Mesothelioma and Veterans

Over 30% of people diagnosed with mesothelioma are United States military veterans. Every branch of the U.S. Armed Forces relied on asbestos for decades, not knowing it could cause mesothelioma and other deadly diseases. Today, veterans with mesothelioma can file for VA benefits and legal compensation.

Legally Reviewed and Fact-Checked By: Christopher R. Guinn

Veterans and Asbestos Exposure

U.S. veterans are at an especially high risk of mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Every branch of the military relied on asbestos from the 1930s to the early 1980s because this mineral was cheap to buy and resistant to fire and heat.

american flag
1 out of 3
Mesothelioma Patients
is a Veteran

Asbestos-containing products could be found in military:

  • Bases and buildings
  • Equipment
  • Planes
  • Ships
  • Vehicles

The military was unaware of the dangers this mineral posed as makers of asbestos-based products withheld the facts from the government, private industries, and the general public.

Thankfully, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers benefits if you developed mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos while you served. You can also file private mesothelioma veterans claims to get financial aid from manufacturers of asbestos-containing products.

Download our Free Veterans Compensation Guide to learn more about what benefits you can access.

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Mesothelioma Veterans Benefits

With benefits from the VA, you may be able to receive low-cost mesothelioma veterans treatments and monthly financial payments.

The following are the most common VA benefits for mesothelioma veterans:

VA Disability Compensation

Disability compensation provides former service members with money each month to cover basic living expenses and medical care costs. Veterans are assigned a disability rating (from 10% to 100%) and are paid accordingly.

A U.S. military veteran sitting with his wife near the water

Because mesothelioma has a 100% disability rating from the VA, you may qualify for the maximum amount of compensation available. Effective December 1, 2022, VA disability compensation pays out $3,823.89 per month if you’re 100% disabled and have a spouse.

You don’t have to pay taxes on disability compensation, and it is not affected by your income level or employment history.

VA Pension

A VA pension is a monthly payment available if you served during wartime and your income falls under a set limit. VA pension pays the difference between your current income and the maximum pension rate set by Congress.

As of December 2022, your net worth must be under $150,538 to receive a pension. If you are married, your spouse’s income also counts towards this net amount.

Our team of Patient Advocates and VA-accredited attorneys can help determine if you may qualify for a VA pension. Contact us today.

Special Monthly Compensation (SMC)

Paid in addition to regular disability benefits, SMC may be available if you have a disability that requires medical care from another person. The VA considers mesothelioma to be a total disability, meaning you may qualify for SMC.

VA Health Care for Mesothelioma Treatment

With health care offered through the VA, you can access well-accepted treatments and clinical trials that test new ones at little to no cost. The VA offers mesothelioma treatments at several hospitals throughout the country.

VA Hospitals for Mesothelioma

Three medical facilities currently offer specialized treatment options for mesothelioma, including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Learn more about these VA mesothelioma hospitals below.

  • West Los Angeles VA Medical Center

    West Los Angeles VA Medical Center

    This facility treats veterans by partnering with the Comprehensive Mesothelioma Program at the University of California Los Angeles. Pleural mesothelioma specialist Dr. Robert Cameron serves as the leader for both programs.

  • VA Boston Health Care System

    VA Boston Health Care System

    On the East Coast, the Boston VA works with Brigham & Women’s Hospital to treat veterans with pleural mesothelioma.

  • Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center

    Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center

    Dr. Lorraine Cornwell of the VA partnered with Dr. Taylor Ripley of the Baylor College of Medicine Lung Institute in 2019 to establish a program that treats veterans at this medical center.

You may also be able to access non-VA mesothelioma doctors and treatments thanks to the MISSION Act. This act expanded VA health care coverage in 2019 to include approved local providers.

Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with mesothelioma?
Find a mesothelioma specialist near you with our Free Doctor Match.

How to File a Mesothelioma VA Benefits Claim

To file a VA claim, you must fill out documents that show how your mesothelioma stems from military service and why you need specific benefits.

You may need the following to file a VA benefits claim:

  • A doctor’s statement that notes asbestos caused you to develop your cancer
  • Evidence linking military service to asbestos exposure (i.e., military job history)
  • Medical records that confirm you have mesothelioma
  • Proof that you weren’t dishonorably discharged

You may not remember how, when, or where you were exposed to asbestos, but an experienced and VA-accredited attorney can help you gather this information and file your claim.

The Mesothelioma Hope team can help you access VA benefits. Call (866) 608-8933 to get started or request a copy of our Free Mesothelioma Guide for more information.

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Which U.S. Military Branches Used Asbestos?

