Veterans Mesothelioma
Asbestos Exposure in the Military

The brave men and women who enlist in the United States Armed Forces agree to prioritize the safety and welfare of American civilians above all else, even their own lives. Service members anticipate that when such sacrifices must be made, they will occur on the battlefield in enemy territory.

We now know significant numbers of American troops survived combat only to succumb to a more insidious enemy on their own turf. The enemy is asbestos, a product that causes the rare and deadly cancer known as mesothelioma. Its onslaught continues today.

Although asbestos was widely used in multiple commercial applications, exposing both civilians and military personnel, veterans have been disproportionately impacted. Military veterans comprise 7% of the U.S. population, but they account for 30% of mesothelioma cases.

Filing a VA Mesothelioma Claim

VA Benefits

Asbestos Exposure in the Military:

Navy

Coast Guard

Army

Air Force

Marines

How were veterans exposed to asbestos?

Asbestos is abundant and inexpensive. These qualities make asbestos desirable for many commercial and industrial uses. It has historically been used in construction, vehicle maintenance, insulation, power plants, shipbuilding, and many other applications.

As the commercial and industrial appeal of asbestos grew, the military also saw its value and began using it liberally throughout the 20th century for everything from equipment to military barracks.

Because there are no immediate symptoms associated with the ingestion or inhalation of asbestos fibers, military personnel were unaware that they were exposed to a harmful substance.

Furthermore, manufacturers concealed the dangers of asbestos for decades to prevent public awareness and increase their bottom lines. This cover-up, in conjunction with the lack of symptoms, subjected military personnel to prolonged exposure to high levels of asbestos.

How the Military Used Asbestos

The U.S. Armed Forces used asbestos extensively in multiple areas, exposing millions of service members. Every naval vessel was lined with asbestos, exposing personnel in the navy and other branches, as navy ships were used to transport personnel in other branches to and from deployments.

Asbestos was used in boiler rooms and in propulsion equipment on navy ships, resulting in heavy exposure to navy personnel working below deck in these areas.

It was also heavily used in the repair and maintenance of navy vessels. Personnel in shipyards and drydocks handled asbestos directly with no knowledge that it was harmful.

Asbestos was used in many components of military aircraft and other vehicles. Army, navy, airforce, and marine personnel were exposed while performing any tasks associated with the manufacture, maintenance, or repair of military vehicles.

It was used in floor and ceiling tiles of military barracks, both at home and abroad. This means those with occupational exposure inhaled asbestos all hours of the day, while those who were not exposed at work still did not escape exposure.

Exposure During Conflicts

Asbestos was widely used throughout the world, including within the combat zones where service members were deployed. Asbestos has been widely used in Germany, Asia, and the Middle East in building construction. When buildings are destroyed due to explosions, fires, or other causes, asbestos fibers become airborne in large quantities. These particles can remain airborne for months after the incident.

The Extent of the Exposure

Hundreds of thousands of military personnel have been exposed to high levels of asbestos during the course of their service. Additionally, many of them brought the fibers home on their clothing and unknowingly exposed their spouses and children. Well over 40,000 have died of asbestos-triggered diseases.

Although the dangers of asbestos are now widely known, many asbestos-laden buildings still stand. Personnel who are deployed overseas continue to face the prospect of significant asbestos exposure. Asbestos is still legally used in limited applications, including in some friction-based automotive components and construction applications. Asbestos-related diseases have not come close to running their course. The full extent of this disease and military asbestos exposure will not be known for decades to come.

The brave men and women who enlist in the United States Armed Forces agree to prioritize the safety and welfare of American civilians above all else, even their own lives. Service members anticipate that when such sacrifices must be made, they will occur on the battlefield in enemy territory.

We now know significant numbers of American troops survived combat only to succumb to a more insidious enemy on their own turf. The enemy is asbestos, a product that causes the rare and deadly cancer known as mesothelioma. Its onslaught continues today.

Although asbestos was widely used in multiple commercial applications, exposing both civilians and military personnel, veterans have been disproportionately impacted. Military veterans comprise 7% of the U.S. population, but they account for 30% of mesothelioma cases.

How were veterans exposed to asbestos?

Asbestos is abundant and inexpensive. These qualities make asbestos desirable for many commercial and industrial uses. It has historically been used in construction, vehicle maintenance, insulation, power plants, shipbuilding, and many other applications.

As the commercial and industrial appeal of asbestos grew, the military also saw its value and began using it liberally throughout the 20th century for everything from equipment to military barracks.

Because there are no immediate symptoms associated with the ingestion or inhalation of asbestos fibers, military personnel were unaware that they were exposed to a harmful substance.

Furthermore, manufacturers concealed the dangers of asbestos for decades to prevent public awareness and increase their bottom lines. This cover-up, in conjunction with the lack of symptoms, subjected military personnel to prolonged exposure to high levels of asbestos.

How the Military Used Asbestos

The U.S. Armed Forces used asbestos extensively in multiple areas, exposing millions of service members. Every naval vessel was lined with asbestos, exposing personnel in the navy and other branches, as navy ships were used to transport personnel in other branches to and from deployments.

Asbestos was used in boiler rooms and in propulsion equipment on navy ships, resulting in heavy exposure to navy personnel working below deck in these areas.

It was also heavily used in the repair and maintenance of navy vessels. Personnel in shipyards and drydocks handled asbestos directly with no knowledge that it was harmful.

Asbestos was used in many components of military aircraft and other vehicles. Army, navy, airforce, and marine personnel were exposed while performing any tasks associated with the manufacture, maintenance, or repair of military vehicles.

