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Veterans With Mesothelioma

Quick Summary

The men and women who volunteered to serve their country knew they were putting their lives at risk in the defense of their nation. What they didn’t know was that up until the 1980s, each branch of the military was using the deadly substance asbestos, the only known cause of mesothelioma. Veterans today have more resources than ever to help them get treatment and compensation.

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Mesothelioma Diagnoses in Veterans

Hundreds of thousands of military members were exposed to asbestos during their service, causing high rates of mesothelioma among veterans.

Three Persons Graphic
1 out of 3 Mesothelioma Patients is a veteran

Mesothelioma symptoms don’t appear until 20-50 years after a person has been exposed to asbestos, meaning veterans who served during every era up until the 1980s are at risk today.

The U.S. military used asbestos heavily because it was cheap and because of its fire-retardant and insulating properties. However, manufacturers of asbestos-containing products hid this information from the government to continue selling their products.

Did you know

It wasn’t until asbestos-related lawsuits emerged in the 1970s that consumers became aware of the serious health risks of asbestos. 

When OSHA began implementing limits on asbestos exposure, protective equipment like respirators became standard. The military also systematically phased out asbestos and replaced asbestos-containing materials with safe products.

However, it was virtually impossible to eliminate all asbestos in the military, as it was used too widely. Not to mention, by this time, many of the brave men and women who served our country were already put at risk of developing the deadly disease mesothelioma.

If you’re a veteran with mesothelioma, we can help. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has financial benefits and some of the best mesothelioma doctors in the country. Our VA-accredited claims agents can process your claim and help you get the most out of your well-deserved VA benefits.

Get started on your claim now.

Mesothelioma Veterans GuideGet a FREE Veterans Packet

Get information on:

  • Treatment Options
  • Mesothelioma Specialists
  • Veterans Benefits

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Quick Facts About Veterans With Mesothelioma

  • Asbestos was used in every military branch from the 1930s to the early 1980s.
  • The U.S. Navy used the highest rate of asbestos for use on almost all of its ships.
  • Eligible veterans can qualify for mesothelioma VA benefits including compensation and free treatments.
  • The VA Health Care System has some of the top mesothelioma specialists available.
  • The Mesothelioma Veterans Center can help veterans start their claims and receive compensation.

What Is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral mined from the ground. Once called “the miracle mineral,” asbestos is now known for its cancer-causing properties.

Asbestos is a group of six different types of minerals that are all composed of microscopic fibers. These fibers are made up of tinsel-like threads that are incredibly dense, durable and virtually indestructible.

Asbestos was used abundantly and can be found globally in places like:

  • Aircraft
  • Buildings
  • Ships
  • Vehicles

It has a natural ability to withstand corrosion and heat. It’s also abundant throughout the world. These factors made asbestos a sought-after mineral to use in industrial construction.

Many construction materials have been made with asbestos, including:

  • Fabrics
  • Insulation
  • Paints
  • Tiles

When asbestos products are disturbed, tiny fibers can loosen and become airborne. When working around asbestos, you are susceptible to inhaling or ingesting these fibers. Asbestos fibers can become lodged deep within the protective linings that cover the chest, abdomen, or heart.

Over time, the fibers cause irritation within the tissues of these protective linings and trigger tissue cells to mutate into mesothelioma cancer cells.

If left untreated, mesothelioma cancer cells will continue to divide and form into tumors. Targeted treatments can shrink these tumors, kill mesothelioma cells and stop or slow cancer progression.

Asbestos Exposure in the Military

Every branch of the U.S. military used asbestos. Many veterans handled asbestos as part of their roles in constructing buildings, ships, or aircraft.

Military branches that used asbestos include:

The U.S. military knew nothing about the health risks associated with asbestos and did not knowingly put their service members in jeopardy. The negligence belongs to the manufacturers of asbestos-containing products, who covered up the health risks of their products for decades.

Military members — particularly Army and Navy veterans — were exposed to asbestos in confined quarters like barracks, aircraft, and vehicles. Combat veterans were also exposed to asbestos during wartime.

When buildings containing asbestos materials were blown up, asbestos fibers were projected into the air. This is why our nation’s most recent veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are not immune to asbestos exposure — it was used worldwide, including in these countries.

Each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces had Military Occupation Services (MOS) that put veterans at risk of asbestos exposure, but some branches used asbestos more than others. Depending on your branch and trade, you may have been at a greater risk of asbestos exposure than other veterans.

Pleural Mesothelioma
affects approximately
Veterans each year
Veterans Medal

Peritoneal Mesothelioma
affects approximately
Veterans each year
Veterans Medal
Pericardial Mesothelioma
affects approximately
Veterans each year
Veterans Medal


The Navy is the branch of the Armed Forces with the highest rate of asbestos use. Navy veterans represent the largest segment of veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma.

The Navy built thousands of ships in the 20th century using asbestos. Virtually every foot of these Navy ships was packed with asbestos.

Navy veterans involved in shipbuilding were likely those who suffered the greatest risk of long-term asbestos exposure. Sailors and other Navy members could also have been exposed to asbestos when working below deck to performing installations or repairs.

Coast Guard

The Coast Guard also used asbestos abundantly to build their vessels. Coast Guard ships needed to be as impermeable to fire as possible, and asbestos helped shipbuilders achieve this.

In the process, Coast Guardsmen, technicians, mechanics, and many other trades faced long-term exposure to asbestos.

