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Mesothelioma in Air Force Veterans

The U.S. military was one of the largest consumers of asbestos and asbestos products for much of the last century. Asbestos has a natural resistance to heat, fire, electricity and caustic chemicals that made it ideal for a wide range of uses. It is also cheap to mine from the earth and be manufactured into industrial and consumer products. Additionally, the chemical properties of asbestos allow it to be used as a bonding agent in numerous applications.

Our Boston mesothelioma lawsuit attorneys at the Law Offices of Jeffrey know that while the cost for the government may have been cheap, the ultimate price is being paid by U.S. service members who worked with and around this deadly substance.

The availability and usefulness of asbestos fibers to the armed services made the material especially useful to the U.S. Air Force. It was not only used in aircraft and aircraft parts, it was also used on vehicles and the construction of buildings and structures.

While we normally think of an airport as a large commercial structure built by construction companies, during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and other conflicts, the military would have troops constructing hangars and other buildings and even runways. This was often done rapidly after a territory was captured from the enemy. A great deal of asbestos was used during this process.

Who Was Exposed to Deadly Asbestos Fibers in the U.S. Air Force?

The easy answer to this question is that anyone who worked for the U.S. Air Force, because it was separated from the U.S. Army in 1947. Prior to 1947, the Army had its Air Corps and eventually the Army Air Force. Following the Second World War, the Air Force became a district branch under the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).

While most people think of planes and pilots when they think of the Air Force, and there is no question aircraft are the reason the service exists, very few enlisted personnel or officers fly aircraft. However, they are there for logistics and support purposes that make it possible to have the most powerful aircraft in the world. The large number of people who support the aircraft as compared to those who fly in them are what the military calls the tooth to tail ratio. The U.S. Air Force has one of the largest tooth-to-tail ratios in the world. Many of these brave men and women were exposed to deadly asbestos fibers during their time in service.

Many of these claims are processed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). As part of their administration of this program, the agency has gathered a lot of information about the risks of asbestos exposure for service members and published a report of the various occupations and the level of risk predicted. This is based on surveillance studies and other research.

The risk of asbestos exposure was classified as either minimal, possible, probable, or highly probable. Some of the highly probable and probable military jobs are as follows:

  • Fire Controlman
  • Fireman
  • Fire Control Technicians
  • Instrumentman
  • Most aviation maintenance jobs

It is not hard to see how many of these jobs are jobs that are essential to the operation of the U.S. Air Force in supporting its general and specific missions. However, it should be noted that anyone who was working any job in the U.S. Air Force, or any other branch of military service for that matter, was at risk for exposure to deadly asbestos fibers.

Complexities in Mesothelioma Cases for Air Force Veterans

For members of the military who are diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, asbestosis or other types of asbestos-related illness, it will often be necessary to file a claim with VA for benefits.

You will need to make a claim and request that you be assigned a disability rating. While this seems like a fairly straightforward process, it can become quite complex, as the VA will routinely deny seemingly valid claims as a means of saving money by paying out less in benefits. This is a result of agency policy (unwritten) and the fact that Congress has not allotted enough money to take care of the many brave men and women who gave their service and, unfortunately, their health to our nation.

In fact, it is estimated that as many as one-third of all mesothelioma victims were members of the U.S. military at one point or another. Part of this may be based upon the fact that asbestos was heavily used during much of the last century, and it typically takes between 20 and 50 years for those exposed to the deadly asbestos fibers to develop malignant mesothelioma. However, it also likely stems from the fact that most members of most branches of the military was exposed to asbestos during their time in service.

To qualify for disability benefits for mesothelioma with the VA, it must be established that the veteran was not dishonorably discharged. For veterans who served more recently, this is not that difficult a requirement, because few people are dishonorably discharged. These days, when a member of the military leaves, or “separates” as the DOD calls it, the service member is given an honorable discharge with a separation code. That code can show the discharge was technically less than honorable, but this is not the same as a dishonorable discharge.

The service member must also show that they were exposed to asbestos during their time in service and they have an asbestos related disease due to exposure during time in service. This is where things can get difficult, and the best thing you can do is to speak with an experienced Boston mesothelioma attorney who handles VA claims.

There is often little or no question that the veteran was exposed to asbestos during his or her time in service, but it is likely that the veteran had other jobs after serving in the U.S. Air Force. It is quite possible that a veteran left the military and worked at a job in the civilian world where he or she was also exposed to asbestos. This is very likely for someone who was an aviation mechanic.

This means that the military might to claim they are not responsible for the victim’s exposure. Challenging these assertions and maximizing compensation for our mesothelioma patient clients is the primary goal of our Boston injury attorneys.

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

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