Veterans with Mesothelioma

Quick Summary

Veterans make up one-third of all patients diagnosed with mesothelioma. Each military branch used asbestos until the 1980s, putting veterans at risk of the disease. Veterans today have many resources to help them get the treatment they need. They may also be able to access compensation 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 20-50 years after a person is exposed to asbestos, meaning veterans who served long ago are at risk today.

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1 out of 3 Mesothelioma Patients is a veteran

The U.S. military used asbestos for its fire-retardant and insulating properties, but they were was unaware of the deadly health risks associated with the substance.

Asbestos manufacturers hid this information from the government to continue selling their products. Eventually, 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.

If you’re a veteran with mesothelioma, we can help. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) 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.

Get a FREE Veterans Packet

Get information on:

  • Treatment Options
  • Mesothelioma Specialists
  • Veterans Benefits

Learn More

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 early 1980s
  • 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 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.

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

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

  • Aircraft
  • Buildings
  • Ships
  • Vehicles

When asbestos products are disturbed, tiny fibers can loosen and 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 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.

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.

Pleural Mesothelioma
affects approximately
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Peritoneal Mesothelioma
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Pericardial Mesothelioma
affects approximately
Veterans each year
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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.

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.

In the process, Coast Guard sailors, 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 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.

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 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

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
  • 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.

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:

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.

Author:Mesothelioma Veterans Center

Veterans Support Team

Mesothelioma Veterans Center

The Mesothelioma Veterans Center editorial team consists of experienced veterans, family members and medical professionals. Our work is focused on helping veterans with mesothelioma receive the benefits they need and the compensation they deserve. We love our country and are passionate about serving those who first served us.

Last modified: November 12, 2019

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