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 $3,877 per month in 2023; veterans with a spouse will receive a monthly payment of $4,098 in 2024.

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, 2023, eligible family members are able to receive payments beginning at $1,612.75 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.

Special Monthly Compensation

Veterans that are disabled who rely on another person for care qualify for special monthly compensation. Payments range from $4,651 and above.

VA Healthcare

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:

  • Mesothelioma
  • Lung Cancer
  • Certain Gastrointestinal Cancers
  • Asbestosis
  • 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

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
  • Enginemen
  • Sailors

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:

  • Mechanics
  • Pilots
  • Crew members

U.S. Army

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:

  • Electricians
  • Mechanics
  • 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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Written and legally reviewed by Samuel Meirowitz

Attorney and On-Site Legal Advocate

Samuel Meirowitz is a member of the “Top 100 Trial Lawyers.” Mr. Meirowitz was named a “Rising Star” in 2013 & 2014 by Super Lawyers and then a Super Lawyer every year since 2016. In 2013, Mr. Meirowitz obtained what is believed to be the first multi-million-dollar asbestos verdict seen in more than two decades in a New York federal court. In that highly contentious matter, Mr. Meirowitz was able to convince the jury to hold a boiler manufacturer responsible for 60 percent of the $3.8 million awarded, despite the defendant’s attempt to escape all blame by pointing fingers at the plaintiff’s employer and the U.S. Navy (in which the plaintiff admirably served from 1966-70 during the Vietnam conflict). This verdict was upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

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