Veterans Suffering from Asbestos Disease
Continued from: Asbestos Exposure
Military personnel were exposed to asbestos throughout the 20th Century. Approximately 30 percent of all malignant mesothelioma victims are veterans. Asbestos was commonly used in the military and in other industries because of its resistance to heat / fire, its tensile strength and its flexibility.
Asbestos materials were used in bulk at shipyards. Prior to the 1970s, when the Clean Air Act and asbestos regulation were enacted, nearly every naval ship contained dangerously high levels of asbestos. Navy veterans were exposed to asbestos from various sources, including heating pipes, air vents, insulation panels, sleeping compartments, mess halls, passageways, gun mouths, engine rooms and boiler rooms. High levels of exposure combined with a limited circulation of fresh air on the ships helps to explain how so many veterans developed asbestos-related diseases.
Veterans have the same rights as civilians when it comes to holding liable those responsible for their asbestos exposure. In fact, thousands of veterans have successfully sued asbestos manufacturers and received restitution through the tort system. Unfortunately, there has been a great deal of confusion with regard to veterans' right to seek compensation for their suffering from asbestos disease. Much of the confusion stems from The Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution (FAIR) act of 2005, which proposed the establishment of a trust fund for asbestos exposure victims. Many veterans falsely believe that this trust fund is their only potential source of compensation for asbestos injuries they incurred during military service. Even though veterans cannot sue the government, other entities may be held liable for veterans' exposure to asbestos.
Asbestos products were not manufactured by the U.S. Government; rather, they were purchased from asbestos manufacturers through government contracts. Veterans are well within their rights to sue these privately-owned companies for asbestos exposure.
Veterans typically had post-service civilian careers that also exposed them to asbestos. For example, naval boiler workers often became civilian boiler workers and naval pipe-fitters frequently found employment as civilian pipe-fitters. Many of the companies that employed these veterans have liabilities related to asbestos exposure.
The Truth About Veterans' Asbestos Rights
A lobby group called the Asbestos Study Group (ASG) has gone to great lengths to convince veterans that the FAIR trust fund is their only avenue through which to receive compensation for their suffering. As noted above, this claim is flat-out false. Veterans can and have filed asbestos lawsuits, and many have received considerable compensation. ASG is comprised of several members, some of which include Honeywell, General Motors and Halliburton three companies with significant asbestos liabilities.
It is important for military veterans to understand that they are entitled to compensation if they have contracted an asbestos disease, regardless of what they might have heard from groups such as the ASG. Veterans suffering from asbestos diseases are therefore encouraged to contact an asbestos attorney for an evaluation of their case.
[Page updated August 2009]