Asbestos Exposure in Air Force Veterans
The United States military was the largest consumer of asbestos products for roughly five decades.
Heavy asbestos use started in the pre-war years in the 1930s and continued until the mid-19880s when information about its health hazards was too great to ignore.
By then, the damage was done to members of all branches of the military, including many Air Force veterans.
They had been exposed to many asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) over several years, which can lead to deadly diseases like asbestosis and mesothelioma.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), it takes around 20-50 years for the symptoms of mesothelioma to appear after asbestos exposure. A proper mesothelioma diagnosis is usually made after the cancer has already spread throughout the body.
Air Force veterans who develop this deadly cancer do, however, have options.
Air Force veterans with mesothelioma can:
- File a VA claim for help with medical treatment and other support
- Work with a mesothelioma lawyer to pursue compensation from the manufacturers of asbestos-containing products
Taking these actions can help veterans receive the best care possible, access compensation, and make sure their families are taken care of.
How Were Air Force Veterans Exposed to Asbestos?
The U.S. Air Force used asbestos in their manufacturing, construction, and maintenance projects for the same reasons other military branches endorsed asbestos products.
Asbestos was noncombustible. It wouldn’t burn under any conditions, making it ideal for aircraft engine heat shields, cockpit protection, and fuel tank isolation.
Asbestos was thermally inert and worked as an excellent insulator. It was non-corrosive and electrically non-conductive, as well as chemically stable, strong and lightweight.
Combined with low-cost and ease of access, asbestos appeared to be a miracle material for Air Force use on and above the ground.
Unfortunately, this heavy asbestos use in the military also increased Air Force members’ risk of asbestos exposure.
Asbestos products went into every American military aircraft built from the late 1930s until the early 1980s.
To the Air Force command’s credit, they took extensive steps to remove ACM from their air fleet once they understood how serious a health problem their veterans would face.
The United States Air Force (USAF) led the military’s asbestos abatement program, but that was a monstrous task.
During a 50-year period, Air Force aircraft had asbestos in these components:
- Engine heat and firewalls
- Cabin and cargo bay insulation
- Brake pads and other friction devices
- Electrical and fuel line protection
- Electrical wiring
- Gaskets and valves
- Sealants, adhesives, and paint
Planes with a high amount of asbestos-containing materials include:
- B-36 Peacemaker
- B-25 Liberator
- B-29 Superfortress
- B-47 Stratojet
- B-52 Stratofortress
- B-58 Hustler
- F-104 Starfighter
- KC-135 Stratotanker
- SR-71 Blackbird
- U-2 Spyplane
Despite the Air Force’s efforts to remove asbestos-containing products from its planes, many service members were already exposed and are now at risk mesothelioma.
Barracks and Bases
Aircraft were not the only assets where the USAF used asbestos. Their ground facilities, from hangars to family housing, were heavily built using asbestos-containing products.
Asbestos-containing products on Air Force bases included:
- Bricks and fireplace construction
- Floor and ceiling tiles
- Furnace, boiler, and pipe wrap
- Heating systems
- Insulation, drywall, and paint
- Masonry and concrete powder
- Roofing shingles, and sheets
- Siding and stucco products
These materials were used throughout Air Force bases, putting both service members and their loved ones at risk of exposure to the dangerous mineral.
Asbestos on Air Force barracks and bases could be found in:
- Administration offices
- Family housing
- Maintenance facilities
- Mess halls
While the use of ACM led many Air Force members and their loved ones to develop mesothelioma, there is compensation available for veterans in need.
VA Benefits for Air Force Veterans
Air Force veterans who served their country and developed mesothelioma as a result can apply for mesothelioma veterans benefits.
VA benefits may help Air Force veterans with mesothelioma:
- Get medical treatment
- Receive money to cover medical and other expenses
- Take care of their families financially and emotionally
To be eligible for VA benefits, two main criteria exist.
All veterans applying for VA benefits must have been honorably discharged to be eligible. Dishonorable discharges result in a loss of benefits.
Disability Caused During Active Duty
The disability must have been caused by some event occurring while on duty. That may be an immediate injury, an aggravated pre-existing illness or a latent condition like mesothelioma that develops years after service.
Veterans who meet these criteria may have access to a wide variety of benefits that can help them as they undergo treatment for mesothelioma.
Types of VA Benefits
There are several types of VA benefits available, each with different eligibility requirements and compensation amounts.
