Veterans are at a greater risk than the average US citizen of contracting cancer from exposure to Asbestos. The mineral was popular from the 1940s to the mid-70s. Being resistant to fire, asbestos was in army barracks and other buildings, nearly every naval ship built, in airplanes, tanks and just about everything made for and used by the US military. Asbestos was an insulator to inhibit heat transfer and exchange. As such, a massive number of veterans were exposed to asbestos in various ways — including asbestos dust on clothing. Exposure to the mineral and asbestos fibers causes damage to the lungs — asbestosis — and cancer. More than 30 percent of those contracting various forms of asbestos-related cancer are veterans. Fortunately, the passing of the Veterans Choice Program Extension and Improvement Act may help with the processing of New Orleans VA disability claims.
New Orleans VA Disability: The New Act Might Help By Speeding Up the Process
The newly enacted Veterans Choice Program Extension and Improvement Act (the “VA Mission Act”) might help with asbestos-related claims by reducing processing time. See new report here. The new Mission Act replaces the old Veterans Choice Program which speeds up wait times. For veterans seeking medical care, however, it generally failed at its mission. The new Act has tougher and streamlined provisions that might help veterans with asbestos-related ailments.
Disability claims related to asbestos — asbestosis and mesothelioma — suffer notorious long processing time. This is due to the complexity of the conditions, staffing shortages, long wait times at VA facilities and the fact that the VA has few physicians that specialize in asbestos-related cancers and conditions. This causes long delays in scheduling VA physician examinations which are necessary to process disability applications. The VA Mission Act should alleviate the latter problem since, theoretically, private physicians conduct the examinations. Treatment is enhanced since the new Act covers medical care for veterans.
New Orleans VA Disability: Asbestos-Related Claims
For veterans, the most common asbestos-related disability claims include the following:
- Pleural mesothelioma — cancer of the lining of the lungs
- Peritoneal mesothelioma — stomach/abdomen cancer
- Pericardial mesothelioma — cancer in the heart tissue
- Asbestosis — scarring and inflammation of the lungs causing difficulty breathing, prolonged and excessive coughing, pain and more
As noted, disability claims for mesothelioma and asbestosis are notorious for taking a long time to process. However, good VA disability attorneys can help because the processing problems are well-known. In addition to the long wait times for the examination, often the application problems begin with showing the connection to service.
To be eligible for VA disability, a veteran must show:
(1) Diagnosis of a disabling injury or condition
(2) Related to service or occurring while on active duty
Failure to properly demonstrate the service connection is the most common reason an initial decision denying benefits. However, that does not mean the veteran is not eligible for benefits. Put another way, the veteran simply needs more evidence that they had exposure to asbestos during their service. This evidence is rarely front and center in the service record. More often evidence of the exposure is implicit in the service record and, thus, it is necessary to highlight where the exposure occurred in the disability application. Likewise, evidentiary supplementation is common.
An Example of an Opportunity for New Orleans VA Disability
Take, for example, Navy veterans: those that served in the Navy are at the greatest risk for developing mesothelioma. But, of course, the Navy veterans’ service records do not mention anything about asbestos dust and/or fibers. But, those that worked on the engines and in the engine rooms faced exposure to asbestos-containing materials. Tradesmen and women who constructed the ships and shipyards also faced exposure. Included here are ship fitters, welders, metal workers, pipefitters, electricians, boilermakers, installers and repair personnel and more. Thus, it is important to highlight those in-service tasks and duties that exposed you to asbestos.
Further, the application can be supplemented with buddy statements, statements from family members, and others that highlight the exposure. As an example, many reported asbestos dust and fibers found on clothing. Statements from family members having first-hand knowledge of the exposure demonstrates the in-service connection.
All service branches that had extensive interaction with Navy ships and materials were at risk. This includes veterans who served in the marines and the coast guard.
Other Professions That May File for New Orleans VA Disability
Even if you were not in high-risk areas, this does not mean that you were not exposed to asbestos fibers and fragments. Service members faced exposure in their sleeping quarters, mess halls and other military buildings. Further, second-hand asbestos exposure can also be the basis for a valid claim for disability. But, again, the application for benefits must demonstrate that exposure occurred in-service. Examples might include military office workers, kitchen staff, laundry personnel and even family members of veterans who inhaled asbestos dust from clothes and/or from air circulation systems.
One other common problem is the long period of time between exposure and the onset of symptoms. There are cases were mesothelioma did not present itself until nearly 50 years after exposure. The VA is more skeptical of a disability claim when decades pass between the veteran’s service and the onset of the medical condition. But with asbestos, that is the nature of the diseases caused by asbestos exposure. If there has been a long gap between service and the onset of the disease, again, it is crucial to establish the exposure AND to provide at least some evidence that there was not some OTHER source of exposure.
Contact New Orleans SSDI/VA Benefits Law Firm Ascend Disability Lawyers, LLC Today
If you are a veteran and you think you might be disabled — partially or wholly — because of exposure to asbestos, contact the experienced New Orleans VA disability benefits attorneys here at Ascend Disability Lawyers, LLC. We are hard-working lawyers who provide help. Ascend Disability has years of experience helping New Orleans and Louisiana veterans file for and keep their VA benefits. Contact us via email or by calling (855) 631-2544. Call today.