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Claiming Your VA Benefits

Military veterans who served between the 1920s and 1980s are at very high risk of developing malignant mesothelioma. For many of these veterans who have been diagnosed with this terminal illness, it will first be necessary to file a claim for disability benefits with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, or the “VA” as it is commonly called.

This will require you to get a disability rating in connection with service-related mesothelioma or asbestosis. While this may seem like a fairly simple process, it can be quite frustrating. The best thing you can do is speak with an experienced Boston mesothelioma VA benefits attorney, such as those at the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman. Our lawyers have years of experience dealing with clients in the same or similar situation as you and your loved ones. We know how difficult this process can be for individuals and families, and our goal is to make it as painless as possible.

Effects of Mesothelioma on Veterans and Their Families

One of the reasons mesothelioma is so devastating to the family is because of how the disease progresses before and after it is diagnosed. The trouble started many years ago when the brave men and women of our armed forces first became exposed to deadly asbestos fibers.

During much of last century, if you were in the military, you were likely exposed to asbestos. While this includes virtually everyone, this is not to say that there were not jobs or military occupational specialties (MOS) that were more dangerous than others. In fact, the VA has compiled a list of all jobs in the military that involved any contact with asbestos and rated those jobs based upon how low or high the probability was for each of these jobs. For example, those who worked on ship boilers, aviation maintenance, fire control, or engineering and construction were considered highly probable to have been exposed to deadly asbestos fibers. However, it is important to understand that nobody was safe.

When they were exposed to asbestos fibers, these fibers would get inhaled, or sometimes ingested, and then they would get trapped in a protective layer of tissue known as the mesothelium. At this point, there is no way for the body to get rid of these fibers and they are sharp and remain lodged in the tissue layer. They can then metastasize into the deadly form of cancer known as malignant mesothelioma. This can occur in the lungs, chest, or abdomen, and it can quickly spread to other parts of the body.

There is no effective way for doctors to find these fibers without doing a biopsy, and it wouldn’t matter anyway, because doctors at that time weren’t looking for them, as the public was largely unaware of the dangers of asbestos and mesothelioma.

The disease has no noticeable symptoms until it gets to an advantaged stage. Mesothelioma can be staged using a method known as the TMN Staging System. By the time a victim goes to the doctor for shortness of breath, chest pain, or abdominal pain and gets a mesothelioma diagnosis, he or she is often told they only have very short time left to live.

In addition to arduous physical effects on the victim, his or her family will also likely be devastated, and many will not be able to work full-time while caring for their sick veteran. For this reason, money may become an issue. One of the first places to turn is the VA for mesothelioma benefits. However, this is often most successful with an experienced Boston mesothelioma attorney.

Qualifying for VA Disability Benefits for Mesothelioma

As outlined by the VA, in order to qualify for a VA disability benefits rating, it will be necessary to establish that you were not dishonorably discharged, that you were exposed to asbestos during your years in service, and you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another disease related to asbestos exposure that occurred during your time in service.

It should be noted that this last element is often the most difficult to satisfy, because it typically takes between 20 and 50 years for mesothelioma to metastasize to the point where a patient will seek a diagnosis and then file a claim for benefits with the VA. This means that the VA may try to argue that you did not get sick from asbestos exposure during your time in service. They may argue that after leaving the military and working in the private sector, that is where your asbestos exposure occurred. Since this is a complex issue of proof, it is best done with the assistance of an experienced mesothelioma attorney. While you may be worried about cost, you should be relieved to know that there is no fee unless you are successful in your claim.

As for the requirement that you must establish that you were exposed to asbestos while in the military, this should not be a problem. Most occupations in the military involved exposure to deadly asbestos fibers on a regular basis. This is true whether you never were deployed abroad or whether you spent most of your time in service in a forward deployed combat theater.

This is not to say that some jobs were not worse that others in terms of the risk of exposure to asbestos. Some of the more dangerous jobs in that respect involved aircraft or vehicle repair, riding in a tank or other armored vehicle, and work involving naval ships. This includes both being deployed on a ship at sea as well as working at a shipyard in a maintenance or supply capacity.

Another dangerous type of occupation in the military is anything that has to do with damage control. This can be a firefighter on a base or fort, or a fire controlman aboard a Navy vessel. In fact, a fire controlman aboard a ship is considered among the highest risk jobs in the military for asbestos exposure.

The VA uses the term “highly probable” to describe this level of risk.

Any military veteran diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis or lung cancer should consult an experienced injury attorney for more information on legal options.

Contact the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman today for a free and confidential consultation.

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