Navy Veterans

Navy Veterans with Mesothelioma

Compassionate Attorneys Fighting for Navy Veterans Exposed to Asbestos

The U.S. Navy has a long history of using asbestos in its ships, shipyards, and bases, exposing service members to this toxic material and putting them at risk of developing mesothelioma cancer. As a result, military veterans make up an alarming 30% of all mesothelioma claims filed each year. Every sailor who served on a Navy vessel prior to the mid-1980s was likely exposed to asbestos, whether through insulation materials used in engine rooms or by working with pumps, valves, and boilers that were insulated with the dangerous mineral. The lack of protective gear during this time period further increased the danger of exposure to asbestos fibers that were inhaled or ingested by sailors unknowingly. 

While any individual can contract mesothelioma from asbestos exposure, those who have served in the U.S. Navy are particularly vulnerable due to their direct contact with the hazardous mineral during their service. The effects of this contact can be seen in Navy veterans today who are suffering from mesothelioma cancer as well as other health problems related to their asbestos exposure decades ago. Even though regulations have been put into place over recent years to reduce these risks for new generations of service members, those individuals who served before are still feeling the impact of their occupational health risks today.

Our attorneys have recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for people who developed serious diseases after being exposed to asbestos. Call (855) 744-1922 or contact us online to discuss your legal options today.

How Were Navy Veterans Exposed to Asbestos?

Naval personnel, particularly those performing maintenance and repair tasks on equipment, pipes, and pumps were especially vulnerable to asbestos exposure due to its widespread use by the Navy in ships and shipyards. Asbestos was valued for its fireproofing properties as well as its resilience against salt corrosion, meaning that virtually all Navy veterans have had the potential to be exposed to it.

A 2022 study revealed that those who worked with lagging and insulation materials on pumps, boilers, and pipes were also exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos. This is a hazard that has not gone away: While vessels built before the 1980s may be outfitted with newer products, they still may contain legacy asbestos materials which can be harmful if disturbed. Naval shipyard workers are highly at risk of coming into contact with old asbestos materials which have been merely covered up rather than completely removed.

Navy Occupations with the Highest Asbestos Exposure Risk

Navy service members working with or around asbestos insulation were in serious danger of developing mesothelioma due to the hazardous particles that asbestos releases into the air. Not only did they come into contact with large amounts of asbestos dust, but some even had to wear protective clothing made from asbestos materials such as fire-retardant suits and heat-resistant gloves for those manning gun turrets. These garments would expose them to even more toxic particles, leading to a greater risk of developing illnesses related to this dangerous substance. Unfortunately, these sailors often had no other option than to wear such garments before the dangers of asbestos were as widely known.

Navy jobs linked to asbestos exposure include:

  • Boatswain’s Mate
  • Boiler Technician
  • Damage Control Worker
  • Electrician’s Mate
  • Fire Control Technician
  • Gunner’s Mate
  • Hull Maintenance Technician
  • Lagger
  • Machinist’s Mate
  • Metalsmith
  • Pipefitter
  • Water Tender
  • Welder

When the Navy eventually decommissioned and sold some of its aging ships, they frequently sent the vessels to ports and shipyards where workers were not equipped with the knowledge or expertise to appropriately handle asbestos-containing materials. Unfortunately, this negligence caused a large number of civilians who worked at these facilities to be exposed to hazardous asbestos fibers while taking apart and reassembling the decommissioned vessels. This exposure was especially dangerous because old asbestos materials become brittle over time and can release high concentrations of dust when disturbed. As a result, many of these civilians now suffer from mesothelioma and other diseases from their contact with asbestos.

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Asbestos Products Historically Used in the Navy

Navy shipyard workers often exposed themselves and their families to an array of hazardous asbestos products that were regularly used in the construction of naval vessels. The installation process would create a high concentration of dangerous particles in the air, resulting in Navy personnel returning home with significant amounts of asbestos dust on their clothing and skin. This created a secondary source of exposure for family members, who unknowingly inhaled the hazardous particles.

Furthermore, the often-cramped confines and lack of air circulation on U.S. Navy vessels enabled asbestos particles to amass in areas where servicemen worked and rested. This meant sailors who did not directly work with asbestos may still have been exposed. Marines traveling on Navy vessels were similarly at risk of inhaling the hazardous fibers. Those onboard often had no choice but to breathe in the dangerous dust that seemed to be everywhere, from showers and hallways to mess halls and bunkrooms.

