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 the mineral was cheap and resistant to fire and heat.
is a Veteran
Asbestos-containing products could be found in the military:
The military was unaware of the dangers of asbestos because manufacturers withheld this information from the government, private industries, and the general public.
Due to these manufacturers’ wrongdoing, you may be eligible for VA benefits and other forms of compensation if you developed mesothelioma as a result of your active duty.
Mesothelioma Veterans Benefits
With benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), you may be able to receive low-cost mesothelioma treatments and monthly financial payments.
Below, get information on top VA benefits.
VA Disability Compensation
Disability compensation provides former service members with money each month to cover basic living expenses and medical care costs. You don’t have to pay taxes on disability compensation, and it is not affected by your income level or employment history.
Because mesothelioma has a 100% disability rating from the VA, you may qualify for the maximum amount of compensation from a disability claim if you were diagnosed with this cancer due to service-related asbestos exposure.
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 2021, your net worth must be under $138,489 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 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 someone else. The VA considers mesothelioma to be a total disability, meaning you may qualify for SMC.
VA Health Care for Mesothelioma Treatment
With the VA Health Care System, you can access both traditional treatments and clinical trials that test new therapies — 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
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
On the East Coast, the Boston VA works with Brigham & Women’s Hospital to treat veterans with pleural mesothelioma. Israeli army veteran Dr. Abraham “Avi” Lebenthal leads the Boston VA mesothelioma program.
Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center
This is the latest VA facility to offer mesothelioma treatment. Dr. Lorraine Cornwell of the VA partnered with Dr. Taylor Ripley of the Baylor College of Medicine Lung Institute in 2019 to found the program. In addition, Dr. Eugene A. Choi is on staff to treat veterans with peritoneal mesothelioma.
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.
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:
- Proof that you weren’t dishonorably discharged
- Medical records that confirm you have mesothelioma
- Evidence linking military service to asbestos exposure (like military job history)
- A doctor’s statement that notes asbestos caused you to develop your cancer
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.
Which 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 and which jobs carried the most danger.
Asbestos Exposure in the Navy
Almost every 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. As a result, U.S. Navy veterans had the highest risk of exposure.
Navy ships were often cramped and poorly ventilated, making it almost impossible to escape asbestos exposure. Engine rooms and boiler rooms were particularly dangerous for asbestos exposure.
“I served in the Navy for twenty 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
Some Navy Sailors worked directly with asbestos-containing products like pipes, boilers, and gaskets, putting them at even greater danger.
Navy jobs with a high risk of asbestos exposure included:
- Boiler technicians
- Machinist’s mates
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 around them where the fibers could easily be inhaled.
Asbestos Exposure in the Air Force
U.S. Air Force veterans who regularly worked on planes ran a high risk of asbestos exposure, as asbestos-containing parts were used to keep aircraft from catching on fire.
Asbestos-containing products used by the Air Force included:
- Brake pads
- Cockpit and engine insulation
- Fireproofing materials
Pilots, mechanics, and crew members like gunners all may have been frequently exposed to asbestos.
Asbestos Exposure in the Army
Asbestos could be found in Army vehicle parts like gaskets and construction materials like insulation and paint. While anyone who spent time in Army vehicles or bases may have been exposed, some U.S. Army veterans came in contact with the dangerous mineral every day.
Army jobs with a high risk of asbestos exposure included:
- Construction workers
Asbestos Exposure in the Coast Guard
Much like the Navy, the Coast Guard heavily relied on asbestos-containing products to build their ships. Those who worked on ships or in Coast Guard shipyards had a very high risk of exposure as a result.
Other high-risk Coast Guard jobs included:
- Boiler technicians
These jobs put U.S. Coast Guard veterans in contact with asbestos every day, increasing their risk of mesothelioma.
Asbestos Exposure in the Marine Corps
The Marine Corps worked alongside other branches of the Armed Forces but also operated on its own. Because of this, there were many ways that Marine veterans could have come in contact with asbestos.
Marines may have been exposed to asbestos from:
- Bases and living quarters
- Air Force planes
- Navy ships
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.
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 from building explosions in the Middle East since many structures in this area still contain asbestos.
Asbestos Exposure After the Military
Like the military, private industries also used asbestos widely in the 20th century, meaning both civilians and former service members may have been exposed while working in a blue-collar occupation.
Jobs with a high risk of asbestos exposure include:
- Automotive workers
- Factory workers
- Railroad workers
Like the military, your former employer is not to blame in most cases — manufacturers of asbestos products caused and likely could have prevented your illness.
File For Mesothelioma VA Benefits and Compensation
If you are a 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 compensation through mesothelioma lawsuits and asbestos trust fund claims. If you choose these options, you won’t take legal action against the U.S. military or your former employers.
Assistance is available to you if you’d like to file for VA benefits or other types of financial compensation. Get a free case review today.
Common Questions About Veterans and Mesothelioma
Does the military still use asbestos?
No. The U.S. military no longer uses asbestos to make new assets, 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 products like floor tiles, putting residents at risk of exposure. A private company was managing the homes on the Air Force’s behalf and failed to quickly address the concerns of residents.
Is filing a VA mesothelioma claim easy?
Working with an experienced mesothelioma lawyer is the most effective way to make the VA claims process simple and hassle-free. 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 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:
- Lung cancer
- Pleural plaques
You’ll need to prove you were exposed to asbestos — just like veterans with mesothelioma do — in order to get VA benefits.