Mesothelioma Diagnosis in Navy Veterans

U.S. Navy veterans are the largest group of all military branches to suffer from asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma. Due to widespread exposure to asbestos in Navy ships, vehicles, and bases, there are many ways Navy veterans can get legal and financial help.

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Asbestos Use in the Navy

Every American navy ship built between 1930 and 1980 contained asbestos materials. They currently operate and maintain 430 vessels and over 3,700 aircraft, including eleven deployable aircraft carriers and two more under construction.

The U.S. Navy phased-out asbestos products in the 1980s when the associated health hazards became widely publicized.

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

Navy Ships and Asbestos 

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 for fire protection and insulation everywhere from seagoing vessels to buildings. As a result, Navy service members had the highest risk of asbestos exposure.

Asbestos was known to be found in:

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

Asbestos in 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.

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.

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

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 of asbestos exposure. They turn to the Department of Veterans Affairs for compensation and healthcare benefits.

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Navy Shipyards and Asbestos Exposure

Navy shipyard workers are especially at risk for mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. This is because the insulation used to build ships and submarines during World War II and the Korean War were often made with asbestos.

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

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 the space would have been breathing in asbestos fibers.

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.

VA Benefits for Navy Veterans 

Unfortunately, many Navy veterans now suffer the long-term health effects of asbestos exposure. The Department of Veterans Affairs provides compensation and health care benefits for these veterans.

United States Navy veterans have disability compensation and special health care benefits available through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans are entitled to these benefits 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 Veteran Benefit Claim and Compensation Types

The VA has different claims covering different situations to help them determine a sufficient amount of compensation.

The main 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.

Depending on the situation, veterans may be eligible for one or more types of compensation:

  • 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.

VA Mesothelioma Treatment for Navy Veterans

Veterans may be able to receive treatment through VA-affiliated medical centers if they have been diagnosed with mesothelioma. These treatments are given by some of the top mesothelioma specialists in the country.

Patients with pleural mesothelioma may seek treatment from: 

  • Dr. Robert Cameron: Dr. Cameron treats patients at West Los Angeles VA Medical Center. He uses the most advanced surgical techniques. He is the Director of the Comprehensive Mesothelioma Program.
  • Dr. Avi Lebenthal: Dr. Lebenthal treats patients at Boston VA Hospital. His clinical interests include mesothelioma. He is an instructor in surgery at Harvard Medical School.

Other VA Health Care 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 health care benefits include:

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

Applying for VA Health Care Benefits

Navy veterans with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease may be eligible for VA benefits.

There are several ways to apply for VA compensation and health care 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.
  • Hire a law firm to file a claim for you.

Mesothelioma Compensation for Navy Veterans

In addition to the benefits that Navy veterans may be entitled to through the VA, there are other ways they can receive health care. Navy veterans may be entitled to compensation through legal claims and asbestos trust fund claims as well.

By working with a qualified mesothelioma lawyer, Navy veterans may be able to get money to pay for treatments, medical care, and help loved ones.

Filing a legal claim will not affect a veteran’s ability to receive VA benefits. The claim will not be made against the military, but rather, against the asbestos companies that likely knew that asbestos is highly dangerous.

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Compensation and Mesothelioma Law Firms

United States Navy veterans have the legal right to pursue other compensation funds. Many veterans turn to 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 handle mesothelioma and other asbestos-related disease cases also know how to access asbestos trust funds. These attorneys are familiar with all benefits and health care 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 VA claim or filing a lawsuit against a negligent asbestos company, start a free case review.

Author:Stephanie Kidd

Editor-in-Chief of the Mesothelioma Justice Network

Stephanie Kidd

Stephanie Kidd works tirelessly as a dedicated advocate for the vulnerable and underrepresented. Stephanie worked as a copywriter for an agency whose focus was communicating safety procedures on construction work sites. With her extensive background in victim advocacy and a dedication to seeing justice done, Stephanie works hard to ensure that all online content is reliable, truthful and helpful.

Last modified: September 17, 2019

View 9 Sources
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  2. 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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  4. Department of Veterans Affairs, “Exposure to Hazardous Materials – Asbestos” Retrieved from https://www.vets.gov/disability-benefits/conditions/exposure-to-hazardous-materials/asbestos/ Accessed on 02 January 2018

  5. VA/Vets.gov website, Veterans Disability and Healthcare Benefits”, Retrieved from https://www.vets.gov/ Accessed on 02 January 2018
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  8. Inhalation Toxicology International Forum for Respiratory Research, “Government and Navy Knowledge Regarding Health Hazards of Asbestos: A state of the science evaluation (1900 to 1970)” Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.3109/08958378.2011.643417 Accessed on 02 January 2018
  9. Mesothelioma Veterans Center, “Mesothelioma and Navy Veterans” Retrieved from https://www.mesotheliomaveterans.org/veterans/military/navy/ Accessed on 02 January 2018
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