Veterans and Asbestos Exposure

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Roughly 1/3 of mesothelioma diagnoses in the United States are attributed to veterans. Every military branch used asbestos in various applications, and countless military members were exposed to this deadly toxin on a daily basis. Many active duty members today are still at high-risk of asbestos exposure and may potentially develop asbestos-related illnesses, including the deadly cancer, mesothelioma.

Veterans and Asbestos Exposure Overview

If you are a veteran or an active-duty member of the U.S. military, then there are important facts about asbestos exposure to be aware of:

  • All military branches used asbestos during the 20th century, including the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy
  • Asbestos use in the military was at its peak between 1935 and 1975
  • Navy ships were the military assets that used asbestos the most, putting Navy shipbuilders and sailors at the highest risk of exposure
  • Veterans who have developed asbestos-related diseases are eligible for VA benefits
  • Death benefits are also available to military families if you’ve lost a loved one to asbestos-related illness
  • Veterans are eligible to receive top mesothelioma treatments at VA healthcare centers across the United States
  • Support, funding and legal resources for veterans are available through numerous organizations, including the Mesothelioma Justice Network
  • Veterans and civilians may be eligible for compensation from asbestos-product manufactures due to their negligence

If you’re a veteran with a history of asbestos exposure and you’ve developed an asbestos-related illness, contact our Justice Support Team today to review your case and get started on filing a claim.

Our Military Members’ Sacrifices

Hundreds of thousands of U.S. military members have selflessly dedicated their lives to serving our great nation. Sadly, many of them have given up their lives to protect the rights and freedoms of fellow American citizens.

One of the little-known ways that veterans have made the ultimate sacrifice is by unknowingly putting themselves at risk to deadly toxins in the form of asbestos.

Like all who have developed asbestos-related illnesses, veterans are victims of deceit and coverup on the part of unethical manufacturers who sold asbestos to the military despite the well-known health risks involved. As a result of this negligence, countless veterans are now being diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis and other related illnesses. They’re still paying the ultimate sacrifice, decades after serving.

It’s vital for all brave men and women of our armed forces to know that they are not alone in their fight against asbestos illnesses. Support networks, bankruptcy trust funds and the VA itself have all developed important avenues through which veterans and their families may seek treatments and compensation.

Military Asbestos Applications

The United States military was one of the largest purchasers of asbestos-containing products throughout the 20th century. Asbestos use was especially high during wartime, including World War II when all branches ramped up production of military assets. Asbestos products were used in military assets such as warships, aircraft, armored personnel carriers, barracks, warehouses and more.

Many veterans wonder how a product that was so abundantly used could have such well-known yet ignored health consequences. Victims also grapple with why the military chose to use asbestos and not switch to alternative products. Like many organizations, the military used asbestos extensively because it appeared to be an incredibly useful product.

By nature, asbestos is fire-retardant, which in military construction is key in preserving human lives from gunfire and explosions. Asbestos is also a natural insulator, making it the perfect construction material in military buildings.

Asbestos appeared to have plenty of other benefits for military construction. It is virtually indestructible and resistant to:

  • Heat and melting
  • Erosion from water saturation
  • Chemical corrosion

Sadly, the military was also at first deceived about the health risks involved in asbestos. However, when the medical evidence revealed the long-term consequences of asbestos exposure, the damage to veterans’ health was already done. Military members now account for one of the biggest groups affected by mesothelioma in the world.

Which Branches of Military Used Asbestos?

All U.S. military branches have used asbestos throughout their history. Military members stationed overseas may still be involved in directly handling asbestos-based products. Though every branch had asbestos applications, some used it more abundantly than others. The different amounts of asbestos used throughout the military mean that there are varying levels of health risks for certain military occupations.

Here’s an overview of the different military branches and how they each applied asbestos in their operations:

Asbestos Use in the Navy

The U.S. Navy has by far the highest exposure risk of any military branch. Asbestos was a key construction material in shipbuilding. Members who were responsible for shipbuilding and working various duties in shipyards had the highest levels of asbestos exposure. That’s because they were directly handling asbestos-based insulation that would line the entire structure of every warship built in the mid-20th century.

Sailors who spent long periods of time aboard Navy vessels are also at high risk of developing mesothelioma or other asbestos-related illnesses, as many had a longer exposure period.

Sailors were confined to close quarters in poorly ventilated ships, making it virtually impossible to escape asbestos exposure.

Additionally, if you worked directly with boilers, you’re also at high risk due to the asbestos that was used to insulate and protect boilers and boiler rooms. If you served in the Navy between 1930 and 1980 as a shipyard worker or sailor, you are classified as having a risk of asbestos-related disease.

Asbestos Use in the Army

Army vets were exposed to asbestos in a variety of ways. First, asbestos was a key product used in Army vehicles. Asbestos-based clutches, brake pads and gaskets were abundant. Army mechanics now face the risk of developing asbestos-related injuries. Army members who spent any time in vehicles could have been exposed to asbestos.

Though asbestos was phased out of U.S. Army operations, war veterans of the recent Afghanistan and Iraq wars were likely exposed to asbestos when buildings exploded.

These Army vets are still at risk of developing mesothelioma due to the latency of 10-50 years it takes to develop this cancer after asbestos exposure.

Asbestos Use in the Air Force

Like ships and land vehicles, military aircraft also contained asbestos-based products. Cockpits and engines were all lined with asbestos as a fire-retardant insulation. Pilots, mechanics and aircrew members such as gunners all would have been exposed to asbestos regularly.

