Mesothelioma and Navy Veterans

Quick Summary

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.

Get Help Filing for VA Benefits

U.S. Navy Veterans With Mesothelioma

Military veterans make up the largest group of mesothelioma patients in the United States — and many of these veterans served in the U.S. Navy.

The only known cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. This toxic mineral could be found on nearly all U.S. Naval vessels for decades.

Mesothelioma Risks in U.S. Navy Veterans Video Thumbnail

Video Summary: VA-accredited attorney Eric Hall explains why U.S. Navy veterans are at a high risk of a deadly cancer called mesothelioma. The U.S. Navy heavily relied on asbestos, the only known cause of mesothelioma, between the 1930s and early 1980s. Thankfully, Navy veterans with mesothelioma can get financial aid and medical care by applying for VA benefits. Call (877) 450-8973 to get started. View Transcript

Military members who served between the 1930s and 1980s were very likely exposed to asbestos, particularly in the Navy because asbestos was used throughout the ships to insulate pipes and insulate their boiler systems. And being that you were a sailor on a ship, you would’ve likely been on ship for months at any given time. And that’s why we see the highest rate of mesothelioma cases in Navy veterans.

Veterans diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases are entitled to several different types of benefits from the VA, to include disability benefits, healthcare benefits, there are even survivor benefits for those with asbestos-related diseases.

If a veteran believes they were exposed to asbestos while serving in the military, we encourage them to call the Mesothelioma Veteran Center so that we can work together to help them file for VA benefits.

Asbestos fibers can get stuck in the lining of the lungs or abdomen when they are breathed in or swallowed. This can lead to mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis, or other asbestos-related illnesses later in life.

Since asbestos was cheap and extremely heat-resistant, the U.S. Navy used it for everything from fireproofing materials on ships and insulation on their buildings on shore.

“In particular, the U.S. Navy used [asbestos-containing materials] in its shipyards and ships that were built by the U.S. Navy before the mid-70s. The ships often contained multiple asbestos-containing materials in the engine and boiler rooms and other areas below deck for fire safety purposes.”

– Office of Public Health, 2013

Types of military ships that used asbestos included:

If you were exposed to asbestos during active duty and developed mesothelioma later in life, you can pursue financial and medical benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Get help filing for VA benefits from a fellow veteran and learn about other forms of compensation right now.

Walter Mesothelioma Testimonial Video Thumbnail

Video 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.

Many U.S. Navy rates (jobs) put service members at risk of asbestos exposure. Some rates, such as boiler technicians and machinist’s mates, required that veterans work with asbestos on a daily basis.

U.S. Navy veterans who typically develop mesothelioma often served between the years of 1930 and 1980 and likely fought in World War II, Korea, and/or Vietnam.

Learn about Navy rates most commonly associated with asbestos exposure below, or get a free veterans packet for more information.

Mesothelioma Veterans GuideGet a FREE Veterans Packet

Get information on:

  • Treatment Options
  • Mesothelioma Specialists
  • Veterans Benefits

Get a Free Veterans Packet

Boiler Technicians

Boiler technicians worked on the steam boilers that propelled U.S. Navy ships. 20th-century boilers often contained asbestos insulation or other parts. Further, boiler technicians often wore asbestos-laced gloves during maintenance.

Damage Controlmen

Damage controlmen fixed parts of the ship after an enemy attack, often making emergency repairs. Before the 1980s, many repair jobs put damage controlmen in direct contact with asbestos-based products.

Damage controlmen also wore firefighting suits which were lined with asbestos for heat resistance.

Electrician’s Mates

Electricians on U.S. Navy ships were often exposed to asbestos because the material was used as insulation for electrical wiring in turbine generators, motor generators, motor controllers, and switchboards.

Gunner’s Mates

Gunner’s mates wore protective asbestos gloves to reduce their risk of burns while operating machine guns, anti-aircraft artillery, and other weapons systems.

As the gloves became worn, they released asbestos fibers into the air. Ammunition storage rooms were also lined with asbestos insulation to prevent sparks and explosions.

Hull Maintenance Technicians

Hull maintenance technicians (HTs) were responsible for installing and repairing metal infrastructures such as valves, sanitation, and plumbing systems around the ship.

They often worked on asbestos-based insulation and pipe gaskets. HTs often needed to remove asbestos insulation before performing a repair.

Machinery Repairmen
a black and white photo of a Navy sailor working on machinery
A machinery repairman cuts a valve seat on board a repair ship.

Machinery repairmen were put at risk when they needed to install and remove gaskets lined with asbestos. They also fixed machinery and furnaces that contained asbestos.

