Veterans & Mesothelioma

Veterans from all branches of the military face the risk of developing mesothelioma, a deadly disease caused by exposure to asbestos while serving their country.

Key Points

  • 1

    About 30 percent of mesothelioma diagnoses occur among veterans.

  • 2

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

  • 3

    Asbestos was used most heavily in the armed services between the 1930s and 1970s.

  • 4

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

Asbestos is a mineral that was lauded for its fire resistance and durability, which made it a seemingly ideal substance for military use. While asbestos was most heavily used between the 1930s and 1970s, veterans are still at risk of exposure today.

After exposure, it can take 20-50 years for mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases to start showing symptoms. That means many of those who were exposed in the past are just being diagnosed now. Though mesothelioma is a rare cancer, about 30 percent of total diagnoses occur among our military veterans.

Mesothelioma in Navy Veterans

Veterans who served in the navy are the most at-risk of developing asbestos-related diseases because many asbestos products were used on ships. Asbestos was widely used as an insulator, making engine rooms and boiler rooms especially dangerous.

Many Navy veterans lived and worked in tight quarters on board ships with poor ventilation systems, making any airborne asbestos more concentrated. Those who worked belowdecks on warships and submarines are most at risk of exposure.

Navy Jobs That Exposed Servicemen to Asbestos

  • Machinist mates
  • Machinery repairmen
  • Boiler-room workers

Workers in shipyards also faced greater dangers of exposure. Repairs often required chipping or grinding of asbestos-containing products, which would release the fibers into the air. Additionally, since the Cold War, many of naval ships have been dismantled for scrap metal. So-called “shipbreakers” would cut the ships down without protective gear, increasing their exposure to asbestos and other toxic materials.

Mesothelioma in Other Veterans

Military members who served in the other branches also faced exposure to asbestos through their jobs, base facilities, or even living quarters.

Military Risks of Asbestos Exposure

  • Military housing/barracks
  • Mess halls
  • Training facilities
  • Ammunition storage
  • Military vehicles (brakes, gaskets, insulation, etc.)
  • Aircraft (brakes, insulation, etc.)

Mesothelioma Treatment Options for Veterans

After diagnosis, veterans have several options available for where they can seek mesothelioma treatment. While most mesothelioma specialists can be found at private cancer centers, there are VA-affiliated medical centers that offer oncology programs and have the capability to treat mesothelioma.

VA Health Centers Treating Mesothelioma

VA Boston Healthcare System

Address: 1400 VFW Parkway West Roxbury, MA 02132
Phone: 857.203.6202

The VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System: West Los Angeles Medical Center

Dr. Robert Brian Cameron

Address: 11301 Wilshire Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90073
Phone: 310-268-4543

Miami VA Healthcare System: Bruce W. Carter Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center

Address: 1201 N.W. 16th St. Miami, FL 33125
Phone: 305-575-7000

Michael E. Debakey VA Medical Center

Address: 2002 Holcombe Blvd. Houston, TX 77030
Phone: 713-791-1414

Albany Stratton VA Center

Address: 113 Holland Avenue Albany, NY 12208
Phone: 518-626-5000

Atlanta VA Medical Center

Address: 1670 Clairmont Rd, Decatur, GA 30033
Phone: (404) 321-6111

Browse our database of mesothelioma treatment centers 

How to File a VA Claim

If you or a loved one were exposed to asbestos during military service and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, you may qualify for compensation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The VA offers a variety of tax-free monetary benefits. Disability Compensation is offered to veterans who have a disability, such as mesothelioma, as a result of their time in service. A surviving spouse, child, or parent can also receive benefits through Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), which can be received if the veteran died in active duty, in training, or due to a service-related disability.

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

Types of Veteran Claims

There are several kinds of claims a veteran or loved one can pursue when seeking disability compensation. In the case of a veteran diagnosed with mesothelioma, a Post-Service Disabilities Claim should be filed. It includes the classification of exposure to hazardous materials, like asbestos.

Before you can file your claim, you should ensure you have the following documentation:

  • Proof asbestos exposure occurred during service. This can be in the form of service records that document your military occupation or the location of service.
  • Medical evidence of your diagnosis that can be connected to asbestos exposure during time of service.

Note that asbestos exposure alone is not enough to be eligible for a VA claim. Veterans or their surviving family members must be able to show documentation of an asbestos-caused disease that occurred during active service.

Process for Filing a VA Claim

1. Submit

Send in your claim either online, at a VA office, through standard mail or with an accredited representative.

2. Review

A Veterans Service Representative reviews your claim and ensures there is no further evidence needed.

3. Decision

After all 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.

Help with your VA Claim

It can be overwhelming to gather all the evidence required to make your claim. The process of your claim being filed and reviewed can also become difficult based on the complexity of your case and the evidence available.

Our team can assist you in gathering the evidence needed to make your claim and going through the filing process.

Other Compensation Options for Veterans

Filing a VA claim is just one avenue available for veterans to receive compensation for wrongful exposure to asbestos. Some veterans and their families may choose to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer responsible for producing the asbestos products they were exposed to. If considering this option, it’s important to keep in mind the statute of limitations for your state after you’ve been diagnosed.

Filing a claim against an asbestos trust fund may also be available for veterans. These trust funds were set up by bankrupt asbestos companies to compensate asbestos victims. An experienced mesothelioma lawyer can help guide you through the process and see if it’s right for you.

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Mesothelioma Resources for Veterans