Imagine being diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, mesothelioma, or some other asbestos-related disease, knowing exactly where you got it and who is responsible, and being unable to do anything about it. That is exactly what has happened to Richard Cook, a Maryland resident and veteran of the Navy who was exposed to asbestos while serving onboard the USS Willard Keith. Though most veterans are able to receive free medical care from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Cook was shocked to learn that because his service was between 1958 and 1961, during years considered peacetime, the benefits he is eligible for are dramatically reduced, and do not include the hospital coverage that he so desperately needs.The Department of Veterans Affairs is aware of the shipboard asbestos and other contaminated products that sickened so many service men and women over the years, and has established benefits for those diagnosed with mesothelioma and asbestos-related disease. But what few realize is that those benefits are not universally extended to those who were exposed. People who served during the active combat years of World War II, the Korean Conflict, Vietnam and the Gulf War are eligible for a higher level of benefits, and Cook and others like him do not qualify unless they are able to show themselves to be financially destitute. They are also unable to access essential documentation proving that their disability is service related.
The walls of the Navy vessel that Cook served on were coated with an asbestos fire retardant, and a VA physician who examined him once he was able to prove financial need agrees that the crawlspace in which he operated an emergency radio during drills was likely the source of his terminal pulmonary fibrosis. The doctor’s entry in Cook’s chart reads, “Asbestos exposure could have been the triggering factor.”
Like many patients diagnosed with mesothelioma and other asbestos-relate diseases, Richard Cook’s medical bills have piled up to the point where he was facing foreclosure and eviction after falling behind in his mortgage payments. His original mortgage holder has purchased the mortgage and arranged for the family to remain in their home for at least a year without having to make mortgage payments, and the family is appealing to the VA for help.
If you are a mesothelioma victim and you have found yourself facing similar financial hardships, we can help. Contact us today at 1-800-966-2244 to learn more about getting justice from those responsible for your illness.