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.
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 lies on the asbestos manufacturers, 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 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 is the military branch with the highest rate of asbestos use. Navy veterans represent the largest segment of veterans with mesothelioma.
The Navy built hundreds 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 perform installations or repairs.
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.
In the process, Coast Guard sailors, technicians, mechanics, and many other trades faced long-term exposure to asbestos.
During the height of military asbestos use in the mid-20th century, pilots, mechanics, and specialists of many kinds were all at risk of long-term asbestos exposure.
Air Force bases at home and overseas contained large amounts of this harmful substance in 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. The cockpits and engines of several aircraft were also lined with asbestos material as a protective, fire-retardant coating.
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 Army members 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.
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 headquarters constructed using asbestos. They also served on battlegrounds where buildings containing asbestos products blew up around them and released 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 active duty 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.
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 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 by their military service, including mesothelioma.
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 $3057 per month for a single person or $3,227 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
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
- Receiving Supplemental Security Income
VA Health Care System
Veterans with mesothelioma can qualify for free treatments. This includes treatments from VA-approved thoracic surgeons. The VA Health Care System has a partnership with world-renowned mesothelioma surgeons.
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 Health Care 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, prisoners of war 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 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.