U.S. Navy veterans have the highest risk of developing mesothelioma out of all military branches. Thankfully, veterans who developed mesothelioma due to Navy asbestos exposure can get treatment and benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Mesothelioma victims and their families may also be entitled to compensation through legal claims and asbestos trust funds.
U.S. Navy Veterans With Mesothelioma
Military veterans make up the largest group of mesothelioma patients in the United States — and a majority of them served in the U.S. Navy.
The only known cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos, a toxic mineral that could be found on nearly every Navy ship prior to the 1980s.
Asbestos fibers embed themselves into the lining of the lungs or abdomen when they are breathed in or swallowed, which can lead to mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis, or other asbestos-related illnesses later in life.
If you were exposed to asbestos during active duty and developed mesothelioma, you can pursue financial and medical benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Talk to our team to get help filing for VA benefits and learn whether you may be eligible for additional compensation.
View Summary: Walter, a victim of mesothelioma, shares the story of his journey in the Navy, diagnosis with mesothelioma, and filing of an asbestos claim. View Transcript.
The word mesothelioma I didn’t know anything about. When I turned 70 I started getting pneumonia, but then as time went on they kept getting closer and closer and closer together [the occurrences] and I asked the doctor, I said, I wanna know why.
And they sent me downstairs to get a chest X-ray and the X-ray made it back before I got back up there.
He says, we’re gonna go inside and take a look. He come up right to my bedside after the operation and showed me the pictures they took on the inside of the lung and he pointed out the cancer.
I really can’t explain it. I got a knot in my stomach, you know. But he told me then that there was no cure for it.
I was impressed by the Navy – seeing my uncle in that Navy uniform, you know – take pictures of him. So I just decided when I come outta school that I was gonna join the Navy.
I was very proud of that uniform. I was a boiler tender when I went aboard my first ship and started doing my first job. They told me — I asked them what the material was made out of and they told me it was asbestos.
It didn’t kill anybody on the spot that’s for sure, but it took years later when it started catching up with us. But, my understanding [is] that the powers-that-be knew.
I didn’t wanna sue my government and I damn sure didn’t wanna sue the Navy cause they’re still feeding me. I wasn’t suing the government, I wasn’t suing the U.S. Navy, I was suing the manufacturer.
It was only 2 or 3 days and he was here [the lawyer]. He came and seen me, talked to me personally. He knew what kind of a man I was and how involved I was with my job in the Navy. Felt very comfortable with them. I was watching the way they handled it, they did good.
[It was] positive thinking, there was nothing negative about it, it was positive. They were prepared, they could go back to day 1, and I appreciated that. There was no guessing about it, they had the paperwork to back them up.
It was a hands-on approach I guess, and that’s what drew me. Cause that’s the way I do things – a hands-on approach. They damn well earned it.
Benefits & Compensation for Navy Veterans With Mesothelioma
Financial and health care benefits from the VA, as well as legal cases and asbestos trust fund claims, can help your family cover the medical expenses associated with mesothelioma and provide peace of mind.
Learn about benefits and compensation options for Navy veterans and their families below.
VA Financial Benefits
Certain VA benefits, such as disability compensation and pensions, can help make up for lost wages and caregiver expenses.
To get VA financial benefits, Navy veterans must:
- Have been honorably discharged
- Provide a detailed report of their asbestos exposure
- Show that over 50% of their exposure occurred while serving in the U.S. Navy
The VA awards a 100% disability rating for Navy veterans with mesothelioma, meaning those who are eligible can receive the highest available compensation amount.
Get information on:
- Treatment Options
- Mesothelioma Specialists
- Veterans Benefits
VA Health Care
Navy veterans with mesothelioma may be able to get low-cost or free treatment from cancer specialists if they have VA Health Care. There are two world-renowned mesothelioma doctors in the VA Health Care System.
Dr. Avi Lebenthal
Based in Massachusetts, Dr. Lebenthal is a renowned pleural mesothelioma specialist (and veteran of the Israeli army) with extensive experience treating veterans.
