Veterans and Asbestos Exposure
Many U.S. veterans were exposed to asbestos during their military service. Those who go on to develop mesothelioma and other asbestos-related conditions qualify for special benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Eligible veterans with mesothelioma may receive 100% disability benefits and other types of assistance from the VA.
These include disability compensation, special monthly compensation and service-connected death benefits for surviving family members. An approved mesothelioma VA claim provides much-needed help for servicepersons. One of the most important veterans benefits is access to treatment at any facility in the VA network.
The best mesothelioma centers for veterans include the VA health care systems in Boston and Los Angeles, which are served by some of the top mesothelioma doctors in the nation.
Though military asbestos exposure is most often associated with Navy ships, the toxic mineral was also used in vehicles and installations of the Army, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard.
Military Occupations with Highest Exposure to Asbestos
- Shipyard work
- Insulation work
- Demolition work
- Roofing or flooring
- Vehicle maintenance
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How to File a VA Claim and Other Veterans Benefits
To file a VA claim and receive veterans benefits, you must submit documentation of the veteran’s asbestos exposure and the resulting diagnosis.
Claims processing takes time, and it is easier for family members to get survivor benefits if a disability claim is approved first. For these reasons, veterans should start the VA claim process as soon as possible after a mesothelioma diagnosis.
Basic Requirements for Filing a VA Claim:
- Discharge (not dishonorable) from active military service in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard among others.
- Exposure summary: Includes history of military job ratings, locations, etc.
- Medical evidence: Medical proof that active military duty led to asbestos exposure that caused mesothelioma or asbestos-related lung cancer.
- Medical documentation: A doctor must provide medical records that show mesothelioma was caused by asbestos exposure.
- Get a VA-Accredited Claims Agent: These agents can help veterans with mesothelioma file a claim.
Asbestos Diseases Approved for VA Disability Benefits
- Interstitial pulmonary fibrosis
- Lung cancer
- Bronchus cancer
- Gastrointestinal cancer
- Larynx cancer
- Pleural effusion
- Pleural plaques
- Pharynx cancer
- Urogenital cancers (except prostate)
The Veterans Department at The Mesothelioma Center specializes in getting VA claims and other benefits approved for eligible veterans with mesothelioma.
Our director, former U.S. Army Capt. Aaron Munz, is well versed in helping veterans with mesothelioma navigate the complicated VA claims process. He has the knowledge and resources to guide you each step along the way, so you can tap into VA benefits as a mesothelioma patient.
We can help you gather evidence to prove your disease is asbestos-related, and we can help you explore other potential avenues of compensation.
Common VA Claims Myths
After years of helping former servicemen and women with mesothelioma, we’ve found some veterans and their loved ones have misconceptions about VA benefits that prevent them from filing a claim even when they qualify.
- Veterans can’t file a VA claim if their asbestos-related condition developed after their military discharge.
- Diseases related to asbestos exposure take decades to develop. If veterans can prove their exposure was service connected, they qualify for veterans benefits.
- Only veterans of the five main branches of military are eligible for benefits.
- VA benefits are extended to commissioned officers of the U.S. Public Health Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Geodetic Survey.
Aaron Munz Director of Veterans Department and VA-Accredited Claims Agent
“In a war situation, the last thing you would ever think about is asbestos exposure. But it happened to a lot of good people. When you see guys getting asbestos-related diseases years after they served, you want to help, and I have that opportunity here.”
Types of Veterans Benefits for Mesothelioma
VA Health Care
Enrollment in VA health care can be based on the veteran’s income level or a determination of whether they have a service-connected illness. The VA considers mesothelioma service connected if at least 50% of the asbestos exposure that caused the cancer happened during active duty service.
Qualifying under the income-level category may require copays for health services.
Disability compensation is a monthly benefit based on a veteran’s level of disability. Asbestos-related cancers, such as mesothelioma, are considered 100% disabling.
This qualifies a veteran with mesothelioma for the maximum monthly benefit, which starts at $3,057.13. Benefits may increase based on the veteran’s number of dependents.
Special Monthly Compensation
Special monthly compensation is a benefit available to veterans disabled enough to need the aid and attendance of another person. This benefit is also available to spouses and parents of veterans.
The amount awarded monthly depends on how much aid and attendance is necessary, but it often ranges from $250 to $650 a month.
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation
Dependency and indemnity compensation is a monthly benefit paid to the surviving spouse of a veteran who died from a service-related disability. For deaths caused by mesothelioma, the benefit is $1,319.04.
Whether or not a veteran was already receiving disability compensation for asbestos-related cancer before dying, their spouse needs to file a claim to receive dependency and indemnity compensation.
Get Help Filing a VA Claim
Our VA-Accredited Claims Agents, Aaron and Danielle, use their experience to help veterans understand and file VA benefits claims.File Your Claim Now
Cancer Treatment for Veterans with Mesothelioma
Many veterans with mesothelioma disability status don’t realize they can seek treatment anywhere in the VA system. They have access to some of the best specialists in the country. In most cases, the VA can assist with travel arrangements and cover the cost of airfare and housing.
