How America Let Asbestos Kill Its Veterans
The U.S. government never warned servicemen who fought for America about the deadly long-term effects of asbestos exposure in the military. Now, a broken VA health care system fails them a second time by abandoning veterans dying of mesothelioma.
America's veterans who protected and served their country so admirably are being treated so poorly by those they defended so loyally.
There are approximately 21 million U.S. military veterans living today, accounting for 7 percent of the total population. Yet veterans account for 30 percent of the estimated 3,000 mesothelioma cases diagnosed each year and the 10,000 annual deaths from all asbestos-related diseases, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The numbers don't lie. The U.S. government targeted its veterans. And the military broke its own motto of "No Man Left Behind."
The military's extensive use of asbestos products throughout much of the 20th century is now haunting veterans 20 to 50 years after they served, leaving many of them frustrated, isolated, disillusioned and dying prematurely.
Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral, was coveted for its ability to strengthen and fireproof most everything, making it invaluable to all branches of service. Yet those in command, who were aware of the earlier warning by the Surgeon General of the U.S. Navy, ignored its toxicity and exposed millions of America's veterans to potential health problems in the future.
Veterans thought asbestos was protecting them. But in reality, it's been killing them.
"I enjoyed being in the Navy. I was proud to serve, and I wish I had stayed longer," said veteran Raul Lopez of Texas. He struggles daily now with painful, asbestos-caused pleural plaques around his lungs. The condition stems from his years (1963-67) aboard Navy ships.
"But I'm feeling left behind now. So are a lot of my former shipmates. I know this is going to take me down eventually, and it's discouraging because the VA doesn't really want to help. I'm on the verge of just giving up. "
Raul Lopez, U.S. Navy Veteran