:
- Fibrosis, including asbestosis
- Pleural plaques (scars of the lining that surrounds the lungs)
- Pleural effusions
- Mesotheliomas of pleura and peritoneal tissue
- Cancers of the lung, bronchus, gastrointestinal tract, larynx, pharynx and urogenital system except for the prostate
All diagnoses except asbestosis, pleural mesothelioma, and peritoneal mesothelioma require a nexus statement from a medical specialist linking the disease to your asbestos exposure.
VA Does Not Recognize COPD and Sleep Apnea as Primarily Caused by Asbestos
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and sleep apnea are common respiratory conditions in the US. These conditions, however, may be connected to military service as a 'secondary condition' if you have a service-connected illness and your pulmonologist agrees that there is a link between your service-connected condition and COPD or sleep apnea, for instance, if your service-connected disease is asbestosis and your doctor believes that your sleep apnea is worsened or caused by the reduced lung function, then the VA will approve sleep apnea as a 'secondary-service condition'.
Asbestos-Related Diseases Are Commonly Misdiagnosed - Convey Your Asbestos Exposure
It is important as a veteran to let your doctor know about your history of exposure to asbestos so that he looks for evidence of damage caused by asbestos in your body. Most of the times, as asbestos-related diseases have a long latency period, these illnesses may be misdiagnosed as COPD, which is mainly a result of smoking. However, this misdiagnosis will not prevent you from receiving VA disability compensation, as a second opinion helps. If the second diagnosis is a VA-approved asbestos-related disease, the VA will grant benefits.