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Veterans & Mesothelioma

Veterans may develop mesothelioma as a result of military asbestos exposure. In the 20th century, asbestos was used in all branches of the U.S. military. As a result, many service members were exposed.

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Key Points

  • 1

    Veterans account for about 30% of mesothelioma diagnoses.

  • 2

    Navy veterans are the group most at risk of developing mesothelioma.

  • 3

    Asbestos was used most heavily in the armed services between the 1930s and 1980.

  • 4

    Veterans with mesothelioma have options to help them pay for medical expenses.

Asbestos was commonly used in the military because of its fire-resistant and durable qualities. Asbestos was most heavily used in the military between the 1930s and 1980, which led to wrongful asbestos exposure. As a result, many veterans have been diagnosed with mesothelioma.

With a latency period of 10 – 50 years, mesothelioma symptoms continue to emerge among veterans. Veterans diagnosed may be eligible for compensation and other benefits for their suffering.

How Veterans Were Exposed to Asbestos

Many military veterans faced asbestos exposure during their service. The Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard and Navy all used asbestos products in some way. The products were used on military bases, ships and shipyards.

Common Sources of Military Asbestos Exposure
  • Aircrafts
  • Ammunition storage rooms
  • Boiler rooms/engine rooms
  • Machinery rooms
  • Mess halls
  • Military sleeping quarters/barracks
  • Military vehicles
  • Training facilities

Often, service members were unaware of the long-term health effects of inhaling asbestos. As a result, military service members did not take measures to avoid exposure.

Asbestos Exposure in the Navy

The service members at the highest risk for asbestos exposure were United States Navy veterans. Asbestos was used throughout ships and submarines for insulation and fireproofing.

Asbestos exposure occurred on ships and other vessels. Some of the occupations most at risk of asbestos exposure included:

  • Machinist mates
  • Boiler technicians
  • Pipefitters

U.S. Navy service members lived and worked in poorly ventilated, tight quarters. This made airborne asbestos fibers more concentrated in the air.

Navy veterans working below deck and in submarines often experienced the most asbestos exposure.

Asbestos products were also commonly found in Navy shipyards. In shipyards, service members installed asbestos-containing products during ship construction. Shipyard workers were also responsible for repairing and breaking down asbestos-containing products. This work often released microscopic asbestos fibers into the air.

Navy Ship Components Known to Contain Asbestos
  • Berthing
  • Deck flooring
  • Gaskets
  • Pipes
  • Pumps
  • Seals
  • Valves

Other Forms of Asbestos Exposure Connected to Military Service

Asbestos use in the military affected veterans during their terms of service. Asbestos in the military may have also led to secondhand asbestos exposure.

What Is Secondhand Asbestos Exposure?

Secondhand asbestos exposure involves asbestos fibers brought home on a service member. The fibers may travel on a service member’s clothing, body or hair. For instance, family members may inhale or ingest asbestos through contact with the service member or their clothes.

Military veterans may also experience asbestos exposure after leaving the armed forces. Many veterans found jobs with similar roles to their military occupations.

Veterans may have been exposed to asbestos working as mechanics, pipefitters or firefighters, among other civilian occupations.

The combination of asbestos exposure in the military and civilian life may put these veterans at higher risk of developing an asbestos-related illness. 

Mesothelioma Among Veterans

Decades of asbestos use by the military has resulted in high rates of mesothelioma among military veterans.

Mesothelioma may take 10 – 50 years to develop after initial asbestos exposure. As a result, some veterans are still being diagnosed with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses today.

Veterans with mesothelioma or other asbestos diseases may qualify for veterans’ benefits. VA benefits include financial compensation and/or treatment at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers.

Compensation for Mesothelioma Veterans

Financial compensation is available to veterans facing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases after wrongful asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma is a deadly disease that can be physically and financially draining.

Treatment costs, loss of income and other financial burdens may add up for patients and their family members.

To ease financial difficulties, compensation may be available through the following options:

Experienced asbestos lawyers can help veterans determine the best compensation options. A law firm that specializes in mesothelioma cases can help claimants get the largest award for their situation.

