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Friday, April 05, 2019

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Native Americans Serve in Military at Higher Rates than Other Groups

Native Americans Serve in Military at Higher Rates than Other Groups

No other group is represented at a higher rate in the U.S. Military. Native Americans take pride in serving in every branch of the military and protecting American freedoms through service. But this group of service members and veterans face more challenges too. They are more likely to have service-related disabilities and to be affected by service exposure to asbestos.

Native Service Members and Veterans

Most Americans are unaware of how much Native Americans have contributed to protecting the country. They serve in the military at a higher rate than any other population group or ethnic community. According to the U.S. Census there are currently over 150,000 veterans who are American Indian or Alaskan Native. More than 24,000 people identifying as part of this group currently serve in the military.

Special Challenges of Native Veterans

According to the Veterans Administration (VA), Native veterans are less likely than their peers to have health insurance. They are also younger, have lower incomes, higher unemployment rates, and lower educational levels. Native veterans are more likely than other veterans to have a disability related to service or to any other cause.

Asbestos and Veterans

All veterans have been put at risk by their service of exposure to the harmful mineral asbestos. But with such high service rates, Native veterans represent a special risk group. Asbestos is not used very often now, but through the 1970s it made up a number of materials in ships, barracks, vehicles, and aircraft. Many veterans were exposed and are at risk of developing mesothelioma, a deadly cancer, decades later.

The VA reports that about one-third of all recorded diagnoses of mesothelioma in the U.S. are in veterans. All veterans can seek assistance through the VA for healthcare and disability compensation if diagnosed with mesothelioma because of service-related asbestos exposure.

Native veterans and all veterans need greater access to healthcare and benefits because of the harm to health caused by service, especially exposure to asbestos. These heroic men and women are suffering now, but there are resources and compensation that can help.

Published on behalf of Tom Elliot

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Shawn in the Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan.

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