This holiday season, think about giving back to the men and women who have sacrificed so much for the good of our country. Many of America’s military service veterans have become victims of asbestos exposure while working on aircraft carriers, on bases, in shipyards, or in other types of service roles.
In fact, veterans account for around one third of the 10,000 Americans affected each year by the fatal disease, mesothelioma. Mesothelioma can occur when airborne asbestos fibers are inhaled and get lodged inside a person’s lung tissue. It’s an aggressive type of lung cancer, and one that’s often tied directly to asbestos exposure. Because military workers were so often working with and around asbestos, it stands to reason that they occupy a higher percentage of the disease.
So what can you do to help veterans with mesothelioma?
1. Mesothelioma Charities
When it comes to mesothelioma charities, there are many worthy places to donate money. One place to start is with the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO). This non-profit participates in a lot of education, advocacy, and community initiatives that support the families of individuals hurt by asbestos. It’s also a good place to hear the stories of others who have been tragically affected. There’s also The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (MARF), a collaborative group working for mesothelioma victims in many ways, including the pursuit of better treatment and more community support. You may want to donate to a specific university-affiliated program, or set one up in a particular community. Anything that you give will help build a brighter future for those veterans who are suffering from mesothelioma.
2. Veterans Wish List
Short on cash this year? Another way to help veterans this holiday season is to donate items that veterans’ support groups need. Lists like this one from the Veteran’s Outreach Center show opportunities to give gifts to our fighting men and women around the world. For example, some veterans can use a range of kitchen items and personal hygiene items and other types of “groceries” and related items. Have a look at the Wish List and see what you can contribute!
3. Advocate in Washington
Another big way to help military veterans and others with mesothelioma is to contact elected representatives to lobby against bills that could have a very negative effect on mesothelioma victims. The Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency or FACT Act, introduced in 2013, would present challenges in compensating mesothelioma victims and their families. It would hurt many of the veterans who suffer from mesothelioma, by making it harder for them to file and get compensation. Many military groups such as the following have voiced strong opposition to the FACT Act:
- Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH)
- Association for the United States Navy (AUSN)
- American Veterans (AMVETS)
Let your leaders in the Senate, House, and Congress know that veterans and other mesothelioma patients deserve full and fair compensation for their losses.
4. Spread Awareness of Asbestos Risks
Another way to help veterans is to garner public awareness for the dangers of asbestos on military bases and shipyards. Set up a local awareness campaign to help victims feel empowered to speak up about their experiences. For example, a local meeting of military veterans, or even a general community meeting about safety, could focus on asbestos and the risks it poses to the community.
Too many of those with mesothelioma suffer in silence, because they are afraid of being seen as “complainers” or because they feel like others will not understand. But asbestos is dangerous, and spreading the word can help future veterans avoid exposure. Here are some additional tips on how to speak up about this potentially deadly disease.
5. Help With VA Benefits Claims
The U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs VA Benefits Office is notoriously tough to work with, and often, filing VA benefits claims is just too much for one person to handle alone. Another key way to help a vet this holiday season is to sit at the table with him or her, filling out forms, evaluating benefits options, or making a trip to a local VA hospital or facility. This type of advocacy can be extremely important, and can help vets get what they are due according to their service records. Take a look at the VA Benefits office and learn about how mesothelioma patients can be eligible for specific kinds of claims.
6. Encourage Military Veterans to Visit Their Physician
Regular physicals can also help with the early detection of mesothelioma and related conditions that can improve outcomes. Make sure veterans and those who may have been exposed schedule their physicals, ideally at the beginning or the end of the year, or at some regularly scheduled time, to help them stay on top of their personal risk.
Any of these services can really make a difference in the life of a military veteran. Let these people know that their sacrifice is truly appreciated, and that they are not alone as they struggle with the after-effects of dangerous asbestos exposure.