Veterans with Mesothelioma

Quick Summary

Veterans make up 1/3 of mesothelioma cases. Each military branch used asbestos until the 1970s, putting our honored military service veterans at risk for developing mesothelioma. Thankfully, veterans today have many important resources and support options that can help them receive the treatment they need to extend their life expectancy. There is also compensation to help to pay for out-of-pocket expenses.

Mesothelioma Diagnoses in Veterans

Many military members were exposed to asbestos during their service, causing high rates of mesothelioma among veterans. Mesothelioma symptoms don’t appear until 10 to 50 years after a person is exposed to asbestos.

Did you know?

The U.S. military used asbestos for its fire retardant and insulating properties—making it seem like a miracle product. But the military was unaware of the deadly health risks associated with the substance. Asbestos manufacturers hid this information from the government to continue selling their asbestos products.

Eventually, OSHA began implementing limits on asbestos exposure. Protective equipment (PPE), such as respirators, became standard. Then the military began systematically phasing out asbestos and began replacing asbestos-containing materials with safe products. It is virtually impossible to eliminate all asbestos in the military, as it was used too widely.

If you’re a veteran with mesothelioma, we can help. The Department of Veterans Affairs has financial benefits and mesothelioma doctors. Our VA-accredited claims agent can process your claim and help you get the most out of VA benefits. Get started on your claim now.

Mesothelioma Veterans Facts

  • Asbestos is the only known cause of pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma
  • Asbestos was used in every military branch from the 1930s to the late 1970s
  • The U.S. Navy is the military branch with the highest rate of asbestos use
  • Eligible veterans can qualify for mesothelioma VA benefits including compensation and free treatments
  • The VA Healthcare System has some of the top mesothelioma specialists working with veterans who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma
  • The Mesothelioma Veterans Center can help veterans start their claims and receive the compensation they’re entitled to

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.

Did you know?

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

Many construction materials have been made with asbestos, including:

  • Fabrics
  • Insulation
  • Paints
  • Tiles

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

  • Aircraft
  • Buildings
  • Ships
  • Vehicles

Asbestos poses a health risk to anyone who is around it when it’s disturbed—loose asbestos fibers can become airborne. People working around asbestos 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 can trigger the 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 tumors, kill mesothelioma cells and stop or slow cancer progression.

Asbestos Exposure in the Military

Due to its many uses in construction, the U.S. military used asbestos in all of its branches. Service members often came into direct contact with asbestos. Many veterans handled asbestos as part of their roles in constructing buildings, ships or aircraft.

Did you know?

The U.S. military knew nothing about the health risks associated with asbestos, and did not knowingly put their service members in jeopardy. What happened was the direct result of negligence and a widespread cover-up on the part of the asbestos manufacturers.

Military members—particularly Army and Navy veterans—were exposed to asbestos in confined quarters such as in barracks, submarines or transport vehicles. Frontline veterans were also exposed to asbestos during wartimes. Buildings containing asbestos materials were blown up, projecting asbestos fibers 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 military branch has its own job roles that put veterans at great risk of asbestos exposure.

Military branches that used asbestos include:

Some military 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 vets.


The Navy built hundreds of ships in the 20th century using asbestos. The Navy is the military branch with the highest rate of asbestos use. Navy veterans represent the largest segment of veterans with mesothelioma.

Virtually every foot of every Navy ship was packed with asbestos. Navy veterans involved in the direct shipbuilding process 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 perform installations or repairs.

Coast Guard

The Coast Guard, though a smaller branch than the Navy, still used asbestos abundantly to build their vessels. Coast Guard ships needed to be impermeable to fire and asbestos helped shipbuilders achieve this. So Coast Guard sailors, technicians, mechanics and many other trades faced long-term exposure to asbestos.

Coast Guards also face a risk of asbestos exposure in their sleeping quarters. But any veteran working below deck would have no doubt suffered from asbestos exposure that was amplified by poor ventilation.

Air Force

The Air Force has bases around the world. During the height of military asbestos use in the mid-20th Century, these Air Force bases at home and overseas contained large amounts of this harmful substance.

The Air Force used asbestos to construct its 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. Aircraft engines were wrapped in asbestos as a fire-retardant. The cockpits of several aircraft were also lined with asbestos material as a protective coating. Pilots, mechanics and specialists of many kinds were all at risk of long-term asbestos exposure.


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

Soldiers battling in war zones in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan were no doubt exposed to airborne asbestos particles as buildings and vehicles exploded around them. These soldiers would have likely inhaled asbestos fibers unknowingly. This asbestos exposure is still a risk for soldiers today. This includes those who have recently served overseas or who may serve overseas in the future.


Due to the nature of the Marines as service members, these veterans were likely exposed to asbestos in several and potential unknown ways. Marines were often transported to military sites in vehicles, vessels and aircraft from other military branches that all contained asbestos.

Like Army members, Marines also spent a lot of time in headquarters constructed using asbestos. They also served on the frontlines of battlefields, where buildings containing asbestos products blew up around them. Any Marine Corps members in the vicinity likely would have inhaled or ingested airborne asbestos fibers.

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 active duty are entitled to benefits. These benefits provide financial relief for mesothelioma patients. You can use the benefits whenever you need them for anything from medical bills to groceries.

Did you know?

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 active duty or inactive duty training. This will help you qualify for certain benefits.

There are many forms of benefits and compensation that veterans are eligible for.

Some of the compensation and benefits programs veterans can access include:

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 by their military service. Mesothelioma is one of these disabilities.

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 $2,973 per month for a single person or $3,068 if married
  • Tax-free benefit
  • Veterans must provide medical evidence of their mesothelioma diagnosis, such as a biopsy report
  • Veterans who were dishonorably discharged do not qualify

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:

  • Had 90+ days of active duty with at least 1 day being during wartime (prior to September 7th, 1980)
  • Had 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
  • Receiving Supplemental Security Income

VA Healthcare System

Veterans with mesothelioma can qualify for free treatments. This includes treatments from VA-approved thoracic surgeons. The VA Healthcare System has a partnership with two world-renowned mesothelioma surgeons: Drs. Avi Lebenthal and Robert Cameron in Boston and Los Angeles respectively.

Did you know?

The VA will pay for travel expenses to see a mesothelioma specialist in Los Angeles or Boston. You just need a referral from your local VA doctor.

To access free mesothelioma treatment, you must be enrolled in the VA Healthcare System. If you are not already enrolled, you can apply.

To qualify for enrollment, you must meet any of the following criteria:

  • Belong to a special group of veterans, including those exposed to Agent Orange, POWs or Purple Heart recipients
  • Fall within the VA’s income limitations
  • Have a service-related disability

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

What If You Have Private Insurance?

Veterans with private health insurance don’t have to get treatment through the VA Healthcare System in order 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, there are 3 ways to get financial compensation including:

  1. Asbestos Trust Funds
  2. Legal claims
  3. VA benefits

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 entitled to.

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.