Mess Management Specialists and Asbestos Exposure

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The health risks of asbestos were first reported in the early 20th century. Still, manufacturers focused solely on financial gain and ignored the safety concerns. They sold asbestos products to the military without warning about the danger of inhaling or ingesting the material's fibers, and the armed forces continued purchasing asbestos in mass quantities to keep up with the demand for ships, aircraft, and other vehicles for World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

The Navy applied the most asbestos products to ensure a fireproof environment on the ships, covering its vessels from bow to stern to make them safe for deployments and battles. With the toxic mineral throughout the vessels, avoiding asbestos exposure was impossible for all personnel aboard, and thousands of Navy veterans, including mess management specialists (MS), developed asbestos-related diseases as a consequence.

Over time, asbestos breaks with wear and tear, releasing microscopic fibers into the air. It's the white dust many former service members remember covering various parts of the ships they served on. Asbestos dust can float in the air for hours and pose the risk of inhaling or ingesting the microscopic fibers. Inside the body, the tiny sharp-edged asbestos particles attach to the lining of major organs and lodge themselves in it, causing asbestos-related diseases decades after the veterans' service. In many cases, the toxic asbestos particles are the cause of life-threatening malignant diseases such as:

Navy veterans diagnosed with the cancers listed above may be eligible to file claims and be compensated if their medical documents show such a diagnosis and they have proof of asbestos exposure.

Working Below the Deck Increased the Risk of Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos isn't an immediate health risk when encased in various products' matrices. However, ongoing tasks like repairs and maintenance make it brittle and cause asbestos dust, an instant health risk for everyone around.

It only worsened the already hazardous situation that sailors handled asbestos without proper protection, as dust wasn't considered dangerous back then. Additionally, the long work hours in enclosed and often poorly ventilated spaces made an ideal environment for inhaling the tiny asbestos threads floating in the air.

Mess Management Specialists (MS) were part of the Navy's enlisted food service personnel. They chanced asbestos exposure and the development of asbestos diseases later in life by working in the "heart of the ship," operating and managing the messes and living quarters. An MS who served on the USS Buchanan (DDG 14) relates: " I currently have stage 4 COPD and also had multiple episodes of Spontaneous Pneumothorax after my service." The MS rating was established in 1974 and lasted for thirty years; it encompassed the former commisaryman title. To become specialized personnel, MS received extensive training in:

  • dining and living area management
  • cooking
  • baking

MS were the specialists providing food service for admirals and senior government executives and managed the White House Mess for the President of the United States. Because all personnel were on duty roster on the ships, MS also stood watches, fulfilling overnight duty besides tending to their daytime tasks, including:

  • assisting supply officers in ordering, storing, accounting for, and preparing food
  • estimating quantities and kinds of food ingredients
  • checking deliveries
  • assisting medical personnel in quality inspection
  • procuring equipment and mess gear
  • maintaining clean food service spaces and associated equipment
  • keeping records of financial transactions and making required reports
  • managing and overseeing quarters afloat and ashore
  • planning and conducting training programs
  • managing human resources
  • preparing menus and schedules

Veterans Can Add Years to Life by Seeking Medical Attention Immediately

Illnesses stemming from asbestos exposure are often diagnosed only in advanced stages, as they can take up to 50 years to develop. It considerably reduces veterans' chances of receiving adequate help and timely care. It is why former Navy personnel should undergo regular medical examinations and chest X-rays or CT scans along with a series of pulmonary function tests immediately 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

The complexity of asbestos-related diseases makes them easy to misdiagnose; therefore, most doctors will likely misinterpret the signs. By visiting a pulmonary specialist qualified to treat lung diseases caused by prolonged asbestos exposure, veterans can ensure the accurate evaluation of their health and receive a correct diagnosis. Moreover, requesting a second or a third doctor's opinion outside the VA is strongly advisable, as asbestos illnesses often generate symptoms resembling common health conditions. Informing your doctor about the military service and possible asbestos exposure during service is an essential step that not only helps the diagnostic process but could reveal non-cancerous diseases stemming from it:

Even though these diseases don't qualify a veteran for compensation, they should be kept under observation because they can potentially develop into cancer. Regular check-ups and thorough assessments can catch them in incipient phases, and a cancer diagnosis will make a veteran eligible for claims.

Assisting Navy Veterans in Receiving the Rightful Compensation

Before the 1980s, due to the Navy's mandate of using asbestos in shipbuilding, the toxic mineral potentially endangered the health of every person onboard. Former U.S. Navy veterans who served between World War II and the late 1970s should immediately make an appointment with the doctor when experiencing any of the symptoms listed above.

Veterans who served in the Navy, Merchant Marine, U.S. Army Transport Service, or Coast Guard and were diagnosed with asbestos-related cancers may qualify for disability compensation if they can show proof of asbestos exposure. We can help by connecting you with experienced legal specialists ready to handle your case.

If you have a cancer diagnosis please contact us

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