About 3,000 Americans are diagnosed each year with malignant mesothelioma. A third of them are Veterans.
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. It develops in the lining of the lungs or abdomen. And while it can take up to 50 years to develop, once diagnosed, mesothelioma usually kills within a year or two.
A disproportionate number of Veterans are diagnosed with the disease because many were exposed to asbestos during their service. Asbestos is a durable, fire-resistant mineral, which made it an excellent insulation. As a result, it was widely used in buildings and ships built through the 1980s, including Army barracks and, especially, Navy ships.
“A lot of Veterans worked with or around asbestos during their time in the military,” says Gracie Hoai, a thoracic surgery nurse practitioner at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center.
“Everything throughout the ships had asbestos,” said Leonard Carpenter, who spent four years and four months in the Navy during the 1960s. “We used it for everything. We just didn’t know it was killing us.”
The VA offers benefits for Veterans diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease caused by asbestos exposure while in service. In some cases, their spouses, surviving spouses, dependent children and family caregivers may be eligible for VA benefits including compensation or health care.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is also fully funded for fiscal year 2019 and will remain fully operation during a government shutdown. For more information, visit VA.gov.