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Navy Veteran Lung Cancer Compensation: A Veteran’s Guide

Posted by Berry Law on May 19, 2022 in Navy

Throughout a career in the military, service members are exposed to many things that could endanger their health.

Many think of combat as the number one factor in causing disabilities or injuries in the military. However, many other aspects of the military can cause disability or illness.

Veterans who served in the Navy may have been exposed to certain things that other Veterans in different military branches were not. Because of this, they might be predisposed to certain illnesses and disabilities, making them eligible for compensation.

Key Takeaways:

  • You’ll learn about Navy Veteran’s risk of lung cancer
  • You’ll learn what causes lung cancer for Navy Veterans
  • You’ll understand what mesothelioma is
  • You’ll know some of the symptoms of lung cancer
  • You’ll understand how to claim the VA
  • You’ll know how to appeal for a higher rating

The Unique Exposure of Navy Veterans

Different branches of the military have various tasks and operations. They will use different materials or chemicals to finish the specific jobs they need to do.

The Navy used asbestos for many of its projects in the past, making Navy Veterans more likely to develop mesothelioma than any other military branch.

There were a variety of reasons why the Navy used asbestos. It was a cheap product that was an effective material since it has fireproof, soundproof, and non-corrosive qualities.

If a Navy Veteran spends a lot of time living on a ship, this can be a hazard to their health. Many of the older ships contained lead pipes and asbestos. Depending on how long and often a Veteran was exposed to these chemicals, it can have a lifelong effect on their health.

For many years, the Navy was unaware of asbestos’s danger to service members’ health. When it became public about the health hazards of asbestos, the Navy stopped using it in the 1980s. However, by that point, many Veterans had already been exposed to it. Asbestos particles would break off material in the ships, which many Navy service members breathed in without knowing.

Here is a list of the occupations within the Navy that had the highest risk of asbestos-related diseases:

  • Electricians
  • Pipefitters
  • Mechanics
  • Shipbuilders
  • Insulators
  • Welders
  • Machinists

The VA recognizes that many Navy Veterans were exposed to asbestos and have the potential of contracting mesothelioma. 

For a Navy Veteran to qualify for VA benefits for mesothelioma, there are a few qualifications:

  • Exposure to asbestos 
  • Honorably discharged
  • Diagnosed with mesothelioma or an asbestos-related disease
  • Medical evidence linking the exposure to the current disease

If any of these components are missing, a Veteran will likely not be qualified for VA benefits.

What Is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a specific type of cancer that affects a thin tissue layer surrounding many internal organs.

One of the main internal organs that it can harm is the lungs. Since the Navy has a history of its service members being exposed to asbestos, those who served in the Navy risk getting mesothelioma.

The form of mesothelioma that affects the lungs is called pleural mesothelioma.

Here are a few of the symptoms of mesothelioma:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain, which includes painful coughing
  • Sudden weight loss

Mesothelioma is aggressive and deadly. Though there are treatments for it, there is never a complete cure for some.

The symptoms for other forms of lung cancer are similar to mesothelioma. The Veteran must find out whether or not their lung cancer is related to asbestos exposure.

If it is, then it is likely that they will receive VA benefits for asbestos-related diseases.

When To Go to a Doctor

If a Veteran has had any asbestos exposure, they may be at risk of mesothelioma. Asbestos is one of the leading causes of mesothelioma. 

The above symptoms are often related to other health problems, so if the symptoms persist and the Veteran knows that they were once exposed to asbestos, they should immediately see a doctor.

A medical professional will be able to properly diagnose whether or not a Navy Veteran has mesothelioma. The Veteran should disclose their exposure to asbestos to their doctor to consider when they are giving a diagnosis of any symptom that the Veteran is experiencing.  

Making a Claim Through the VA

Veterans are entitled to VA benefits if they have a service-connected disability, injury, or illness.

Many Veterans, though, do not know how they determine whether or not their disability is service-connected and, if it is, how to receive benefits for it.

Berry Law is committed to getting Veterans the highest ratings they possibly can for their disability. Getting the highest rating through the VA will allow a Veteran to receive the maximum benefits.

The amount of detail and regulations that govern the VA can make it overwhelming for a Veteran to make a claim alone. It is important that a Veteran has experienced attorneys to advocate for them throughout the process. This makes it much more manageable.

There are a few necessary components for a claim to be considered by the VA.

For one, the disability or illness has to be related to service. If a Veteran cannot provide evidence that shows their disability was incurred in or caused by service, then the VA will not even consider it.

Second, the disability or illness has to be current. If there are signs of healing or symptoms getting better, they may deny the claim or give the Veteran a lower rating.

Finally, there must be a medical link between the diagnosis and the in-service event. Medical records help make this link, but it is also important that a Veteran sees their local VA medical center in order to make this connection.

What Happens if My Claim Is Denied?

Sadly, the VA denies many claims that come through them. Bureaucracy surrounds the VA, which usually requires the Veteran to do more work than they should to receive the benefits they deserve.

The good news is that a Veteran can appeal any decision the VA makes. The bad news is that the whole process can be even more complicated than the initial claim process.

This is why it is extremely important to have an experienced attorney do the hard work. They will be able to navigate through all the messiness that surrounds the VA.

The VA will often deny a claim or give a Veteran a lower rating because they do not find enough compelling evidence in the claim. 

A Veteran has a few options when they choose the path to take in appealing a VA decision. They can:

  • Request a higher-level review
  • Make a supplemental claim
  • Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals

An experienced attorney will be able to guide the Veteran on which path is best, depending on the reason the VA gives as to why they denied the claim in the first place.

The VA will state why they denied the claim or gave a lower rating. Since the Veteran will have to provide new and substantial evidence to prove them otherwise, it is important to consider that.

Perhaps someone at the VA did not weigh all of the evidence that was initially given. In these circumstances, it may be best to request a higher-level review.

If a Veteran feels they are not getting the benefits they deserve, they should appeal the VA’s decision.

A wrong decision can result in a substantial loss in compensation for the Veteran. Though that should never be the case, the only way to resolve it at times is by appealing their decision.

Conclusion

Veterans who served in the Navy and were exposed to asbestos before the Navy discontinued using it are at risk of mesothelioma and asbestos-related diseases.

To get benefits and compensation through the VA, Veterans should request their medical records from their time in the service. This will give them the necessary evidence to make a claim. Any asbestos exposure should be disclosed to a medical professional when symptoms are being checked. This will allow them to make a proper diagnosis. 

For more information on VA benefits and compensation, please visit our website. 

Sources:

Mesothelioma – Symptoms and causes VA.gov

What Are the Symptoms of Lung Cancer?