Machinist’s Mates and Enginemen

Machinist’s mates and enginemen were responsible for fixing the engines and other equipment that powered a ship, such as turbines, valves, pumps, and air conditioning systems.

Working in engine rooms for long periods of time exposed these workers to asbestos from piping, insulation, adhesives, and gaskets.

Metalsmiths

Metalsmiths were responsible for welding sheet metal into different shapes to repair damage to Navy ships. Because these welders worked at high temperatures, they wore protective gear lined with asbestos to prevent burns.

Pipefitters

Pipefitters were exposed to asbestos through the piping systems that they worked on. They often had to remove and reinstall asbestos insulation on the systems to perform repairs.

Seabees

Seabees helped build bases, pave roads, and clear land. The U.S. Navy used a variety of asbestos products in construction, including insulation, ceiling and flooring tiles, roofing shingles, and more.

Service members who worked directly with asbestos-containing products were not the only ones at risk, however. As these products were handled, they released asbestos dust into the air.

Those nearby could inhale or swallow the toxic particles and develop asbestos-related diseases later in life.

Merchant Marines

Members of the merchant marines provided aid to the U.S. Navy while still remaining civilians. They transported vital supplies to troops during World War II and later wars.

Unfortunately, merchant mariners may have been exposed to asbestos as their ships likely contained tons of asbestos-based products, like boiler insulation and gaskets.

Do you have mesothelioma after serving in the U.S. Navy? Chat with our team now to learn about benefits you can access.

Where Was Asbestos Found on Navy Ships?

Asbestos could be found aboard Navy vessels in:

  • Berthing
  • Boiler rooms
  • Bulkheads
  • Deck flooring
  • Engine rooms
  • Gaskets
  • Insulation
  • Pipe lagging
  • Pumps
  • Seals
  • Valves

A diagram showing where asbestos could be found on Navy ships

When disturbed, asbestos fibers can become airborne for hours. Navy personnel working on insulation, piping, or other parts of the ship often unknowingly released asbestos used on Navy ships into the air while performing their normal duties.

Did you know?

The widespread use of asbestos started in the 1930s and continued into the late 1970s. During this time, the health risks were hidden by makers of asbestos-based products. Thousands of veterans are now at risk of mesothelioma after Navy service as a result.

To learn more about the risks of asbestos on Navy ships, get our Free Navy Ships Guide.

Mesothelioma and Navy Asbestos Exposure in Shipyards

Outside of sailors onboard ships, U.S. Navy shipyard workers had an increased risk of asbestos exposure.

Shipyard workers often had to remove used or damaged asbestos materials and install new ones, releasing thousands of fibers into the air.

Anyone working in or even walking through a shipyard was at risk of inhaling asbestos. This is just one reason why the U.S. Navy and mesothelioma are linked.

The U.S. Navy did not start equipping service members with breathing protection until the late 1970s. Thus, anyone who worked in shipbuilding before this time would likely have had significant asbestos exposure.

Secondhand Asbestos Exposure in the U.S. Navy

Service members’ families who lived on U.S. Navy bases were also likely to have been exposed to asbestos, putting them at risk of mesothelioma as well.

Did you know?

Navy housing, office buildings, and construction sites could all be sources of exposure if asbestos fibers in these areas were disturbed and entered the surrounding air.

Additionally, sailors may have unknowingly exposed their loved ones to asbestos through their clothing, hair, and equipment.

For example, shipbuilders may have brought dusty, asbestos-covered clothing back to their homes. Family members could then be exposed if they touched the clothes (such as while doing laundry).

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 cases and provide peace of mind.

Learn about benefits and financial 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 often awards a 100% disability rating for mesothelioma Navy veterans. This means veterans can often receive over $3,000 a month. Apply for mesothelioma VA benefits right now.

Need help filing for VA benefits?
VA-Accredited Attorney Capt RIANG Eric Hall can help you file for free.
Fill out the form below

Secure Submission

VA Health Care

U.S. Navy veterans with mesothelioma can access low-cost or free treatment from cancer specialists if they have VA Health Care benefits.

There are two world-renowned mesothelioma Navy 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 years of experience treating veterans.

  • Dr. Robert Cameron

    A top cancer doctor in California, Dr. Cameron treats pleural mesothelioma in Navy veterans with the most effective treatments available.

    Visit the UCLA Health website to learn more about Dr. Robert Cameron.

Disclaimer

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 other mesothelioma Navy benefits to pursue treatment from these doctors.

Legal Claims

Veterans with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases may qualify to file mesothelioma lawsuits and/or asbestos trust fund claims. The average payout from a mesothelioma legal claim is $1 million.

  • 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 bankrupt company that set aside money in trusts.

