Posted on February 24th, 2020
Veterans who have developed respiratory asbestos-related conditions after exposure to asbestos during active military service may qualify for a variety of benefits available to them through the Department of Veterans Affairs if they can prove that their condition is service-connected.
Nowadays, it is a widely known fact that asbestos is an highly toxic material, which when inhaled or ingested, can cause irreparable harm to one's health.
The armed forces used asbestos extensively from 1935 to 1975 particularly in shipbuilding and military construction due to its heat resistant properties and non-flammable nature. The hazardous mineral was present in ships, tanks, barracks, aircraft, and multiple other infrastructure projects. Several military vehicles had asbestos in their hood liners, gaskets, brakes, and clutches. Army bases had buildings filled with asbestos, such as cement mixtures, plumbing systems, sprayed coating, ceiling and floor cavities.
When a person inhales asbestos, some of the airborne fibers can become lodged within the tiny sacs inside the lungs (alveoli) where oxygen is exchanged for carbon dioxide in the blood. The asbestos fibers can cause irritation, inflammation and scarring, which cause symptoms that primarily affect the lungs. The first sign that something is wrong with our respiratory system may be a chronic coughing, excess mucus, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest and wheezing. Over time, the severity and frequency of symptoms can trigger even more significant respiratory disease.
There are two asbestos-related diseases groups:
If you are having trouble breathing, your doctor may perform respiratory function tests to find out how well your lungs are working. The following are required to confirm an asbestos-related respiratory condition:
Because the lungs provide oxygen to the bloodstream, if you have a severe lung condition it can also affect the heart, so various heart tests are included as part of the pulmonary function tests.
The VA ratings for the respiratory system are based on three main criteria:
When the VA rates these conditions, the agency gives one rating for each respiratory condition, and uses the rating that best reflects the patient's overall condition. When evaluating a respiratory disorder, the VA most often uses pulmonary function tests as a basis for its rating criteria, such as Forced Vital Capacity (FVC), Forced Expiratory Volume measured over 1 second (FEV-1), the ratio of FEV-1 to Forced Vital Capacity (FCV), the Diffusion Capacity of the Lung for Carbon Monoxide by the Single Breath Method (DLCO (SB)), and exercise testing.
|FEV-1||Less than 40%||100%|
|FEV-1/FVC||Less than 40%||100%|
|DLCO (SB)||Less than 40%||100%|
|Exercise Test||Less than 15 ml/kg/min with the limitation caused by a respiratory condition||100%|
|Exercise Test||15-20 ml/kg/min with the limitation caused by a respiratory condition||60%|
|Other||one or more episodes of respiratory failure||100%|
|Other||Requires oxygen treatments at home||100%|
Cancer is rated 100% during treatment and will continue to be rating at 100% for six months after treatment ends. The VA will then schedule a reexamination and any leftover symptoms or complications are rated separately. If your cancer returns and you are retreated, you will again be returned to a 100% rating.