Air Force

During the height of military asbestos use in the mid-20th century, pilots, mechanics, and specialists of all kinds were all at risk of long-term asbestos exposure.

Air Force bases at home and overseas contained large amounts of asbestos in their operations buildings and sleeping quarters.

Ground vehicles and aircraft also contained asbestos, which was used for fire-resistance, soundproofing, and insulation on clutches, brakes, and gaskets. Asbestos was also used in the cockpits and engines of several aircraft.


Army veterans were exposed to asbestos in several ways. Asbestos was used in tanks and other vehicles in the clutches, brakes, and gaskets. Army barracks were also constructed using asbestos, putting virtually all Soldiers at risk of asbestos exposure at some point.

Soldiers fighting in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan may have been exposed to airborne asbestos particles as buildings and vehicles exploded around them.

This asbestos exposure is still a risk for soldiers today, including those who have recently served overseas or who may serve overseas in the future.

Marine Corps

Marines were often transported in vehicles, vessels, and aircraft from other military branches that contained asbestos.

Like Army soldiers, Marines also spent a lot of time in buildings constructed using asbestos. They also served on battlegrounds where buildings containing asbestos products were blown up around them, releasing asbestos fibers into the air.

Mesothelioma VA Benefits

If you’re a U.S. military veteran with mesothelioma, you may be eligible for many of the different VA benefits programs.

Veterans with mesothelioma who can prove that they were exposed to asbestos during their service are entitled to benefits. These benefits provide financial relief for mesothelioma patients and can be used to pay for anything from medical bills to groceries.

The VA recognizes asbestos as the cause of pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma. A VA claims agent can help you explain how your asbestos exposure occurred during your military service and help you determine if you can receive benefits.

Compensation and benefits programs veterans can access:

Below is some information on how many of these VA benefits programs work and how you can qualify for them.

VA Disability Compensation

VA Disability Compensation is a program for veterans who have suffered a disability caused in connection to their military service. This includes when a veteran is diagnosed with mesothelioma as a result of their exposure to asbestos while serving in the Armed Forces.

Here are some of the things to know about the VA disability compensation for veterans with mesothelioma:

  • 100% coverage on the VA’s disability scale
  • Additional benefits are available to veterans with dependent children
  • Compensation for mesothelioma is $3,106.04 per month for a single person or $3,279.22 if married
  • Tax-free benefit
  • Veterans must provide medical evidence of their mesothelioma diagnosis, such as a biopsy report

VA Pension

Low-income, disabled, wartime veterans can qualify for a VA pension.

To qualify for a VA pension, a veteran must meet the following criteria:

  • Have 90+ days of active duty with at least 1 day being during wartime (prior to September 7th, 1980)
  • Have served 24 full months or their full period of active duty with at least 1 day being during wartime (after September 7th, 1980)
  • Meet the qualifying annual family income limit

Additionally, veterans must fall under one of the following categories to be eligible for VA pension:

  • In a nursing home and receiving skilled nursing care
  • Older than 65
  • Permanently disabled
  • Receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
  • Receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

VA Health Care System

Veterans with mesothelioma may qualify for free treatments, including treatments from VA-approved thoracic surgeons. Additionally, the VA Health Care System has a partnership with world-renowned mesothelioma surgeons.

Did you know?

With a referral from your local VA doctor, the VA will pay for travel expenses to see a mesothelioma specialist in Los Angeles or Boston.

To access these benefits for mesothelioma treatment, you must be enrolled in the VA Health Care System. If you are not already enrolled, we can help you apply.

Contact the Mesothelioma Veterans Center today for free assistance in enrolling in the VA Health Care System.

What If You Have Private Insurance?

Veterans with private health insurance don’t have to get treatment through the VA Health Care System to qualify for VA disability compensation.

You have the option of accessing treatment through the VA, but it’s not mandatory. You may continue your treatment with your doctor covered by your own health insurance and still receive VA benefits.

Accessing Mesothelioma Compensation

Veterans with mesothelioma and their families have many options for financial compensation. Legal claims are one of the best ways to get compensation. These claims are filed against the asbestos manufacturer responsible, not the government.

You can also access trust funds that were established to provide compensation for mesothelioma patients. Learn more about filing an asbestos trust fund claim.

Remember, veterans can seek financial compensation through:

The VA and other private groups are here to support veterans with mesothelioma. You’ve made a tremendous sacrifice for your country and you deserve the compensation you’re due.

Order your free Mesothelioma Veterans Packet today for more information on mesothelioma and how to file your VA benefits claims. You’ll also receive information on how to find the best mesothelioma specialists in the country so you can start receiving treatments that can greatly improve your prognosis.

Veterans Support Team
Eric P.W. Hall (Capt RIANG) PhotoReviewed by:Eric P.W. Hall (Capt RIANG)

VA-Accredited Attorney

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Eric P.W. Hall (Capt RIANG) is an attorney, a former Sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, and a legal advisor at the Mesothelioma Veterans Center. Today, Eric continues to serve as a Captain in the Rhode Island Air National Guard where he is Deputy Staff Judge Advocate, upholding his dedication to his country and fellow veterans. Eric considers it his duty to help his veteran family and strives to help them navigate the VA and receive the benefits they so bravely earned.

Christopher Dryfoos PhotoWritten by:

Contributing Author

Christopher Dryfoos is a journalist and member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). As the grandson of the U.S. Navy’s first forensic pathologist, he aims to help veterans with mesothelioma access needed care.

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