It was used in floor and ceiling tiles of military barracks, both at home and abroad. This means those with occupational exposure inhaled asbestos all hours of the day, while those who were not exposed at work still did not escape exposure.

Exposure During Conflicts

Asbestos was widely used throughout the world, including within the combat zones where service members were deployed. Asbestos has been widely used in Germany, Asia, and the Middle East in building construction. When buildings are destroyed due to explosions, fires, or other causes, asbestos fibers become airborne in large quantities. These particles can remain airborne for months after the incident.

The Extent of the Exposure

Hundreds of thousands of military personnel have been exposed to high levels of asbestos during the course of their service. Additionally, many of them brought the fibers home on their clothing and unknowingly exposed their spouses and children. Well over 40,000 have died of asbestos-triggered diseases.

Although the dangers of asbestos are now widely known, many asbestos-laden buildings still stand. Personnel who are deployed overseas continue to face the prospect of significant asbestos exposure. Asbestos is still legally used in limited applications, including in some friction-based automotive components and construction applications. Asbestos-related diseases have not come close to running their course. The full extent of this disease and military asbestos exposure will not be known for decades to come.

Mesothelioma & Veteran Benefits

Veterans with mesothelioma who were not dishonorably discharged are eligible to receive disability compensation for themselves and their families. Compensation is a monetary benefit to veterans who sustain injuries or become ill because of their military service.

These injuries and illnesses are called service-connected disabilities. Each disability is assigned a percentage rating to reflect the degree of disability the veteran is believed to have incurred as a result of the injury or illness.

Veterans with higher disability ratings receive more benefits. Mesothelioma patients are most often assigned a 100% disability rating, which gives them access to the highest level of compensation.

Disability Compensation

Disability compensation is monthly, tax-free compensation available to eligible disabled veterans with a disability rating of at least 10%. As of 2022, veterans with a 100% disability rate receive a monthly base amount of $3,332.06. This amount increases if the veteran has dependents, including a spouse, children, or parents.

Pension Benefits

Low-income veterans who served during wartime may qualify for a needs-based pension. Eligibility is based on income and net worth limits set by Congress. Veterans with a 100% disability rating will not qualify because their disability compensation will exceed the income limit for this program, but those with lower disability ratings may qualify.

The VA does not allow veterans to receive disability compensation and pension benefits simultaneously. Veterans who are eligible for both programs will receive whichever one results in the higher monthly payment.

Aid and Attendance

Veterans who are eligible for pension benefits can also receive Aid and Attendance. This program provides a monthly caregiver allowance to veterans who have disabilities that prevent them from caring for their basic needs.

Pension-eligible veterans who cannot leave home because of disabilities may qualify for a monthly Housebound allowance if they do not receive Aid and Attendance.

Health Care Benefits

Health care benefits are available to nearly all veterans who have not been dishonorably discharged. Active and retired military personnel can receive TRICARE, which is administered by the Department of Defense. TRICARE offers comprehensive plans that vary depending upon the details of the veteran’s service. Most other veterans qualify for VA Health Care.

VA Health Care covers most major healthcare needs, including preventive care, inpatient hospital services, therapy, rehabilitation, mental health services, and prescription medications. Transportation to and from treatment, home health care, and palliative care are also covered. Veterans with a 50% or greater disability rating are generally not required to pay copays, making treatment free in most cases.

VA health care services are available through the VA’s network of providers, which includes 170 VA Medical Centers, 1,243 health care facilities, and 1,063 outpatient sites located throughout the United States. Mesothelioma patients are eligible to access free treatment for their condition through VA facilities even if they use other insurance, such as TRICARE or Medicare.

The VA Medical Centers in Boston and West Los Angeles offer specialized, comprehensive care for mesothelioma patients. These providers are on the cutting edge of mesothelioma research. They each offer a different approach, but in both cases, their treatment protocols offer hope to veterans with mesothelioma and their families.

These centers are well-known internationally and offer some of the best and most effective mesothelioma treatments in the world. Treatment is free for veterans at both centers, and the VA covers all costs associated with travel to these centers. Free housing is also available for family members during treatment at these locations.

Surviving Family Benefits

Many veterans are concerned about the well-being of their families after they pass away. The VA offers extensive benefits to families left behind, which largely mirror the benefits afforded veterans.

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)

DIC is a tax-free monthly compensation program that provides income to the surviving spouse and dependent children of eligible veterans who died in the line of duty or due to mesothelioma or another service-related disability. The base rate for a surviving spouse is $1,437 per month, which includes additional allowances for dependent children.

Health Care

Health care benefits are available to family members throughout the veteran’s service and upon the death of the veteran. Spouses must be married to the veteran at the time of death. Spousal eligibility ends upon remarriage unless the marriage occurs after the age of 55. Dependent children remain eligible until the age of 18 unless they are enrolled in school, in which case they remain eligible until the age of 23.

Families may be eligible for one of two programs: TRICARE and CHAMPVA. Families of deceased military personnel who died during active duty or retired from the military are eligible for TRICARE. Generally, the veteran had also qualified for TRICARE while alive.

The Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA) is available to families that do not qualify for TRICARE. CHAMPVA is a secondary form of insurance that covers medically necessary treatments. In the absence of other insurance, the family’s share is 25% of the billed medical cost with an annual deductible of $50 per person, up to $100 per family.

Filing a VA Claim

Veterans who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma can file a claim for disability compensation by mail or in person at any VA regional office. You will need supporting evidence, including military service records that verify your occupation while in the service and medical records that show the connection between your asbestos exposure during your military service and the illness.

An experienced mesothelioma attorney can ensure that you have the correct documentation and file your claim on your behalf. The Lanier Law Firm has over 30 years of experience helping mesothelioma victims handle VA claims.