For example, some veterans may file a VA claim and a mesothelioma lawsuit against an asbestos company.

Veterans’ Benefits for Mesothelioma

Veterans may be eligible for a number of benefits. Military veterans and their loved ones may qualify for compensation and healthcare from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA offers a variety of tax-free monetary VA benefits.

Eligibility Requirements for a VA Claim
  • Discharged under any condition other than dishonorable
  • Exposure to asbestos during your years of service
  • Medical documentation of diagnosis with a connection to exposure during service

Disability compensation is available for veterans who have a disease or disability as a result of their service. Many asbestos-related diseases qualify for VA compensation, including mesothelioma.

Asbestos-Related Diagnoses Qualified for VA Benefits

Types of Veteran Claims for Mesothelioma Patients

If veterans meet VA eligibility requirements, there are several types of claims victims and their loved ones can pursue.

For mesothelioma patients, a VA claim is typically a Post-Service Disabilities claim. This covers exposure to hazardous materials, such as asbestos.

Before filing, individuals should have the following documentation:

  • Proof of asbestos exposure during service (service records documenting military occupation or location of service)
  • Medical evidence of a diagnosis connected to asbestos exposure during time of service

An asbestos attorney can help veterans gather the evidence and documents needed to file a VA claim.

VA Claims for Dependents of Veterans

A surviving spouse, child or parent can also receive benefits through Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). This type of compensation can be received if the veteran died in active duty, in training or due to a service-related disability.

Process for Filing a VA Claim

There are many steps to filing a claim, from first gathering evidence of exposure and diagnosis to receiving compensation.

  1. Submit: Send in your claim either online, at a VA office, through standard mail or with a VA-accredited representative.
  2. Review: A VA representative reviews your claim and ensures there is no further evidence needed. If more evidence is requested, you and your lawyer will have time to gather the information for review.
  3. Decision: After all the evidence is received and reviewed, the representative will recommend a decision on your claim and prepare documentation on their decision.
  4. Award: The recommended decision is reviewed and a final award decision is made. In some cases, the claim might be sent back for more evidence and further review.
  5. Receipt: A claim decision packet will be prepared and sent to you by mail from the VA.

Asbestos exposure cannot be the sole reason an individual files for a VA claim. A claimant or loved one must have documentation of an asbestos-related disease diagnosis.

Examples of How the VA Rates Common Asbestos-Related Diseases

VA compensation varies based on the severity of the veteran’s diagnosis. The VA uses a disability rating to determine the severity, which corresponds with compensation amounts. Higher disability ratings result in higher compensation awards.

Veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma have a 100% disability rating by the VA.

Veterans diagnosed with asbestos lung cancer have a 100% disability rating by the VA.

Veterans diagnosed with asbestosis have a disability rating ranging from 0 – 100% by the VA, depending on lung function.

If you or a loved one feel you might qualify, or have questions about your eligibility, connect with an experienced mesothelioma lawyer. An attorney can help you understand your options, collect the right evidence and file a claim.

VA Treatment for Veterans With Mesothelioma

In addition to seeking financial help, veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma may get treatment from VA medical centers. VA treatment centers help eligible veterans access care at little to no cost.

Some VA treatment centers across the country are affiliated with top mesothelioma doctors and programs. These programs include:

  • Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center: Affiliated with Baylor College of Medicine and its Lung Institute in Houston, Texas
  • VA Boston Healthcare System: Affiliated with the International Mesothelioma Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School
  • West Los Angeles VA Medical Center: Features a Comprehensive Mesothelioma Treatment and Research Center

Veterans may also get treatment and medical care from private cancer centers.

Mesothelioma treatment may help veterans live longer and more comfortable lives. Compensation and medical care from the VA can help patients and their loved ones get affordable treatment.

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Written By

Tonya Nelson

Managing Editor

Tonya Nelson is an experienced writer and editor, who has published on a wide variety of topics, particularly in the health field.