Air Force Asbestos: What You Should Know
Many people associate asbestos with the Navy and shipbuilding. After Steve McQueen went AWOL in the Navy, his superiors made him scrape asbestos off pipes. Mesothelioma, which is discussed below, killed the actor at age 50.
But other military branches, including the Air Force, also used this fireproofing material. Asbestos was in airplanes made before 1980. Additionally, officials found asbestos at a number of Air Force bases in several different states.
Almost as soon as asbestos was discovered in the late 1800s, builders all over the world–and not just in the United States military–made a conscious decision to ignore its health risks and use asbestos on an unprecedented scale. Since so many companies turned a blind eye to safety for so many years, mesothelioma patients and other asbestos exposure victims have a number of legal options. That’s especially true for military veterans and surviving family members.
Toward the end of his life, a desperate Steve McQueen sought cancer treatment outside the United States. A Mexican doctor claimed he could cure McQueen’s advanced mesothelioma. The claim was accurate. But, a nurse warned McQueen that the drugs were so strong they’d burn his skin off if they accidentally touched him.
Today’s mesothelioma patients face roughly the same problem. Toxic asbestos fibers cause a tumor to form between the heart and lungs, in the meso lining. Since these tumors are hard to see, they often grow unnoticed for decades. By the time a doctor sees the problem, the cure is often worse than the disease.
Veterans and Asbestos-Related Illnesses
Asbestos could also cause several serious lung problems, like COPD and asbestosis. The same fibers which cause malignant tumors also burn the insides of the lungs, causing scar tissue to accumulate. The air tunnels in the lungs are extremely narrow. Therefore, a tiny amount of scar tissue causes shortness of breath, even at rest.
In terms of medical treatment, asbestosis victims face basically the same choice as mesothelioma victims. A radical lung transplant could fix the problem. But this asbestosis cure often does more harm than good.
Options for Those Who Served
U.S. Air Force Related Asbestos Exposure
These applicants must still establish a service-related connection. Almost all structures built before 1980 contain asbestos. Therefore, this element of a VA disability claim is often difficult to prove. The good news is that Congress recently lowered the burden of proof in these matters. Veterans must only show that, as likely as not, asbestos exposure was related to military service.
Demonstrating Exposure to Asbestos While Serving in the Air Force
Service records and/or buddy statements usually suffice. As mentioned, many Air Force facilities are known asbestos hotspots. Deployment at such a place makes it “as likely as not” that asbestos exposure happened there. As for buddy statements, very few servicemembers had to scrape asbestos off pipes, but similar incidents are common.
Most presumptive conditions are so serious they are completely disabling. However, the disability rating system might come into play in some situations.
In terms of compensation, VA benefits usually include a monthly cash stipend and, perhaps more importantly, free medical care at any VA medical facility in the country.
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Contractors and Other Non-Servicemembers
Air Force defense contractors, civilian DoD employees, and other such individuals aren’t eligible for VA benefits. However, legal options remain.
The Defense Base Act and Private Military Contractors Exposed to Asbestos
The Defense Base Act, a program similar to the VA disability compensation system, covers private military contractors who were injured overseas. These matters are quite complex. Fortunately, the other alternatives are a little more straightforward. Basically, other victims may file negligence claims against the Air Force, defective product claims against an asbestos manufacturer, or a claim with one or more of the multi-billion dollar asbestos trust funds.
Department of Defense Duties and Asbestos Exposure
Like all other property owners, the DoD has a legal duty to ensure the safety of most visitors and all employees. This duty usually applies if the Air Force knew, or should have known, about the asbestos or other property hazard. These victims must deal with the sovereign immunity law, which protects the federal government from being sued and varies in different jurisdictions. Other procedural hurdles include the notice of claim rule, which states that individuals seeking to sue the government must provide advance notice of their claim; because of this, many asbestos exposure victims cannot immediately file court cases.
Defective product claims usually have none of these legal or procedural hurdles. Asbestos manufacturers like Raytheon, Bendix General Electric, Cleaver Brooks, and Fairchild-Republic are strictly liable for the injuries their defective products cause. Very few defenses are available in these claims.
Asbestos Bankruptcy Trusts for Air Force Veterans
If the company that manufactured the asbestos is no longer in business, as is often the case, the aforementioned asbestos trust fund might pay compensation. In all three of these situations, this compensation usually includes money for economic damages, such as medical bills, and noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages might be available as well, especially in defective product claims.
AsbestosClaims.law is your comprehensive resource for all things asbestos, including info on health and compensation for Air Force Veterans and other former Service Members. We hope this is helpful and are grateful to all who have given of themselves to defend us all.
If you have any additional questions or concerns related to asbestos, check out our website and YouTube page for videos, infographics and answers to your questions about asbestos, including health and safety, asbestos testing, removing asbestos from your home and building, and legal information.
And if you believe that you were exposed to asbestos, or have been diagnosed with an asbestos illness, you could be entitled to significant compensation—money you could use to cover the costs of asbestos removal services, pay for medical treatment, and preemptively protect your physical well-being.
All without filing a lawsuit.
If you’d like help with filing a claim, please get in touch by email at [email protected], or call or text us at (833) 4-ASBESTOS (427-2378) or (206) 455-9190. We’ll listen to your story and explain your options. And we never charge for anything unless you receive money in your pocket.