VA Disability Benefits for Asbestos Exposure

VA Disability Benefits for Asbestos Exposure

Some of our previous blogs discuss presumptive conditions as it relates to burn pits and agent orange exposure. Here I wanted to talk about presumptive conditions for asbestos exposure. If you were exposed and have these conditions, then you don’t have to prove a service connection with your condition. It’s presumed that your exposure caused the condition you have.

If you performed certain jobs in the military, you may have had contact with asbestos. These toxic fibers were often found in older buildings and were used on ships and boilers for insulation. Inhaling the fibers can cause considerable harm and long-term health effects.

If you served in the Middle East or Southeast Asia, you may have had contact with asbestos in old buildings that were damaged. You also may have had contact if you worked in specific jobs like shipyards, construction, and vehicle repair. I had a client whose husband was repairing and renovating military housing. They were removing the shingles from these old buildings and he was exposed. He later contracted asbestosis and unfortunately passed from that.

Asbestos exposure was common if you served in the Army and your job involved carpentry, construction, demolition, insulation, milling, mining, or vehicle maintenance. If you were in the Navy, you might have been exposed as a result of it being wrapped around pipes and boilers for insulation. If you were in the Air Force, you might have been exposed because it was used for insulation on planes as well.

Asbestos in itself is not harmful unless you disturb it. Once disturbed, the fibers are released and inhaled into your respiratory system. If you have been exposed to asbestos, you may be eligible for VA benefits. There are certain illnesses that are believed to be caused by contact. You must have had an honorable discharge to qualify. If you were dishonorably discharged, you would not qualify.

Presumptive Conditions for Asbestos Exposure

The four common illnesses that the VA lists as presumptive conditions for asbestos exposure include pleural disease, mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer. Pleural disease is a non-cancerous thickening of the lungs that can cause difficulty breathing. Small areas of scarring called pleural plaques develop and get thicker and calcified over the years. These plaques are a primary indicator of exposure. As the pleural lining thickens over the years, breathing is compromised and your lungs aren’t able to fully expand.

The second presumptive condition is mesothelioma. I’m sure you’ve heard about this one on the news. Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the lungs or the lining of the abdomen. Virtually all cases of mesothelioma are believed to have been caused by asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma treatments were originally limited to therapies, but technology has came a long way and there are now much better treatment options.

The third presumptive condition is asbestosis. This is a scarring of the lungs caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. The client I mentioned above had this condition from removing asbestos shingles and inhaling the fibers. Once inhaled the fibers cause damage to your air sacs, which are very fragile. Asbestosis is generally a non-cancerous condition, but it can still be quite debilitating. It prevents blood from being properly oxygenated, causing shortness of breath and long-term lung damage.

The last presumptive condition is lung cancer. In most cases lung cancer is caused by smoking. I’ve had several clients over the years who contracted lung cancer from second-hand smoke. However, 10% of lung cancer cases are not related to smoking. In those cases, it’s almost always a result of asbestos exposure.

What Should You Do?

If you suspect that you were exposed to asbestos fibers during your military service, you should see a doctor immediately. Talk to your doctor about your possible exposure history and the respiratory symptoms you are having. The symptoms may not become apparent until years after the exposure, but it’s important to keep a close eye on things if you think you were exposed.

If you have shortness of breath, hoarseness, wheezing, persistent cough, blood in your saliva, chest pain, chest tightening, difficulty swallowing, swelling in your neck or face, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue or anemia, you might have one of these illnesses related to asbestos exposure. If you have any of these symptoms, visit your doctor immediately and tell him that you suspect the symptoms are a result of asbestos exposure. We’ll need that information in your medical records to assist with your VA disability claim.

Contact Us So We Can Help!

Asbestos exposure can be devastating on your body. It’s hard to treat, but thankfully modern technology has allowed for the development of many new treatment options. We hope this blog has helped you decide whether you should seek disability benefits for potential asbestos exposure.

If you need assistance with a VA disability claim, you can complete this form or give us a call at (229) 226-8183. If you’d like to see this blog in video format, you can watch it below. Please be sure to SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel and click the bell notification button so that you’re notified each time we publish a new video.