Mesothelioma and Navy Veterans

U.S. Navy veterans are at a higher risk of mesothelioma than the other branches of the Armed Forces. This is because the Navy used more asbestos in their ships, vehicles, and bases than did any other branch. Navy veterans with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease may be eligible for VA benefits and health care.

Understand Your Legal Options

Asbestos Use in the Navy

There is an undeniable link between veterans and mesothelioma, but no arm of the United States military or civilian industry used more asbestos materials than the Navy.

Did You Know?

Over 30% of all mesothelioma patients are military veterans, and Navy veterans comprise most of those cases.

Every American Navy ship built between the 1930s and early 1980s contained asbestos materials.

The United States Navy phased out asbestos-containing products in the 1980s when the associated health hazards became widely publicized.

Before this was known, asbestos was considered the perfect material for shipbuilding.

Shipbuilders used asbestos since it was:

  • A good insulator
  • Cheap to purchase
  • Fireproof
  • Noncorrosive
  • Nonconductive
  • Soundproof

Navy veterans are the largest group who suffer asbestos-related diseases like asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma — but there is help for these brave former service members.

Navy veterans with mesothelioma can:

  • File a VA claim for help with medical treatment and other support
  • Work with a mesothelioma lawyer for compensation from asbestos-containing product manufacturers

These actions can help Navy veterans with mesothelioma can access high-quality health care, keep their families secure, and bring those responsible for their illness to justice.

Navy Jobs With High Risk of Asbestos Exposure

Being the largest consumer of asbestos-containing products, there was no escaping asbestos exposure for many Navy veterans.

Every U.S. Navy veteran exposed to asbestos while on duty was at high-risk for developing asbestos-related diseases. That said, some Navy personnel were at a higher risk than others.

The highest-risk U.S. Navy occupations were:

  • Boiler technicians
  • Electricians
  • Engine operators
  • Firefighters
  • Gunners
  • Hull maintenance workers
  • Insulators
  • Machinists
  • Mechanics
  • Pipefitters
  • Plumbers
  • Seabees
  • Shipbuilders
  • Steelworkers
  • Weapons specialists
  • Welders

Navy veterans were exposed to the toxic mineral more frequently than those who joined other branches.

In fact, Navy veterans make up more than a third of the total mesothelioma cases in veterans.

Navy Shipyards and Asbestos Exposure

Navy shipyard workers are especially at risk for mesothelioma as the insulation used to build ships and submarines were often made with asbestos.

Much of the work that occurred in shipyards involved the removal and reinstallation of asbestos materials. This released a large number of asbestos fibers into the air.

Anyone working in or even walking through these shipyards would have been breathing in asbestos fibers.

Did You Know?

The Navy did not start equipping its sailors with breathing protection until the late 1970s.

Anyone working in a shipyard before this time would have had significant exposure to asbestos.

Sailors serving aboard ships in overhaul were also at an increased risk of asbestos exposure.

Navy Ships and Asbestos Exposure Risk

Before the 1970s, the dangers of asbestos weren’t known outside the asbestos manufacturing industry.

Because asbestos was relatively cheap and heat-resistant, it was widely used in the Navy. They used asbestos everywhere from seagoing vessels to buildings.

As a result, Navy service members had the highest risk of asbestos exposure in the military.

On Navy ships, asbestos could be found in:

  • Boiler rooms
  • Bulkheads
  • Deck flooring
  • Engine rooms
  • Gaskets
  • Insulation
  • Pipe lagging
  • Pumps
  • Seals
  • Valves

Asbestos on Navy ships was virtually everywhere. The mineral was used often in ship infrastructure.

Sailors working on insulation, piping, or other ship parts often unknowingly released asbestos into the air while working.

Ships also presented a greater risk of asbestos exposure because they were poorly ventilated and cramped. This made easier for Navy service members to inhale or ingest the fibers.

VA Benefits for Navy Veterans 

Many Navy veterans now suffer the long-term health effects of asbestos exposure — including mesothelioma.

However, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides mesothelioma veterans benefits and compensation for these individuals.

U.S. Navy veterans are entitled to disability compensation and special health care benefits through the VA because of their service to the country.

Criteria for disability benefits eligibility are:

  • Honorable discharge: Claimant must have been honorably discharged from the Navy
  • Disability caused during active duty: The disability must be due to a duty-related cause, including a latent disease like mesothelioma that develops decades after military service

Navy veterans with questions about qualifications or benefits can speak with a VA accredited professional such as a claims agent, Veterans Service Officer (VSO), or a specialized lawyer.

