When U.S. veteran Walter Twidwell started experiencing shortness of breath and frequent bouts of pneumonia, he knew something was amiss. Walter’s doctor sent him to get a chest X-ray. Shortly thereafter, imaging revealed that Walter had pleural mesothelioma, a devastating cancer that most commonly develops in the pleural linings of the lungs.
“The word ‘mesothelioma’ — I didn’t know anything about,” Walter said. Mesothelioma is a rare disease — most, like Walter, have never heard of it — and its symptoms can often be mistaken for other conditions, such as the common cold or flu.
At the time, little did Walter know that his mesothelioma diagnosis was directly linked to his nearly 20-year career as a boiler tender and fireman in the U.S. Navy. Working those positions, Walter was frequently exposed to asbestos — the only known cause of mesothelioma.
Walter joined the Navy in 1954. Upon his retirement from service in 1973 as a Chief Petty Officer, his tenure in the military covered both the Vietnam and Korean Wars. He conducted maintenance and repairs in the engine and fire rooms of seven vessels ported in New York, California and Washington.
During his time in the Navy, Walter was exposed to asbestos dust released from the manipulation of gaskets manufactured by Goodyear. In March 2017, doctors diagnosed him with mesothelioma after an X-ray revealed a mass in his right lung.
Before his diagnosis, Walter lived an active life. He built his log cabin home in the Washington woods by hand. After his diagnosis, all of that changed. He told lawyers during the trial he was physically unable to live his life the same as he had before.
After a two-week trial, the jury decided in Walter’s favor and awarded $40.1 million in compensatory damages against the defendant, Goodyear.
U.S. Veterans and Asbestos Exposure
Unfortunately, as much as Walter’s own story is unique, the story of how he — a U.S. veteran — got mesothelioma isn’t. In fact, veterans like Walter suffer disproportionately from asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer and asbestosis.
This is due to asbestos’s many uses. A naturally occurring mineral, asbestos is organically resistant to heat, fire and electricity, making it a seemingly ideal substance to include in construction materials. The U.S. military used asbestos in all of its branches: the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army and U.S. Marines. From the 1930s and into the 1980s, asbestos was used extensively in military vehicles, equipment and buildings.
No matter the branch of the military, soldiers were at risk for asbestos exposure. Service members often came into direct contact with asbestos. Many veterans handled asbestos as part of their roles in maintaining buildings, ships or aircraft.
The Navy built hundreds of ships in the 20th century — and a majority of them used asbestos. Nearly every section of every Navy ship contained asbestos. Navy veterans directly involved in the shipbuilding process were likely those who suffered the greatest risk of long-term asbestos exposure. Sailors and other Navy members could also have been exposed to asbestos when working below deck to perform installations or repairs.
The Navy is the military branch with the highest rate of asbestos use. Because of this, Navy veterans, like Walter, represent the largest segment of veterans with mesothelioma.
Filing a Mesothelioma Claim
A mesothelioma claim can help veterans with mesothelioma seek financial compensation for medical bills and other costs that come with an asbestos-related cancer diagnosis.
A mesothelioma claim is a legal action through which a person diagnosed with mesothelioma or their family secures financial compensation from the manufacturers of asbestos-containing products. This compensation is a form of restitution for the preventable suffering inflicted on individuals and families due to asbestos exposure.
A mesothelioma claim can:
- Help with the cost of medical expenses not covered by insurance
- Help with travel costs to mesothelioma medical specialists
- Cover lost wages for you and your caregiver
- Help keep medical costs from wiping out your family’s savings
- Allow you to afford dependent care
- Cover unexpected expenses
- Award you compensation for pain and suffering
Filing a mesothelioma claim is straightforward when you work with Simmons Hanly Conroy. Since 1999, our firm has helped secure over $7 billion in mesothelioma claims for deserving families.
While there is no amount of money that can right the wrongs inflicted on asbestos victims, a mesothelioma legal claim can provide much-needed benefits during a difficult time. We understand that facing a mesothelioma claim can seem intimidating and even overwhelming. It’s our goal to put you at ease.
These include providing financial security and peace of mind for you and your family members. To learn more about the specific risks of asbestos exposure faced by U.S. veterans and the mesothelioma claims process, visit the U.S. veterans section of our website.