Veterans benefits can also cover the cost of specialized services when a veteran cannot receive the care they need within the VA system.
Dr. Abraham Lebenthal and Dr. Robert Cameron are two specialists lauded for their work performing state-of-the-art surgeries for veterans with pleural mesothelioma.
Clinical Trials for Veterans
Veterans with mesothelioma can also participate in clinical trials, where the latest experimental treatments are tested and refined. There is no cure for asbestos-related cancer, but researchers are making significant advancements in mesothelioma treatment through clinical trials.
Odell R. U.S. Navy
“I would tell anyone diagnosed, or their family, to look beyond where they normally would for treatment. There are experts out there who can treat this disease, but you have to find them.”Read Full Story
Asbestos Use in All Branches of the Military
Every branch of the armed forces used asbestos extensively during the 20th century. The military certainly had safety in mind when it first embraced asbestos as a fireproofing material, but the use of the toxic mineral continued well after medical evidence first proved the harmful effects of inhaling it.
This put veterans at risk for mesothelioma and other terrible diseases.
All modes of military transportation contained asbestos products such as thermal insulation, electric wiring insulation, brake pads and clutch pads. Barracks and other buildings on military bases were made with asbestos cement and a variety of other asbestos-containing construction materials.
It wasn’t until the long-term health risks of asbestos gained considerable publicity in the mid-1970s that the military curtailed its use. Many of the veterans who are diagnosed today had their first military exposure to asbestos during the Korean or Vietnam wars or soon thereafter.
Today, veterans who served in certain military occupations between 1930 and 1980 have a high risk of developing health problems from asbestos exposure.
Those who served more recently are also in danger because it took years for the military to completely remove or encapsulate asbestos products. Further, members of the military who were deployed overseas may have been exposed to asbestos dust in the debris of damaged buildings.
Exposed to Asbestos in the Military?
Our Patient Advocates can answer your questions and help you get approved for VA benefits.
Asbestos Exposure in Navy Ships and Shipyards
U.S. Navy members were exposed to higher levels of the toxic mineral than servicemen in other branches of the military. The Navy packed its vessels with asbestos materials from bow to stern. As a result, Navy veterans have higher rates of asbestos-related diseases.
Virtually no portion of a naval ship was asbestos-free between the 1930s and 1970s. Records show Navy ships housed more than 300 asbestos-containing products, and shipyards were filled with these materials.
Asbestos-containing materials were used most extensively in engine and boiler rooms and other areas below deck for fire safety purposes.
Secondhand Asbestos Exposure in Military Dependents
Military families were put at risk when service members brought home asbestos dust on their work clothes. This exposed their spouses and children to the toxic mineral.
Children of servicemen were exposed when playing with their fathers or hugging them after they returned home from work. Wives often inhaled asbestos while washing work clothes.
These secondary exposures were far less severe than the firsthand exposures that occurred at Navy shipyards, but they still have the potential to cause cancer and other asbestos-related illnesses.
Asbestos Exposure After Military Service
For some veterans who develop mesothelioma, their service is only one component of their asbestos exposure. Many members of the armed forces who were trained in construction or engineering naturally sought related jobs when they rejoined civilian life.
In many cases, these jobs added to their asbestos exposure, which increases the odds of developing an asbestos-related condition.
Common Questions from Mesothelioma Veterans
Veterans may have many questions about their mesothelioma diagnosis, VA claims and other issues regarding VA benefits. Although we provide several frequently asked questions on our site, here we selected a few that related to VA claims and asbestos.
Is There a Time Limit to File a Mesothelioma VA Claim?
There is no time limit for filing a VA claim for disability compensation. Unlike lawsuits, mesothelioma VA claims are not subject to statutes of limitations. But asbestos-related VA claims do take time to prepare and evaluate, so the sooner you start the process, the better.
When Did the Navy Stop Using Asbestos?
The Navy largely phased out asbestos products for new ships and bases in the 1980s. However, the process of removing or encapsulating asbestos on existing vessels and facilities lasted well into the 1990s.
5 Cited Article Sources
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2018, December 7). Benefit Rates. :
Retrieved from: https://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/rates-index.asp
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2015, August 18). Asbestos and Mesothelioma. :
Retrieved from: http://www.boston.va.gov/services/surgical/Asbestos_and_Mesothelioma.asp
Cramer, T. (2014, August 4). Hope for veterans with asbestos-related cancer. :
Retrieved from: http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/14948/hope-for-veterans-with-asbestos-related-cancer/
War Related Illness & Injury Study Center. (2013, August). Exposure to Asbestos. :
Retrieved from: http://www.warrelatedillness.va.gov/education/factsheets/asbestos-exposure.pdf
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). Veterans Asbestos Exposure. : Retrieved from: https://www.va.gov/disability/eligibility/hazardous-materials-exposure/asbestos/
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Last Modified June 13, 2019