Types of Navy VA Benefits

The VA has different claims covering different situations to help them determine how much compensation is enough for an individual.

The main VA claim types are:

  • Pre-Discharge Claims: Veterans 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 being on active duty.
  • In-Service Claims: If a veteran is injured but can continue serving in the Navy, they can file an in-service claim.
  • Post-Service Claims: If a veteran developed a latent illness that was caused by active-duty activities, like how mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure, they 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.

Eligible Navy veterans and their families can apply for compensation through the VA. Veterans may be eligible for one or more types of compensation.

Learn more about the different types of compensation listed below.

Disability Compensation

Veterans can receive monthly guaranteed payments through Disability Compensation for their mesothelioma or asbestos-related condition.

VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (VA DIC)

Spouses and dependents can receive guaranteed monthly income if the veteran passes away due to an asbestos-related illness.

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.

An accredited attorney, claims agent, or VSO can guide veterans who need assistance filing a VA claim.

VA Mesothelioma Health Care and Treatments

Veterans with mesothelioma may qualify for veterans health care as part of their VA benefits,

This is helpful as the VA has several doctors who specialize in treating mesothelioma. These mesothelioma doctors are some of the best in the country.

The VA currently has two mesothelioma programs led by specialists in treating pleural mesothelioma.

Top VA mesothelioma doctors include:

  • Dr. Robert Cameron: Dr. Robert Cameron is a world-renowned oncological surgeon who leads the mesothelioma program at the West Los Angeles Medical Center, Los Angeles VA.
  • Dr. Abraham Lebenthal: The highly experienced oncological surgeon Dr. Abraham “Avi” Lebenthal leads the Mesothelioma Program at the Boston VA.

Both of these doctors are highly trained surgeons with years of experience treating pleural mesothelioma.

Navy veterans with mesothelioma who turn to specialized VA centers for treatment can be assured that they are receiving the highest quality care in the country.

Other VA Benefits for Navy Veterans

The VA offers more than financial compensation for medical treatment. They also help veterans adjust to life after their service-related injuries.

Other VA benefits available for veterans and their families include:

  • Disability Pensions
  • Preventive Healthcare Services
  • Personal Health Programs
  • Education and Training
  • Home Loans
  • Insurance
  • Vocational Rehabilitation
  • Mental Health Assistance
  • Survivors Benefits
  • Burial and Memorial Services

Some Navy veterans may be entitled to different benefits than others depending on the specifics of their case, such as the number of family members they have and other factors.

Filing for VA Benefits

Navy veterans with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease may apply for VA benefits in several ways.

Veterans may apply for VA compensation and health care benefits by:

  • Filing an online application available on the VA website
  • Filing an in-person claim at a VA field office
  • Mailing their application to the correct address
  • Getting help from a VA accredited claims agent
  • Getting help from a mesothelioma lawyer

Veterans should apply for VA benefits as soon as they have been diagnosed with mesothelioma since the cancer can spread rapidly throughout the body.

A mesothelioma lawyer can help gather the right information to file a claim and connect veterans with a VA-accredited claims agent for further assistance.

Legal Help for Navy Veterans with Mesothelioma

Navy veterans have the legal right to pursue other compensation funds. Many veterans turn to specialized mesothelioma law firms that practice asbestos-related disease lawsuits.

Mesothelioma law firms help victims:

  • Learn when, where, and how they were exposed to asbestos
  • File lawsuits and asbestos trust fund claims
  • Receive financial compensation

These attorneys can also help veterans gather the information needed to file a VA claim.

Private civil claims filed in asbestos cases won’t affect a Navy veteran’s VA claim in any manner. They can receive compensation from other sources, and it will not interfere with their VA benefits.

For more information on filing a VA claim or filing a lawsuit against a negligent asbestos company, start a free case review.

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 Justice Network, Stephanie serves as a voice for mesothelioma victims and their families.

View 8 Sources
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  3. Department of Veterans Affairs, “Compensation – Asbestos”, Retrieved from https://www.benefits.va.gov/COMPENSATION/claims-postservice-exposures-asbestos.asp Accessed on 02 January 2018
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  8. VA/Vets.gov website, Veterans Disability and Healthcare Benefits”, Retrieved from https://www.vets.gov/ Accessed on 02 January 2018
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