Mesothelioma in the Army

Quick Summary

Military veterans make up one-third of all mesothelioma cases. Many Army veterans qualify for financial compensation and free treatment from Mesothelioma Specialists.

Army Veterans With Mesothelioma

Many veterans develop mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure during their time in the Army. Soldiers, mechanics and those performing construction work often came in contact with asbestos. If you developed mesothelioma from your time as a soldier, there are certain benefits you can access.

Benefits for Army veterans include:

  • Mesothelioma Specialists in the VA. The VA Healthcare System has 2 Mesothelioma Specialists on each coast. Both specialists see Army veterans from all 50 states. Getting a mesothelioma specialist is important to improve your prognosis, and treatment from a specialist in the VA is often paid for by the VA.
  • VA Financial Benefits. VA benefits are great for veterans looking for monthly financial help. Most Army veterans with mesothelioma qualify for partial or full VA benefits, which includes disability, pension and more.
  • Funds from Asbestos Trusts. For decades, the makers of asbestos products knew the dangers of the material. However, they hid this truth not only from the general public, but from the military as well, continuing to make a profit. Toward the end of the 20th century, these companies were required to set up trust funds for their victims. There is over $30 Billion in these trust funds today.

Asbestos exposure wasn’t the Army’s fault. The dangers of asbestos weren’t widely known until the 1980s. By then, the Army began removing asbestos from places where soldiers could be harmed. Asbestos manufacturers are responsible for victims of asbestos exposure in all walks of life. Many mesothelioma sufferers have filed successful legal claims against these companies.

History of Asbestos Use in the Army

Army veterans are at risk of getting mesothelioma because the military used asbestos. The Army used asbestos-containing materials to insulate and fireproof nearly all of their buildings.

The Army used asbestos-containing materials such as:

  • Brake pads
  • Cement foundation
  • Clutch plates
  • Flooring and ceiling tiles
  • Gaskets
  • Insulation
  • Plumbing
  • Roofing materials

When damaged or degraded, asbestos becomes airborne. Airborne asbestos fibers can be breathed in and lodge in the lining of the lungs. Years later, these fibers can turn healthy cells into mesothelioma. Asbestos materials can also get caught on clothing, hair or skin, exposing other soldiers. Service members operating heavy artillery or weapons systems often wore gloves and suits laced with asbestos to prevent burns to their body.

“Service members who worked with, handled, damaged or disturbed any [asbestos-containing material] may have had some asbestos exposure as a result,” says the Office of Public Health.

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The military didn’t recognize the health dangers posed by asbestos until the late-1970s. Since then, the Army has removed most of the products that were made from asbestos. Unfortunately, those exposed to asbestos during their time of service are at risk for developing mesothelioma later in life. It can take up to 50 years for mesothelioma to develop.

Barracks, transport vehicles and other infrastructure all contained asbestos in an effort to promote heat resistance. Army bases were laden with asbestos, though much of the infrastructure containing the material was removed or refitted in the 1970s and 80s.

Several years ago, I was contacted by an Army Artilleryman with Pleural Mesothelioma. He was inquiring about any VA benefits for which he might be eligible. I explained that we could file for VA Disability, but at the time he knew of no Army exposure, and we opted not to file the claim.  However, several months later, he called me back and explained that his lawyer had managed to figure out that the gloves he wore while handling hot artillery shells for six years in the Army were actually made out of asbestos. We filed the claim and he was approved. So, never say never.

– Retired Senior Veteran

Army Asbestos Exposure in the 21st Century

Most military members have not been exposed to asbestos since the 1980s, but soldiers that served in the Iraq War may have been exposed to asbestos in Iraq. Nations in the Middle East still use asbestos in buildings and other infrastructure. When buildings were demolished or damaged during the war, asbestos was released into the air.

Army Jobs With Asbestos Exposure Risk

There were a variety of jobs where Army veterans could have been exposed to asbestos during their time of service.

Here are some of the jobs where an Army veteran could have been exposed:

  • Construction work
  • Demolition work
  • Installing military equipment
  • Manufacturing or repair of vehicle parts such as brake linings
  • Mechanical work
  • Pipefitting
  • Shipyard work
  • Working on insulation

Where Soldiers Were Exposed To Asbestos

Soldiers were exposed to asbestos in a variety of different locations. Almost every building built by the military before the late-1970s contained asbestos. As the infrastructure degraded, it became easier for asbestos to be released into the air.

Here are some places where soldiers may have encountered asbestos:

  • Barracks – Soldiers living in barracks may have come in contact with asbestos. The material was used in construction materials when the barracks were built. Asbestos in barracks could be found in insulation, siding, electrical wiring and ceiling tiles. Although most of the asbestos in the Army has been replaced, it was impractical to get rid of all of the asbestos used. The product remains in some older barracks, though it is generally not a risk if it is not disturbed.
  • Army Vehicles – Army vehicles that were built prior to the 1970s contained asbestos. Virtually all vehicles had some form of the hazardous material, ranging from ambulances and buses to tanks. Asbestos was used in gaskets, clutches, brake pads and heating systems, which created a heat resistant infrastructure safe from fire. When exposed to heat, vehicle components could expand, which caused damage to the vehicle. Asbestos use reduced that risk.
  • Construction Work – Soldiers that worked on construction projects had a higher risk of asbestos exposure. Army veterans involved in building, remodeling and repairing barracks are at risk for asbestos exposure. Disturbing asbestos materials creates a risk for inhaling airborne fibers. The Army decided to remove most of the branch’s asbestos products after the 1970s. The Army Corps of Engineers handled the removal project.
Get a FREE Veterans Packet

Get information on:

  • Treatment Options
  • Mesothelioma Specialists
  • Veterans Benefits

Learn More

Getting Help Filing VA Benefits

Filing a VA claim is a daunting task for many veterans, but you don’t have to file alone. Our claims agents are VA-accredited to help you make sure your claim is complete. This is the best way to make sure you get your benefits fast.

Our VA claims agent can help you:

Our VA claims agent has years of experience finding out how and where veterans were exposed to asbestos. He can tell from your exposure summary if you have a substantial amount of occupational exposure. If this is the case, you might want to consider filing a legal claim. Get in touch with our VA-accredited service representative now.

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: September 25, 2019

View Sources

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “Compensation - Asbestos Exposure.” Retrieved from: Accessed on September 27th, 2017.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. M21-1, Part IV, Subpart ii, Chapter 1, Section 1. “Developing Claims for Service Connection (SC) Based on Other Exposure Types.”

War Related Illness and Injury Study Center. Office of Public Health. Department of Veterans Affairs. “Exposure to Asbestos: A Resource for Veterans, Service Members and Their Families.” Retrieved from: Accessed on September 27th, 2017.

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