All branches of the U.S. Armed Forces used asbestos until the 1980s, but some veterans had a higher risk of exposure than others. Learn how each branch of the U.S. military used asbestos.

Asbestos Exposure in the U.S. Navy

The U.S. Navy used the most asbestos-based products out of any military branch. As a result, U.S. Navy veterans had the highest risk of exposure.

Navy ship USS Missouri

Almost every U.S. Navy ship built between the 1930s and the late 1970s used asbestos-containing products due to a government mandate. It was believed asbestos could safely protect ships from fire and corrosion.

U.S. Navy ships were often cramped and poorly ventilated, making it almost impossible to escape asbestos exposure.

“I served in the Navy for 20 years. I always knew that there was asbestos. And when I went aboard ship, that’s when I found out that it was asbestos in the products. Nobody ever said anything about it being dangerous.”

– Walter T., U.S. Navy Veteran and Mesothelioma Patient

Engine rooms and boiler rooms were particularly dangerous for asbestos exposure. Some Navy sailors worked directly with asbestos-containing products like pipes, boilers, and gaskets, putting them in even greater danger.

Navy jobs with a high risk of asbestos exposure included:

  • Boiler technicians
  • Enginemen
  • Machinist’s mates
  • Seabees

Navy sailors who worked in shipyards also had a high risk of exposure since they built and repaired ships with asbestos-based products every day. This work sent asbestos fibers into the air, and they could then easily be inhaled.

Asbestos Exposure in the U.S. Air Force

U.S. Air Force veterans who regularly worked on planes ran a high risk of asbestos exposure. Asbestos-containing products were used to keep planes and other aircraft from catching on fire.

Asbestos parts used by the U.S. Air Force included:

Pilots, mechanics, and crew members like gunners may have been frequently exposed to asbestos.

Asbestos Exposure in the U.S. Army

Asbestos could be found in U.S. Army vehicle parts like gaskets and brake pads, as well as construction materials like insulation and paint. While anyone who spent time in these vehicles or on base may have been exposed, some U.S. Army veterans came in contact with the dangerous mineral every day.

U.S. Army jobs with a high risk of asbestos exposure included:

Some U.S. Army bases still have older buildings in use that may contain asbestos construction materials even today.

Learn more about veterans mesothelioma benefits and compensation you may qualify for in our Free Guide.

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  • File a VA claim
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Asbestos Exposure in the U.S. Coast Guard

Much like the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Coast Guard heavily relied on asbestos-containing products to build its ships. Those who worked on ships or in U.S. Coast Guard shipyards had a very high risk of exposure as a result.

High-risk U.S. Coast Guard jobs included:

  • Boiler technicians
  • Electricians
  • Insulators
  • Pipefitters

These jobs put U.S. Coast Guard veterans in contact with asbestos every day, increasing their risk of mesothelioma.

Asbestos Exposure in the U.S. Marine Corps

The U.S. Marine Corps worked alongside other branches of the Armed Forces but also operated on its own. Because of this, there were many ways that U.S. Marines could have come in contact with asbestos.

U.S. Marines may have been exposed to asbestos from:

  • Air Force planes
  • Bases and living quarters
  • Navy ships
  • Vehicles

U.S. Marine Corps veterans were at particularly high risk if they served tours of duty on Navy ships.

Secondhand Asbestos Exposure in Military Families

Family members who lived on military bases were at risk of secondhand asbestos exposure. For example, if a military member got asbestos dust on their clothes and returned home, the fibers could enter the air that their loved ones breathed in.

Secondhand exposure may be to blame when someone who didn’t directly work with asbestos gets mesothelioma.

Modern-Day Military Asbestos Exposure

Although the military removed literal tons of asbestos from its buildings, vehicles, and ships in the 1980s, some service members may still be at risk even today.

For example, soldiers currently serving can be exposed to asbestos from building explosions in the Middle East since many structures in this area still contain asbestos.

Older U.S. military ships and bases that are still used today might also have asbestos-based products still inside.

Our knowledgeable Patient Advocates can help determine when and where you were exposed to asbestos if you have mesothelioma. Get started right now.

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Asbestos Exposure Outside of U.S. Military Service

Like the U.S. military, private industries also used asbestos widely in the 20th century. Service members may have been exposed to asbestos before or after they served while working in these industries.

When it comes to asbestos exposure outside of the military, high-risk occupations include:

  • Automotive workers
  • Carpenters
  • Electricians
  • Factory workers
  • Firefighters
  • Miners
  • Plumbers
  • Railroad workers
  • Roofers
  • Welders

Like the U.S. military, your former employer is not to blame for your asbestos exposure in most cases. Manufacturers of asbestos-containing products sold their goods to major industries without revealing the health risks.