Dr. Robert Cameron
A top thoracic surgeon in California, Dr. Cameron provides veterans who have pleural mesothelioma with the most effective treatments.
Visit the UCLA Health website to learn more about Dr. Robert Cameron.
The Mesothelioma Veterans Center has no affiliation with and is not endorsed or sponsored by Dr. Robert B. Cameron. The contact information above is listed for informational purposes only. You have the right to contact Dr. Cameron directly.
Veterans can apply for VA Health Care alongside their other benefits.
Veterans with mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases can file a mesothelioma lawsuit or asbestos trust fund claim, depending on the specifics of their case.
- Mesothelioma lawsuits are filed against manufacturers of asbestos products, not the U.S. Armed Forces.
- Asbestos trust fund claims can be filed if a veteran was exposed to asbestos-based products made by a company that declared bankruptcy, but set aside money in trusts to pay those who were harmed.
There are statutes of limitations (deadlines) on when these claims can be filed. For help, contact an attorney as soon as possible. Skilled mesothelioma lawyers can help veterans file for compensation within the deadlines.
Navy Asbestos Settlements
An asbestos settlement is the most common outcome of a mesothelioma lawsuit. Through a settlement, Navy veterans with mesothelioma receive money from the manufacturers of the asbestos-based products they were exposed to. The lawsuit then does not proceed into the trial phase.
In most cases, mesothelioma settlements are preferred by lawyers because their clients usually start to receive money within 90 days. Navy veterans have often been awarded millions of dollars from these settlements.
Recent Navy asbestos settlements have included:
Navy veterans can work with experienced mesothelioma lawyers to file lawsuits and reach settlements. These lawyers will work on a veteran’s behalf to get the most compensation available from an asbestos settlement.
History of Asbestos Use in the Navy
Since asbestos is cheap and extremely heat-resistant, the U.S. Navy used it for everything from fireproofing to insulation on ships and in their buildings on shore.
Asbestos was used in ship construction, repairs, and maintenance. It was also used to line engine rooms, walls, doors, deck flooring, piping, and insulation.
The widespread use of asbestos continued from the 1930s to the late 1970s. During this time, the mineral’s severe health risks weren’t known outside of the asbestos manufacturing industry.
Where Was Asbestos Found on Navy Ships?
Asbestos onboard Navy vessels could be found in:
- Boiler rooms
- Deck flooring
- Engine rooms
- Pipe lagging
When disturbed, asbestos fibers can become airborne for hours and stick to the clothing, hair, or skin of people nearby. Service members working on insulation, piping, or other areas parts of the ship often unknowingly released asbestos on Navy ships into the air while performing their normal duties.
To learn more about asbestos on Navy ships, get our Free Navy Ships Guide.
Navy Asbestos Exposure in Shipyards
Outside of sailors onboard ships, Navy shipyard workers were at an increased risk of asbestos exposure.
Much of the work that occurred in these areas involved the removal of used asbestos materials and installation of new ones, releasing thousands of fibers into the air. Anyone working in or even walking through a shipyard was at risk of inhaling asbestos.
See which states are home to Navy shipyards below.
The U.S. Navy did not start equipping servicemen and servicewomen with breathing protection until the late 1970s. Anyone who worked in shipbuilding before this time would likely have had significant asbestos exposure.
When Did the Navy Stop Using Asbestos?
Once the U.S. government and military realized asbestos could lead to deadly illnesses, they stopped using it and took steps to prevent further harm.
Manufacturers of asbestos-containing products hid the deadly truth from the military — in the name of profits — until the early 1980s, when lawsuits began to surge. It was around this time the military began massive projects to remove dangerous asbestos from military assets.
However, these efforts were not enough to protect Navy service members who were already exposed. Asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma can take 20-50 years to develop, meaning many people who were exposed to asbestos decades ago are only now getting diagnosed.