The U.S. military relied on asbestos between 1930 and 1980 (a period which included lengthy conflicts, including World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War). Asbestos was used because it was inexpensive, resistant to heat, and highly durable. Little was known about the dangers of asbestos exposure. However, asbestos consists of invisible microparticles which can be seriously damaging to health, and cause long-term health complications – like mesothelioma.
Although the U.S. military no longer uses asbestos in new construction, active service personnel could still be at risk in conflict zones. Debris from buildings in the Middle East (where asbestos has not been removed) can result in service members suffering from illnesses linked to asbestos.
Whether you have been engaged in active conflict, or worked in other military settings like shipyards or construction sites, you may be eligible for benefits or compensation – including from the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs – for asbestos-related illnesses like mesothelioma.
Are You Eligible For Disability Benefits From The VA?
There are two factors which will determine if, as a military veteran, you are eligible for mesothelioma compensation. These are:
- You must have had contact with asbestos during your military service
- You did not receive a dishonorable discharge
If both of these statements are true, you may be eligible for compensation from the VA.
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Types Of Benefits Available
If you are a veteran suffering from mesothelioma or other asbestos-related illnesses (such as lung cancer), you may be able to access various compensation options. These include:
VA Disability Compensation
The VA offers disability compensation to former service members, including those diagnosed with mesothelioma. This assistance is designed to assist with essential living expenses and medical costs. Mesothelioma has a 100% disability rating.
In December 2022, the VA increased its monthly payments by 8.7%, accounting for recent cost of living increases. This means that a single veteran will get $3,621.95 per month in 2023; veterans with a spouse will receive a monthly payment of $3,823.89.
VA disability compensation is tax-free and not linked to income or employment history.
Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC)
Spouses and dependents of veterans who died as a result of service-related illnesses – including mesothelioma – may be eligible for compensation through the Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC) program.
Effective December 1, 2022, eligible family members are able to receive payments beginning at $1,562.74 per month. This amount can increase depending on a number of factors, including the veteran’s circumstances whilst they were living, the dependent’s present circumstances, and the number of eligible dependents.
In the United States, three medical facilities offer specialized care for veterans suffering with mesothelioma. These include:
Treatment options for mesothelioma may include chemotherapy, radiation or surgery.
Other VA Benefits
Additional benefits are available for members of the military – and their families – who have been affected by mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses. These include:
- VA Burial and Military Headstone
- Funeral Reimbursement
- Survivor’s Pension
- VA Pension
- VA Geriatric & Extended Care Services
- VA Caregiver Benefits
- VA Fiduciary Program
Asbestos-Related Diseases Recognized By The VA
Asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma – but there are a number of other cancerous and non-cancerous diseases caused by asbestos exposure. The VA has recognized a number of asbestos-related health conditions, including:
- Lung Cancer
- Certain Gastrointestinal Cancers
- Interstitial Pulmonary Fibrosis
- Pleural Plaques & Effusions
Veteran Asbestos Exposure
Unfortunately, veterans in all branches of the United States military have been exposed to asbestos across the decades.
U.S. Navy veterans were historically most at-risk from asbestos exposure. Almost every ship built between from the 1930s right up to the late 1970s contained asbestos, due to a government mandate.
To make matters worse, these ships were often cramped and had poor ventilation.
Navy roles with a high-risk of exposure to asbestos included:
- Boiler technicians
U.S. Air Force
Due to its flame-retardant properties, asbestos was often used in the construction of aircraft to prevent them from catching fire.
Many aircraft parts – such as cockpit and engine insulation – contained asbestos.
Air Force roles with a high-risk of exposure to asbestos included:
- Crew members
Army personnel were not only exposed to asbestos through their everyday equipment; Army bases were often constructed using materials containing asbestos.
Insulation and paint used to maintain these buildings often contained asbestos.
Army roles with a high-risk of exposure to asbestos included:
- Construction workers
U.S. Marine Corps
Working alongside other branches of the military, the U.S. Marine Corps may have been exposed to the same risk as others.
Marines would have been at higher risk of exposure if they served tour of duty on naval ships.
U.S. Coast Guard
The U.S. Coast Guard relied heavily on asbestos in construction of ships and to maintain shipyards.
This placed boiler technicians, pipefitter and other workers at significant risk of asbestos-related illnesses such as mesothelioma.
Other Options For Mesothelioma Victims
Mesothelioma victims can pursue legal action against the companies who put them in harm’s way. Some victims choose to file mesothelioma lawsuits against manufacturers and former employers that exposed them to asbestos in the first place. While the payouts of lawsuits are typically high, the process can be lengthy and difficult.
Alternatively. dozens of asbestos trust funds have been established by negligent companies to compensate mesothelioma victims. Military veterans who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma can file legal claims to receive compensation from multiple trust funds dependent on their case.
It is important to consider the fact that both of these legal options are subject to a statute of limitations. If a victim of asbestos exposure waits too long, they may not be able to file their legal case for compensation. Note that statutes of limitation do not affect VA benefits.
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- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “Veterans asbestos exposure.” Retrieved from https://www.va.gov/disability/eligibility/hazardous-materials-exposure/asbestos/
- U.S. Census Bureau. Veterans Day 2018: Nov. 11. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/newsroom/facts-for-features/2018/veterans-day.html
- Pira, E., et al. Exposure to asbestos: past, present and future. Journal of Thoracic Disease. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5830559/
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “Asbestos” Retrieved from https://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/asbestos/index.asp
- Till JE, et Al. “Asbestos Exposure and Mesothelioma Mortality among Atomic Veterans.” Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30513236
- U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island. Mannix v. CBS Corp. Retrieved from https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/USCOURTS-rid-1_18-cv-00558/pdf/USCOURTS-rid-1_18-cv-00558-0.pdf
- U.S. Supreme Court. Air And Liquid Systems Corp v. Roberta G. Devries. Retrieved from https://www.supremecourt.gov/DocketPDF/17/17-1104/52622/20180709143544196_17-1104%20JA%20Vol.%20I.pdf
- Naval Air Station Patuxent River Tester. “Pax River asbestos abatement continues installation-wide.” Retrieved from https://www.dcmilitary.com/tester/news/local/pax-river-asbestos-abatement-continues-installation-wide/article_435173d2-90e4-5ff0-b03d-93c28d61a66e.html
- U.S. Coast Guard. “Update: Medical Documentation of Shipboard Lead/Asbestos Exposure.” Retrieved from https://www.dcms.uscg.mil/Our-Organization/Assistant-Commandant-for-Human-Resources-CG-1/Flag-Voice/FlagVoice-485/
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC) Rate Tables.” Retrieved from https://www.benefits.va.gov/COMPENSATION/resources_comp0306.asp