If you served in the U.S. Air Force between 1940 and 1980, it’s possible that you were exposed to asbestos.

It’s critical to monitor your symptoms as you may develop mesothelioma, which has a decades-long latency period.

Asbestos Use in the Marines

The Marine Corps regularly used ships, vehicles and aircraft that all contained asbestos. Working closely with the Navy during wartimes, Marines often had similar levels of exposure risk as Navy members.

Like Army vets, Marines who served recently in Afghanistan and Iraq are also at risk of asbestos-related illness due to being exposed to asbestos when buildings containing it exploded around them.

All past and active duty members of the U.S. Marine Corps could be at risk of developing mesothelioma.

Asbestos Use in the Coast Guard

Coast Guard members serving on military ships between 1930 and 1980 are at risk of developing mesothelioma.

Coast Guard members who worked closely around boilers, gaskets, insulation, electrical wiring and piping may have been directly exposed to asbestos.

Additionally, sleeping quarters on board ships were also lined with asbestos, putting Coast Guard members at risk while they slept. These ships were poorly ventilated, meaning that any disturbed asbestos fibers could continue to circulate through the ship and risk being inhaled by crew members.

Veterans and Legal Compensation

Veterans who have developed mesothelioma or other asbestos-related illnesses may be eligible for compensation to cover their treatment costs, lost wages and other expenses.

Veterans can seek to obtain compensation for asbestos exposure in 2 ways.

  1. VA Disability Compensation Program
  2. Filing a claim with the manufacturers of asbestos-containing products

VA Disability Benefits

One method of obtaining compensation is through the VA’s disability compensation program. The VA is well aware of the health consequences associated with asbestos exposure and has established compensation methods to account for the rising rates of ill veterans.

The VA considers mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses as qualifying under their disability compensation structure if your asbestos exposure was service-related.

It doesn’t matter if you no longer serve in the armed forces. The VA continues to support its veterans regardless of when they served.

However, it’s important to note that there are specific criteria that veterans must meet in order to qualify for VA medical benefits:

  • You must have a diagnosis of an asbestos-related disease
  • You must be a veteran with any discharge other than dishonorable
  • You were exposed to asbestos during your military service

Usually, filing a VA disability claim for mesothelioma qualifies veterans for 100% disability coverage. Under the VA’s disability compensation structure, 100% coverage equates to $3,057 per month and can be higher for veterans with dependents or who are undergoing caregiver assistance.

This is a 100% tax-free monthly benefit program. Compensation amounts are not determined by a veteran’s employment status or their current levels of income.

For most veterans, your occupation or role in the military and where and how you served will likely serve as evidence that your asbestos-related illness developed as a result of your exposure during active duty. However, when you file a VA claim, you’ll likely undergo a medical examination. The VA typically requests a nexus letter—a document stating an official medical opinion about the relationship between your history of asbestos exposure in the military and your disease.

Filing a VA claim can be overwhelming. Claims need to be filed exactly in accordance with VA criteria or else veterans risk having their claim delayed or rejected. Veterans can get help filing their VA claim by contacting a Mesothelioma Justice Network Claims Representative today at (888) 360-4215. We have VA-accredited representatives on staff who can help ensure you get the compensation you’re entitled to.

Legal Process for Seeking Compensation

Veterans who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or other asbestos-related illnesses are victims of negligent companies.

Veterans have made huge and important sacrifices for their country and for the world. They deserve the best treatments available. 

It’s important to know that you can have all of your treatment costs covered, including travel expenses, lost wages and other expenses as a result of your disease. The Mesothelioma Justice Network believes in fighting for justice on behalf of veterans and all victims of asbestos. Contact our staff today for more information on how we can help you get the compensation and treatment you deserve.

VA Healthcare System

Many veterans assume that if they are awarded disability benefits from the VA for their condition, then they must use the VA healthcare system for treatment. This isn’t true. While the VA healthcare system does employ some of the nation’s top mesothelioma specialists, which cancer center you receive treatment through is entirely up to you.

The VA healthcare system was established to specifically treat veterans and offer them quality, affordable care. While many veterans have personal reasons for not wanting to pursue treatment through VA hospitals, veterans with mesothelioma should be aware that 2 VA hospitals offer mesothelioma programs specifically for veterans seeking treatment.

These programs are led by 2 of the top mesothelioma specialists in the country:

  • Dr. Robert Cameron is the Scientific Advisor for The Pacific Mesothelioma Centre in West Los Angeles. He is a pioneer of pleural mesothelioma treatment, advocating hard for a lung-sparing treatment for veterans called pleurectomy with decortication.
  • Dr. Avi Lebenthal is the Director of Minimally Invasive Thoracic Surgery for the VA Boston Healthcare System in Boston, MA. He is extremely compassionate and well-respected among veterans.

Both of these physicians have dedicated their careers to treating pleural mesothelioma and providing excellent care to veterans.

If you were not automatically enrolled in the VA healthcare system upon discharge from the military and you want to seek treatment from one of these two doctors, you can apply for enrollment in the VA healthcare system. Otherwise, you are entitled to seek treatment at any of the dozens of other mesothelioma treatment programs across America.

View Author and Sources
  1. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, “Compensation: Asbestos Exposure” Retrieved from: Accessed on December 22, 2017.
  2. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, “Benefits OVerview for Military Exposure” Retrieved from: Accessed on December 22, 2017.

Last modified: January 23, 2019