The USN currently has a huge worldwide presence but had a larger complement of ships and sailors during the height of World War II. That was a time when asbestos was prevalent in all seagoing navy vessels and stationary shore facilities.
The United States Navy is the world’s largest and most capable naval force. The U.S. Navy currently employs 325,000 active service personnel and 107,000 reservists. They operate and maintain 430 vessels and over 3,700 aircraft, including eleven deployable aircraft carriers and two more under construction.
Asbestos Use in the Navy
Every American navy ship built between 1930 and 1980 contained asbestos materials.
It was fireproof which significantly improved safety at sea. Asbestos-containing materials (ACM) had excellent thermal resistance, making them ideal for insulating engines, boilers and delivery ducts. Adding asbestos to ship manufacturing products improved their strength and lightened their weight. Additionally, asbestos was noncorrosive, nonconductive and suppressed sound. It was also cheap and in limitless supply.
No arm of the U.S. military or civilian industry used more asbestos materials than the navy.
Consequently, navy veterans are the largest group who suffer asbestos-related diseases like asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Over one-third of all mesothelioma patients are military veterans and navy vets comprise most of those cases.
High-Risk U.S. Navy Occupations for Asbestos Exposure
Being the largest consumer of asbestos products naturally made the U.S. Navy the leading employer that exposed its service people and civilian workers to airborne asbestos fibers. Exposure levels compounded onboard navy vessels. That was due to lack of ventilation in confined spaces below deck and failure to provide workers with personal respiratory protection.
Similar conditions existed in shore facilities. Shipyard and drydock workers constantly installed, repaired and removed ACM. Their buildings also contained asbestos materials in roofing, siding, cement powder, flooring, wallboard and paint. There was no escaping asbestos exposure for many navy veterans.
- Boiler technicians
- Engine operators
- Gunners and weapons specialists
- Hull maintenance workers
- Machinists and mechanics
- Steelworkers and welders
Every U.S. Navy veteran exposed to asbestos while on duty was at high-risk for developing asbestos-related diseases. Ten to 50 years can go by between initial asbestos exposure and when a veteran’s mesothelioma symptoms present.
Today, the navy has strict controls guiding asbestos handling. It’s been phased out of shipbuilding and many original ships containing ACM were decommissioned or destroyed. Unfortunately, many navy veterans now suffer the long-term health effects from asbestos exposure. They turn to the Department of Veterans Affairs for compensation and healthcare benefits.
Compensation and Healthcare Benefits for Navy Veterans
United States Navy veterans have disability compensation and special healthcare benefits available through the Department of Veterans Affairs. These are entitled benefits that you can receive because of your service to your country.
Criteria for disability benefit eligibility are:
- Honorable Discharge: You must have been honorably discharged from the Navy.
- Disability Caused During Active Duty: Your disability must be due to a duty-related cause, including a latent disease like mesothelioma that develops decades after military service.
Eligible Navy veterans and their families can apply for compensation through the VA. Depending on your situation, you may be eligible for one or more types fo compensation.
The VA has the following compensation types:
- Disability Compensation: Veterans can receive monthly guaranteed payments through Disability Compensation for their illness or injury.
- Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC): Spouses and dependents can receive guaranteed monthly income if the veteran passes away due to active duty causes.
- Special Monthly Compensation (SMC): Veterans with special requirements can receive additional monthly payments to cover costs for homecare support and more.
- Additional Special Circumstances: Additional compensation is available for special circumstances that require extra costs.
Navy Veteran Benefit Claim Types
The VA has different claims covering different situations to help them determine a sufficient amount of compensation.
Here are the main VA claim types:
- Pre-Discharge Claims: You can file a pre-discharge claim for an injury or illness that the Navy already knew of within 180 days of being discharged.
- Pre-Service Claims: Navy veterans who entered the military with a pre-existing condition can file a pre-service claim if their condition worsened due to active-duty reasons.
- In-Service Claims: If you suffer an injury but can continue serving in the Navy, you can file an in-service claim.
- Post-Service Claims: If you developed a latent illness that was caused by active-duty reasons, such as how mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure, you can file a post-service claim.
- Special Claims: Sometimes veterans need to file special claims when their situations don’t fall under any of the above claim types.
Other VA Healthcare Benefits for Navy Veterans
The VA doesn’t just offer financial compensation for medical assistance. They also help veterans adjust to life after their service-related injuries.
Some extended VA healthcare benefits include:
- Disability Pensions
- Preventive Healthcare Services
- Personal Health Programs
- Education and Training
- Home Loans
- Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment
- Mental Health Assistance and Counseling
- Survivors Benefits
- Burial and Memorial Services
If you are a Navy veteran with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, you may be eligible for VA benefits. If you’re considering filing a claim, you have a few options for how to do so.
This is how to apply for VA compensation and healthcare benefits:
- File an online application available on the VA website
- File an in-person claim at a VA field office
- Have a VA Accredited Claims agent help you file your claim
- Retain a law firm to file a claim for you
United States Navy veterans have the legal right to pursue other compensation funds. Many vets retain specialized law firms that practice asbestos-related disease litigation. These injured vets work with asbestos attorneys to file lawsuits against negligent asbestos companies that supplied dangerous asbestos products to the navy. Lawyers who specialize in mesothelioma and other asbestos-related disease cases also know how to access an asbestos company’s bankruptcy trust funds. These attorneys are familiar with all benefits and healthcare services provided by the VA.
Private civil claims filed in asbestos cases won’t affect a navy vet’s VA claim in any manner. Navy veterans can receive compensation from other sources, and it won’t interfere with their VA benefits.
For more information on filing a claim against the VA or a negligent asbestos company, contact our Justice Support Team today.