Mesothelioma and Army Veterans

Veterans who served in the U.S. Military between 1930 and 1980 were likely exposed to asbestos, a harmful mineral that causes mesothelioma. The Army relied heavily on asbestos-based products in every branch of operations. Veterans who were exposed to asbestos and developed an illness may be eligible for VA benefits and compensation.

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Asbestos Use in the Army

The U.S. Army’s use of asbestos-containing products was consistent throughout the 20th century. This versatile mineral found its way into many of the standard materials routinely used by the Army.

The use of products containing asbestos in the Army began in the early 1900s. Over 1,000 production technologies and around 3,000 products contained asbestos at this time.

It was not until the early 1980s that the devastating health effects of asbestos exposure became well known. By this time, the Army had been consistently using these products for over 50 years — the damage had been done.

Though the U.S. Army wasn’t the largest consumer of asbestos during this time (the U.S. Navy held that distinction) soldiers still were put in harm’s way on a regular basis from numerous asbestos products.

Common products that contained asbestos included:

  • Brake pads
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Cement materials
  • Flooring tiles
  • Gaskets
  • Insulation
  • Roofing
  • Other construction materials

Like the rest of the U.S. military, the Army only became aware of the dangers decades after asbestos use was common practice. In reality, the manufacturers of asbestos-containing products knew that their goods were harmful but hid the truth to keep making money.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recognizes that Army veterans are at a higher risk of asbestos-related diseases today. As a result, veterans can apply for VA benefits to access mesothelioma treatment and receive financial compensation.

Veterans may also qualify for other types of compensation by filing legal claims against the manufacturers who made dangerous asbestos-containing products.

Asbestos Use on Bases

Asbestos could be found in almost every corner of a U.S. Army base during this time. It was a primary component of insulation due to its heat-resistant properties and was, therefore, found in every building on the base.

Its strong and durable nature ensured its widespread use, contaminating entire military bases and putting all personnel at risk of developing devastating lung conditions such as mesothelioma.

Asbestos Use in Vehicles

Army vehicles relied heavily on asbestos-containing products. The critical components of military vehicles have asbestos at their core.

Asbestos-containing parts in Army vehicles include:

  • Clutch facings
  • Brake linings
  • Gaskets
  • Undercoating
  • Valves and heat seals
  • Transmission parts

If Army vehicles needed repairs, the risk of releasing asbestos particles into the air grew exponentially. Exposure to these airborne asbestos fibers increased one’s chance of inhaling or ingesting them and developing mesothelioma.

How Long Did the Army Use Asbestos Products?

The use of asbestos in the Army lasted from the 1930s to the early 1980s — a considerable period of time that Army personnel found themselves exposed to the deadly mineral.

It was not until 1980 that areas of the military took proper steps to remove asbestos and limit its future use. In 1989, a partial ban was put in place that halted the manufacture, import, processing, and distribution of some asbestos-containing products and banned new asbestos products from entering the market.

This eliminated the use of asbestos-containing products in the Army but not before thousands of Army personnel were already exposed.

How Asbestos Exposure Causes Mesothelioma

Exposure to asbestos can lead to mesothelioma, lung cancer, or asbestosis, among other diseases.

Inhalation of asbestos can cause airborne fibers to enter the lungs. These harmful fibers may penetrate the mesothelium (outer lining of various major organs). This can lead to irritation, scarring, and the development of a more serious illness.

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that is associated with asbestos exposure. It can affect the pleura, the layer of tissue that lines the lungs, and the peritoneum within the abdomen.

Asbestos fibers cause lesions within the mesothelium that may eventually lead to malignant (cancerous) tumors.

Did You Know?

In most cases, the diagnosis of this lethal disease occurs between 20 to 50 years after the first exposure to asbestos.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), there is a lifelong risk of mesothelioma associated with asbestos exposure. This means once an individual is exposed, they will always carry the risk of developing mesothelioma.

Due to the extremely harmful effects of inhaling asbestos, there is no level of exposure that the ACS deems safe.

Help for Army Veterans With Mesothelioma

Veterans who have developed mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure while serving the U.S. Army can file a claim to receive benefits or compensation. These VA benefits allow veterans to collect financial support for treatment.

The harmful effects of asbestos exposure were known by the manufacturers producing these products in the early 1900s. These companies deliberately withheld information regarding the mineral’s safety.

For this reason, Army veterans are able to file a mesothelioma lawsuit if they have been diagnosed with this disease and were exposed to asbestos while they served.

Taking this course of action enables veterans facing this debilitating illness the ability to seek compensation from the negligent manufacturers.

Army Jobs With High Risk of Asbestos Exposure

Field soldiers ran a relatively low risk of asbestos exposure. When asbestos materials were encapsulated and stable, they presented little health threat.

Army personnel who directly worked with asbestos-containing materials had the highest risk of exposure. It was cutting, drilling, sawing, sanding, and installing asbestos-containing materials that released the disease-causing airborne fibers.

The U.S. Corps of Army Engineers — tasked with building structures using asbestos-based products — were the highest-risk group.

Other high-risk Army occupations were:

  • Carpenters and construction workers
  • Demolition and renovation specialists
  • Drywallers, insulators, and painters
  • Electricians, plumbers, and pipefitters
  • Firefighters

Army personnel working on these jobs handled asbestos on a daily basis, meaning their exposure risks were much higher than general soldiers.

