Midshipmen and Asbestos Exposure

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During the last century, as the Two-Ocean Navy Act expanded the U.S. Navy by more than 70% in preparation for the United States' entry into the Second World War, the need for officers forced the U.S. Naval Academy to implement an accelerated curriculum so that this unprecedented expansion could occur.

Consequently, midshipmen graduated in eighteen months instead of four years, and many were commissioned as officers and deployed to fight on the front lines. Estimates state that tens of thousands of cadets from various military colleges served as commissioned officers and played crucial roles in the World War II military efforts.

Shipbuilding also went into high gear to produce the increased number of ships for the Navy Fleet, and accessible materials were needed in large quantities to keep up with the demand. Asbestos was abundant in the markets and had insulating and chemical-resistant properties, making it ideal for manufacturing more than 300 products used on naval vessels.

The mineral becomes a health risk when its microscopic fibers are airborne due to wear and tear. Regular ship maintenance and repair generate asbestos dust, which can float in the air for hours, unlike other particulate matter. It increased the chances of inhaling or ingesting the toxic fibers for everyone onboard, including midshipmen. Given that poor ventilation was an issue on most naval vessels, all Navy personnel on ships built before the 1980s were at a high risk of asbestos exposure.

Upon inhalation or ingestion, the toxic asbestos fibers get trapped and then lodge in the lining of the lungs, injuring them as the lungs try to eliminate them. It leads to irreversible scarring that often progresses into cell modifications over time and the development of asbestos-related cancers such as:

Veterans diagnosed with the cancers mentioned above are eligible for expedited claims and qualify for compensation right away if they have proof of asbestos exposure and their medical documentation shows one of these malignant diseases.

Exposed to Asbestos While Fulfilling Duty on a Navy Ship

With the expansion of the Navy for WWII in full swing, military history records that more than 7500 officers were assigned to the fleet between 1941 and 1945. Some records even mention that midshipmen from 54 Naval Academy classes participated in the war.

Wartime also demanded leadership personnel for the Merchant Marine, so cadets went on active duty as midshipmen on ships carrying military cargo. Despite the war, shipboard training was crucial, and midshipmen served at sea in combat zones worldwide. The newly commissioned officers' primary responsibility was to develop the habits and skills necessary to successfully make difficult decisions in dangerous situations. It required a commitment to excellence in all mission areas, including:

  • moral
  • mental
  • physical

Nowadays, the service of midshipmen is essentially one of training for higher command, but wartime shortened learning periods and didn't allow for in-depth training. Midshipmen reported for duty and began to work at their first command promptly. Unprecedented times brought equally unprecedented situations, and when officer casualties happened, midshipmen served in combat as junior officers, assuming temporary command. In situations like these, they would rely on their instruction and practical drills in:

  • seamanship
  • ordnance
  • navigation

However, with asbestos present virtually everywhere, service aboard naval vessels came with elevated health risks, as in the case of a midshipman who served on the USS Boston CAG-1. His son remembers: "My father was a midshipman on the ship for at least a few summers. He had a triple heart bypass and now has stage five kidney failure. "

Constant Health Problems After Routine Asbestos Exposure

By mandating asbestos on its vessels, the Navy intended to ensure a fireproof environment on the ships built before the 1980s. Asbestos became the "miracle material" applied everywhere possible in shipbuilding and mixed into many products. To keep the business flourishing, manufacturers neglected to inform others about the health risks.

Navy personnel inhaled hazardous levels of asbestos fibers when the mineral was disturbed by maintenance, repair, renovation, or removal work on naval vessels. It only worsened things that these tasks were often carried out without protective gear, increasing the risk of inhaling the toxic fibers. It's why veterans should immediately consult a medical professional and inform 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 misread the symptoms and misdiagnose regular respiratory conditions like asthma or COPD. Veterans can prevent such cases by telling their doctor about the chances of asbestos exposure while serving. It is crucial information for being correctly diagnosed and receiving adequate treatment for severe diseases like cancer or non-cancerous asbestos diseases, such as:

Knowing that illnesses stemming from asbestos exposure manifest symptoms only after decades, it is best to schedule regular examinations and consult with a pulmonologist experienced in caring for patients with lung diseases caused by asbestos exposure. Asking for a second doctor's opinion outside the VA can ensure that you were adequately assessed and correctly diagnosed.

Although non-cancerous asbestos diseases don't qualify veterans to file claims, they should be monitored, as they have the potential to turn into cancer. Chest X-rays and pulmonary function tests help check them, and if they turn cancerous, veterans become eligible for asbestos claims.

We Offer Help for Navy Veterans to Receive the Rightful Compensation

With asbestos prevalently used on ships built before the 1980s, thousands of Navy veterans have to deal with diseases that drain their health and finances. Filing for compensation with the asbestos trust funds and VA can be daunting, even if the indemnification could help with financial issues.

Many veterans never apply and fail the benefit to receive the deserved remuneration. Getting help from an attorney specializing in asbestos claims saves you from the paperwork burden. An expert lawyer can help collect the needed documents faster and establish a connection between the job and how the exposure occurred. We offer assistance by connecting you with the best professionals ready to help with your case.

If you have a cancer diagnosis please contact us

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