The following are the primary classifications for VA compensation:
- Disability Compensation: Veterans who develop active-duty injuries or disabilities like mesothelioma are eligible for VA disability benefits — a tax-free, guaranteed monthly amount. Payments are made on a graduated scale from 10 to 100% of monthly financial requirements. Qualifying circumstances include how debilitating the disability is, how it is related to military service, and how it is expected to progress.
- Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC): Spouses and dependent children of vets killed due to active duty causes are also eligible to receive a standard monthly compensation amount called DIC. This is also tax-free and remains in place as long as the recipients continue qualification.
- Special Monthly Compensation (SMC): Veterans with special requirements receive additional monthly compensation. This is at a higher, tax-free rate to cover costs like home care workers, special transportation or impairment injuries like limb loss and prosthetics. SMC compensation varies on a case-by-case basis.
- Additional Special Circumstances: This extends common SMC benefits. Certain special circumstances warrant additional compensation such as for breathing-assistance apparatus, extensive medical treatment, and hospitalization.
Veterans may wish to speak with a VA claims agent or another VA accredited professional for help choosing the benefits they need and qualify for.
Types of VA Benefit Claims
The VA segments USAF veteran claims into categories to help determine eligibility and get veterans their fair compensation faster.
USAF veterans may file any of the following claim types, depending on their situation:
- Pre-Discharge Claims: Within 180 days of discharge, military members can file claims for already-known disabilities.
- Pre-Service Claims: If a service member’s pre-existing condition worsens due to active duty causes, they can file for pre-service claims.
- In-Service Claims: If active-duty members develop an illness or injury but continue serving, they can file in-service claims.
- Post-Service Claims: If veterans develop disabilities or illnesses after they’ve been honorably discharged, they can file for post-service claims if the disability is associated with active duty causes. Veterans with mesothelioma commonly claim post-service claims as the disease usually develops years following their service time.
- Special Claims: In special circumstances, veterans need to file a special claim because their situation doesn’t fit any of the above claim types.
It is important to file the right claim type in order to receive VA benefits as quickly as possible. Air Force members should reach out to a VA accredited professional for help if needed.
Other VA Benefits for Air Force Veterans
VA benefits are not restricted to financial compensation and specialized medical assistance.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is structured to help disabled veterans readjust to life after suffering service-related injuries and illnesses.
Other benefits available through the VA that Air Force vets may be eligible for include:
- Burial and Memorial Services
- Disability Pensions
- Education and Training
- Home Loans
- Mental Health Assistance
- Personal Health Programs
- Preventive Healthcare
- Survivors Benefits
- Vocational Rehabilitation
Veterans may qualify for different benefits based on their specific case, such as the number of family members.
Filing for Air Force VA Benefits
Just because you are no longer serving in the U.S. Air Force doesn’t mean you are no longer eligible for VA benefits.
Every veteran remains eligible for compensation and healthcare assistance as long as the initial cause is related to military service. That includes veterans who develop diseases like mesothelioma decades after they served.
Air Force veterans may apply for benefits:
- Online: Depending on their situation, Air Force veterans may be able to file a claim online.
- In person: Veterans may bring their application to a VA regional office near them.
- By mail: Air Force veterans can also mail their application to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that can spread rapidly, so Air Force veterans should apply as soon as possible after they have been diagnosed with mesothelioma to get the help they need.
To get help with applying for VA benefits, veterans may work with any of the following.
VA-Accredited Claims Agents
Claims agents undergo training and certification in the VA claims and appeals process in order to help veterans and their loved ones successfully file the claims they need.
Veterans Service Officers (VSOs)
VSOs work with veterans and service members and their dependents and survivors and are trained to help them file claims or appeals.
An accredited mesothelioma attorney can help veterans gather the right information and file a claim or connect them with a VA-Accredited claims agent.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, it takes an average of about 80 days for VA to make a decision on a disability claim, so veterans should complete and file their claim as soon as possible.
Legal Help for Air Force Veterans with Mesothelioma
Attorneys specializing in asbestos-related litigation can help veterans file mesothelioma lawsuits and receive compensation. Specialized lawyers also are familiar with VA applications and can make the process fast and stress-free.
Private civil claims in asbestos cases do not affect VA claims in any way. Air Force veterans are entitled to draw funds from multiple sources, and it will not interfere with VA entitlements.
By taking legal action, veterans can hold the manufacturers who caused their illness responsible. They can also receive compensation for their illness, which can help provide for their family.
For more information on filing VA or personal injury claims, contact our Justice Support Team today to get a free case review.