File for Mesothelioma VA Benefits and Compensation

If you are a U.S. veteran with mesothelioma, don’t wait to file for VA benefits and other types of compensation. You served your country with pride, so you deserve prompt medical care and payments if you get sick.

Outside of VA benefits, you can work with a lawyer to pursue mesothelioma veterans compensation through asbestos trust fund claims and mesothelioma lawsuits. If you choose these options, you won’t take legal action against the U.S. military or your former employers.

The Mesothelioma Hope team can help you pursue VA benefits, asbestos trust fund compensation, and legal claims right now. Get a free case review to learn more.

Mesothelioma Veterans FAQs

Does the U.S. military still use asbestos?

The U.S. military no longer uses asbestos in new construction, but some older buildings and ships may contain asbestos even today.

In 2019, it was reported that over 200 homes at Tinker Air Force Base had damaged asbestos-based products like floor tiles, putting residents at risk of exposure.

A private company was managing the homes on the U.S. Air Force’s behalf and failed to quickly address the concerns of residents.

Is filing a VA mesothelioma claim easy?

It’s easier to file a VA claim when you work with an experienced mesothelioma lawyer. These lawyers have databases of information about the asbestos industry they can use to build and strengthen your claim.

From there, a VA claims agent can help you file without any errors. You can file for VA benefits at a local veterans office, online, over the phone, or through the mail.

Are my VA benefits taxable?

Some VA mesothelioma benefits are taxable while others are not. For example, VA disability compensation will not be taxed, but standard military retirement pay is taxable.

Talk to a VA-accredited lawyer to learn how you may be taxed.

Does the VA provide benefits for other asbestos-related diseases?

Yes. Mesothelioma is not the only disease that stems from asbestos exposure, so the VA offers compensation and treatment for other asbestos-related illnesses.

You may qualify for VA benefits if you have:

You’ll need to prove you were exposed to asbestos — just like U.S. veterans with mesothelioma do — in order to get VA benefits for these illnesses.

Reviewed by:Christopher R. Guinn

Shareholder, Simmons Hanly Conroy

  • Fact-Checked
  • Legal Editor

Attorney Chris Guinn is a shareholder at Simmons Hanly Conroy. Since he joined the firm in 2004, Chris has dedicated his practice to representing mesothelioma and asbestos-related disease victims and has recovered millions of dollars on their behalf.

  • Practicing Attorney Since 2004
  • Worked on 300+ Asbestos Cases
  • Veteran of the U.S. Air Force
Written by:

Lead Editor

Laura Wright is a journalist and content strategist with more than 14 years of professional experience. She attended college at the University of Florida, graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2008. Her writing has been featured in The Gainesville Sun and other regional publications throughout Florida.

10 References
  1. Benefits.gov. (n.d.). Survivors’ Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). Retrieved December 6, 2022, from https://www.benefits.gov/benefit/290

  2. Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation. (2019, November). Mesothelioma Program at Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston, Texas. Retrieved December 6, 2022, from https://www.curemeso.org/get-involved/attend-conferences-and-events/meet-the-mesothelioma-experts-podcast-broadcast-series/mesothelioma-program-at-veterans-affairs-medical-center-in-houston-texas/

  3. Pell, M. (2019, June 18). U.S. Air Force landlord falsified records to boost income: Documents. Retrieved December 6, 2022, from https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-military-maintenance/

  4. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2022, November 29). 2023 VA pension rates for veterans. Retrieved December 6, 2022, from https://www.va.gov/pension/veterans-pension-rates/

  5. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2022, November 29). 2023 veterans disability compensation rates. Retrieved December 6, 2022, from https://www.va.gov/disability/compensation-rates/veteran-rates/

  6. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2019, August 8). Eligibility for Veterans Pension. Retrieved December 6, 2022, from https://www.va.gov/pension/eligibility/

  7. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2019, September 27). Veterans asbestos exposure. Retrieved December 6, 2022, from https://www.va.gov/disability/eligibility/hazardous-materials-exposure/asbestos/

  8. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2020, February 10). About VA DIC for spouses, dependents, and parents. Retrieved December 6, 2022, from https://www.va.gov/disability/dependency-indemnity-compensation/

  9. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2020, February 7). 2020 VA DIC rates for spouses and dependents. Retrieved December 6, 2022, from https://www.va.gov/disability/survivor-dic-rates/

  10. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2019, August 8). VA health care and other insurance. Retrieved December 6, 2022, from https://www.va.gov/health-care/about-va-health-benefits/va-health-care-and-other-insurance/

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