The U.S. Navy Birthday, celebrated on October 13th of each year, is dedicated to commemorating the men and women who make up the most powerful navy in the world. In 2020, the U.S. Navy turns 245.
Since the inception of the official Navy birthday celebrations in 1972, every Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) has encouraged active forces, veterans, friends, and family to “enhance a greater appreciation of our Navy heritage, and to provide a positive influence toward pride and professionalism in the naval service.”
Though you or your loved ones might be joining in the festivities this year, remember: The fight isn’t over yet for some veterans, and for others, it has only just begun. Thousands of veterans across America are battling deadly health conditions that stem from military service, including the deadly cancer mesothelioma.
In celebrating the U.S. Navy’s birthday, it’s important to not only applaud the service of our Navy veterans but also to recognize — and act upon — the health concerns that they face.
Navy Veterans and Asbestos Exposure
U.S. Navy veterans are at a high risk of mesothelioma because the Navy relied on asbestos for decades without knowing the health risks.
Asbestos is a naturally-occurring material that was once thought to be harmless and even miraculously useful given its fireproof properties. Microscopic asbestos fibers are anything but safe, however. In reality, they can cause mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other illnesses if inhaled or swallowed.
Every year, around 1,000 U.S. veterans are diagnosed with mesothelioma — and a staggering portion of this number is made up of Navy veterans.
Historically, the U.S. Navy used asbestos to reduce the risk of fires aboard its ships. Virtually every Navy ship constructed between the 1930s and 1980s contained several tons of asbestos insulation and fireproofing.
The military and U.S. government had no idea of the dangers, as the asbestos industry ignored warnings of asbestos toxicity and hid the awful truth for decades.
Modern-Day Mesothelioma Risk Among Veterans
Today, the risks of using asbestos are well-known, and the material has been banned all around the world. Prior to the 1980s, however, many of those in and around Navy ships, shipyards, and bases worked in asbestos-filled areas. Even those who didn’t ever board a Navy ship may have been exposed.
The initial symptoms of mesothelioma — including shortness of breath, chest pain, and fatigue — can take 20 to 50 years to appear. This long latency period means Navy veterans who served as early as the 1960s or 1970s are only now being diagnosed with the disease.
Resources for Navy Veterans With Mesothelioma
The Navy’s birthday and other celebrations help to raise awareness of the difficulties service members faced and create a movement toward more sufficient care for veterans. Fortunately, veterans with mesothelioma can receive high-quality medical treatments and financial aid from several sources.
To start, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has made strides to compensate veterans who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma.
Through the VA, veterans can access:
- Medical Care: The VA Health Care System has three medical centers that are equipped to treat mesothelioma at low or no cost. Located in Los Angeles, Boston, and Houston, some of the world’s best mesothelioma doctors work at these facilities. Veterans can also access care from non-VA specialists closer to home in some cases.
- Financial Benefits: Veterans with mesothelioma may qualify for monthly payments, such as Aid and Attendance (A&A), VA Pension, or disability compensation. This money can help former service members cover basic living expenses after a diagnosis.
Many veterans can also file mesothelioma lawsuits to get the support and compensation they deserve. These lawsuits hold manufacturers of asbestos-based products accountable for hiding the truth about their products. The Navy and other military branches are not sued.
Making the Navy Birthday 2020 a Day to Remember
Considering the trials they have faced in battle and in illness, U.S. Navy veterans’ success continues to be a great source of inspiration and pride for many Americans.
Support for veterans affected by mesothelioma does exist and, as a nation, it’s our responsibility to show gratitude for their honorable services by providing as much help as possible.
This Navy Birthday, you can:
- Give a veteran you love a phone call or connect using Facetime, Skype, or Zoom
- Send them a card or care package
- Visit their gravesite if they have passed away
The lawyers and staff of Sokolove Law thank all Navy veterans for their service. Our team remains committed to helping veterans with mesothelioma receive equal access to the legal system.