Mesothelioma and the Coast Guard
The United States Coast Guard is the smallest of the five branches of the military and one-tenth the size of the Navy. Despite this, the Coast Guard is at a higher risk of developing mesothelioma than some of the other branches. This is due to the large ships used by the Coast Guard, also called “cutters,” being built with asbestos-containing materials as recently as 1991.
Men and women who served aboard cutters in the Coast Guard are at the greatest risk of mesothelioma. Cutters are the largest ships in the Coast Guard that had people stationed the longest. This meant that those stationed aboard them would have the most regular exposure to asbestos. Especially in areas where insulation was a greater necessity, like boiler rooms.
What Is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. This happens when microscopic asbestos fibers become lodged in the mesothelium, the layer that lubricates and protects organs in the chest and abdomen. Despite how dangerous the cancer is, many don’t realize that they have it until decades after initial exposure. The long latency period of mesothelioma makes it hard to diagnose early on and is usually diagnosed in its later stages.
It is most common for veterans to develop pleural mesothelioma. This is the form of mesothelioma that affects the lining of the lungs. It is most likely because of the direct inhalation of asbestos fibers that individuals on cutters may be exposed to.
Asbestos Use in the Coast Guard
Asbestos was used heavily by every military branch from the beginning of the 20th century to the 1980s. The Coast Guard, however, continued to use asbestos in the construction of their ships until 1991. This is a full decade past most other branches and corporations.
Where Were Coast Guard Veterans Exposed to Asbestos
Veterans of the United States Coast Guard would have been exposed to low levels of asbestos while stationed or working on any cutter built before 1991. The risk of exposure increases when there are repairs or maintenance being performed on the ship.
Symptoms of Mesothelioma
Depending on where the asbestos has reached will determine the type of mesothelioma that develops and what symptoms the individual is experiencing. These symptoms, however, may not develop for up to 50 years after someone’s initial exposure. If you served in the United States Coast Guard and suffer from any of the below symptoms, then it is possible that you may have mesothelioma. Speak with a physician about your experience with:
- Abdominal pain
- Bloating or swelling
- Body aches and pain
- Bowel obstruction
- Blood clots
- Chest pain
- Coughing up blood
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty swallowing
- Fever/night sweats
- Fluid buildup around the lungs
- Loss of appetite
- Persistent dry cough
- Wheezing and shortness of breath
- Weight loss
Next Steps for Coast Guard Veterans Diagnosed with Mesothelioma
After being diagnosed with mesothelioma, it is hard for someone to know what to do next. There aren’t many curative treatments available, and new emerging treatments can cause some confusion among people unfamiliar with their prognosis. Talk with your doctor about reaching out to a specialist. They can answer every question you may have and advise the best course of treatment to improve the prognosis. Outside of that, it is important to identify what compensation you may be eligible for. This can help cover the cost of treatment and loss of income.
Applying for Veterans Benefits
Veterans who suffer from any condition that was brought on or contracted during their service are eligible to benefits through the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). As long as the veteran has been other-than-dishonorably-discharged, then the VA will be able to help cover the cost of treatment or compensate the veteran to help them go through treatment without losing income they may need. To figure out what you qualify for, you must apply through the VA. They can help explain the process and what you must do to receive your benefits.
Filing a Legal Claim
In cases where a veteran was other-than-honorably-discharged, it is possible that they may not have access to help from the VA. In cases like these, or cases where VA benefits are just not enough, there is always hope through legal compensation. In the case of a lawsuit, the individual would be seeking compensation from the manufacturer of whatever was asbestos-contaminated, not the military. If you or a loved one require legal counsel, take a free case evaluation. This will help you learn your options and what you may be eligible for.