Pursuing lawsuits and trust fund claims won’t prevent veterans from getting VA benefits.

Laws called statutes of limitations set time limits to file these claims. For help, contact an attorney as soon as possible to avoid missing out. Skilled mesothelioma lawyers can help veterans file for compensation within the deadlines.

Call (877) 450-8973. to explore your legal options after a mesothelioma diagnosis.

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 and the lawsuit does not go to trial.

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 include:

  • Army Truck$4.3 millionU.S. Army veteran, Florida
  • Navy Ship$3 millionU.S. Navy veteran, California
  • Boiler Tender$2.4 millionNavy boiler tender, Pennsylvania
  • Navy Mechanic$1.29 millionNavy mechanic, Florida

Navy veterans can work with experienced mesothelioma lawyers to file lawsuits and reach asbestos settlements. These lawyers will work on a veteran’s behalf to get the most compensation available.

Start the process now: Get connected an experienced mesothelioma lawyer.

When Did the U.S. 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 hid the dangers of asbestos from the military — in the name of profits — until the late 1970s, when lawsuits began to surge.

It was around this time that massive projects were started to remove dangerous asbestos from military assets. However, these efforts were not enough to prevent mesothelioma in Navy service members who were already exposed.

Asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma can take 20-50 years to develop, meaning many cases of mesothelioma in Navy veterans are only now being diagnosed.

Get Help Filing a Mesothelioma Navy Veterans Claim

Starting the legal or VA claims process can be overwhelming, but there are people who can help.

Our VA-accredited service representatives can help you file a VA Navy mesothelioma claim quickly. They can also discuss your asbestos exposure history and what other benefits may be available to you.

Get Help Filing for VA Benefits

Mesothelioma in Navy Veterans: Common Questions

What can I do if I was exposed to asbestos while serving in the Navy?

If you were exposed to asbestos while you served, keep a close watch on your health.

See a doctor if you develop possible symptoms of mesothelioma, such as shortness of breath, a dry cough, or chest pain. Cases of mesothelioma are more treatable if they’re diagnosed before the cancer spreads.

If you were diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, see what benefits are available to you. You may qualify for VA benefits and legal compensation.

Do some U.S. Navy ships still use asbestos?

Yes. A small number of U.S. Navy ships still have asbestos-based products on board.

These include the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, the USS Mount Whitney, the USS Nimitz, and others. The asbestos on these ships is contained and is not dangerous.

Cases of mesothelioma in Navy personnel usually stem from those handled asbestos-based products directly.

How can I apply for mesothelioma Navy VA benefits?

You can apply for Navy mesothelioma benefits by working with our team. We have representatives who can help you gather the information needed to pursue VA benefits for mesothelioma.

We can also connect you to legal help if you want to pursue other benefits and financial payouts. Call (877) 450-8973 to learn more about accessing VA benefits and other options.

Veterans Support Team
Eric P.W. Hall (Capt RIANG) PhotoReviewed by:Eric P.W. Hall (Capt RIANG)

VA-Accredited Attorney

  • Fact-Checked
  • Legal Editor

Eric P.W. Hall (Capt RIANG) is an attorney, a former Sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, and a legal advisor at the Mesothelioma Veterans Center. Today, Eric continues to serve as a Captain in the Rhode Island Air National Guard where he is Deputy Staff Judge Advocate, upholding his dedication to his country and fellow veterans. Eric considers it his duty to help his veteran family and strives to help them navigate the VA and receive the benefits they so bravely earned.

Christopher Dryfoos PhotoWritten by:

Contributing Author

Christopher Dryfoos is a journalist and member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). As the grandson of the U.S. Navy’s first forensic pathologist, he aims to help veterans with mesothelioma access needed care.

View 9 Sources
  1. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “Compensation - Asbestos Exposure.” Retrieved from: https://www.benefits.va.gov/COMPENSATION/claims-postservice-exposures-asbestos.asp. Accessed on September 23th, 2020.
  2. 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.”
  3. 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: https://www.warrelatedillness.va.gov/education/factsheets/asbestos-exposure.pdf. Accessed on September 27th, 2017.
  4. 80-G-K-13886 Aviation Mechanic, Archives Branch, Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington, DC
  5. NH 90738 USS Guam (CB-2), Archives Branch, Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington, D.C.
  6. NH 60219 USS Georgia, Archives Branch, Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington, D.C.
  7. 80-G-K-4523 (Color) USS Missouri (BB-63), Archives Branch, Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington, D.C.
  8. NH 75302 Thornycroft Water Tube Boiler, Archives Branch, Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington, D.C.
  9. 80-G-477163 USS Ajax (AR-6), Archives Branch, Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington, D.C.
Back to Top