Modern Risk of Army Asbestos Exposure

Modern-day soldiers who serve, or have served, in Middle Eastern or Southeast Asian countries may be at risk of asbestos exposure. These countries still use asbestos-containing materials when constructing their buildings and structures.

Damage to these structures during combat may release asbestos fibers into the air. Modern-day military personnel serving in these countries are at risk of inhaling airborne asbestos fibers.

VA Benefits for Army Veterans

Sadly, diseases caused by asbestos exposure have no cure — and some of them, like mesothelioma, can be deadly.

Veterans of the U.S. Army who have developed mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure are entitled to VA benefits. This includes health care and compensation.

This compensation is in the form of monetary payments to cover expenses associated with mesothelioma treatments. The family of the veteran may also be eligible to receive money if they have been affected.

Types of VA Benefits

For many Army veterans, the best financial and medical assistance can be sought by applying for VA benefits, and there are a range of benefits available.

Types of VA benefits include:

  • Disability Compensation: Veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma are eligible for a monthly tax-free payment. These payments can help with treatment and procedure bills.
  • VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (VA DIC): The survivors of a veteran who died due to a military-related illness can receive a tax-free monthly benefit.
  • Special Monthly Compensation (SMC): A veteran who is already receiving Disability Compensation may collect an additional benefit if they qualify.
  • Additional Special Circumstances: These circumstances may include individual unemployability, automobile allowance, stabilization, hospitalization, convalescence, dental, and birth defects.

Along with compensation, veterans with mesothelioma may qualify for health care through VA.

VA Health Care and Treatments

Through VA health care, veterans can access primary care provider visits, appointments with specialists, medical equipment, and prescriptions.

The VA Healthcare System also provides access to several doctors that are recognized as mesothelioma experts. These doctors have extensive experience in treating patients with previous exposure to asbestos that have developed critical illnesses.

For example, Dr. Robert Cameron is a senior surgeon at the Los Angeles Veterans’ Administration Medical Center and has over 20 years of experience treating pleural mesothelioma patients. He is one of the leading experts in mesothelioma treatment and has pioneered the surgical pleurectomy, a procedure that spares the lungs.

Visit the UCLA Health website to learn more about Dr. Robert Cameron.

The Mesothelioma Cancer Network has no affiliation with and is not endorsed or sponsored by Dr. Robert B. Cameron. The contact information above is listed for informational purposes only. You have the right to contact Dr. Cameron directly.

Dr. Abi Lebenthal is a mesothelioma specialist and the director of Minimally Invasive Thoracic Surgery at VA Boston Healthcare System-West Roxbury Campus. He has extensive experience in treating veterans with mesothelioma due to past asbestos exposure.

Other VA Benefits for Army Veterans

VA benefits available to Army veterans may differ depending on the circumstances surrounding their injury or illness.

Other benefits are available through the VA include:

  • Disability Pensions
  • Preventive Healthcare Services
  • Personal Health Programs
  • Education and Training

Veterans may receive these benefits depending on the circumstances that surround their condition. This can change depending on the veteran’s age or the number of family members.

Filing for VA Benefits

Army veterans eligible for VA benefits can apply online (va.gov), in-person at a VA regional office, or by mail.

Requirements to file include: 

  • Honorable Discharge: Veterans are not eligible if they were dishonorably discharged.
  • Disability During Active Duty: A veteran’s injury or illness must be the result of something that occurred during active duty, such as exposure to asbestos that caused mesothelioma.

VA benefits applications should be completed as soon as the mesothelioma diagnosis occurs. This is to ensure action is taken and benefits and compensation can be distributed as soon as possible.

Veterans who are interested in applying for these benefits may be interested in working with a mesothelioma lawyer. A mesothelioma lawyer will ensure access to the most accurate information and can connect veterans with a VA-accredited claims agent.

Legal Help for Army Veterans With Mesothelioma

Capitalizing on legal help to file a VA claim can be extremely beneficial for veterans seeking benefits and compensation for their illnesses.

Mesothelioma lawyers can help veterans identify when, where, and how they were exposed to asbestos. They have access to valuable information that can make a world of difference when filing a VA claim.

Experienced mesothelioma lawyers have:

  • Access to databases of information on asbestos-containing products
  • Information on which companies made these products
  • Details on time limits for filing a VA claim or lawsuit

The manufacturers of asbestos-containing products used in the military throughout the 20th century deliberately withheld information that has caused veterans and their families lifelong pain and suffering.

Taking legal action against these manufacturers will not impact a veteran’s VA benefits in any way. The U.S. Military will not be sued if you choose to take legal action against the companies that produced these asbestos-containing products.

Contact the Mesothelioma Cancer Network for a free case review to learn more about your options.

Mesothelioma Support Team
Stephanie KiddWritten by:

Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie Kidd grew up in a family of civil servants, blue-collar workers, and medical caregivers. Upon graduating Summa Cum Laude from Stetson University, she began her career specializing in worker safety regulations and communications. Now, a proud member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) and Editor-in-Chief of the Mesothelioma Cancer Network, Stephanie serves as a voice for mesothelioma victims and their families.

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