Asbestos products that were frequently used in the Navy include:

  • Adhesives
  • Bedding compounds
  • Block insulation
  • Boiler insulation
  • Cables
  • Deck covering materials
  • Gaskets
  • Packing materials
  • Paneling
  • Paint
  • Pipe insulation
  • Pumps
  • Spray-on insulation
  • Textiles
  • Valves
  • American Association for Justice
  • MATA
  • The Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis

Asbestos on Navy Ships

The U.S. Navy routinely used asbestos insulation and fireproofing products on a variety of vessel tapes in the 1930s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s. This created what were likely the most hazardous conditions for asbestos exposure in the military at that time. Sailors who served on these ships and workers in naval shipyards were exposed to high concentrations of deadly asbestos fibers, which lingered in the air for many years after installation due to the material’s durability and resistance to heat and flames.

Navy vessels with an elevated asbestos risk include:

  • Aircraft carriers
  • Auxiliary ships
  • Cruisers
  • Destroyers
  • Minesweepers
  • Submarines

Asbestos in Navy Shipyards

Because asbestos-laden materials were used so commonly in Navy shipbuilding, the toxic substance could also be found in Navy shipyards. Any U.S. Navy personnel who frequented or worked in these shipyards could have been exposed.

The following Navy shipyards are just a few of the facilities that have documented cases of asbestos exposure:

  • Bremerton Puget Sound Naval Shipyard
  • Charleston Naval Shipyard
  • Long Beach Naval Shipyard 
  • San Diego Naval Shipyard

How Asbestos Exposure Can Cause Mesothelioma in U.S. Navy Veterans

Members of the United States Navy who have served in the past five decades are in danger of developing mesothelioma, a rare and serious form of cancer. This is due to the fact that asbestos fibers, when present in the environment, can take many years to cause enough cellular damage that can lead to this dangerous condition. Military personnel currently stationed overseas, particularly those located in countries that have weak or non-existent asbestos regulations, may also be exposed to the toxic mineral without their knowledge. Asbestos is commonly found in building materials used for construction and insulation at international military bases, meaning troops living and working on these sites are likely to come into contact with the hazardous substance.

Symptoms often do not appear until decades after initial exposure, which makes detecting and treating mesothelioma even more difficult. Those affected by this illness may suffer from extreme chest pain, difficulty breathing, fatigue, and coughing up blood or fluid accumulation in the lungs. Therefore, it is important for Navy veterans who served in recent decades to be aware of these symptoms and get frequent medical screenings, as early detection can lead to a better prognosis. 

The Asbestos Medical Surveillance Program (AMSP) was first established by the U.S. Navy in the late 1970s to monitor the health of service members and civilian personnel who had been exposed to asbestos, including those from other branches of the military. This program has proven invaluable for veterans who have encountered asbestos during their time in service, as it offers proactive medical care to diagnose mesothelioma early when more treatment options are available, as well as a documented record of exposure that can assist them in getting VA benefits if they develop an asbestos-related illness. 

In addition to providing regular screenings and medical examinations for those at risk, AMSP also provides educational resources on how to identify signs and symptoms of asbestos-related diseases and conducts research into assessing long-term risks associated with asbestos exposure. Furthermore, AMSP helps facilitate communication between environmental health professionals who are researching occupational illnesses related to asbestos exposure, thus enabling a comprehensive approach to tackling this serious problem.

Benefits Available to Navy Veterans with Mesothelioma 

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers a variety of benefits to Navy veterans with mesothelioma and other diseases connected to asbestos exposure, including asbestos and lung cancer. These individuals are eligible for free health care at VA treatment centers throughout the nation, along with disability compensation to cover expenses not covered through VA healthcare. Moreover, veterans diagnosed with service-connected lung cancer or mesothelioma are granted 100% disability, resulting in the highest level of monthly payments. 

In addition to these benefits, survivors of veterans who passed due to an asbestos-related illness may also be eligible for dependency and indemnity compensation from the VA. This includes spouses who have lost a loved one to mesothelioma, providing them crucial financial assistance.

Eligible, honorably discharged Navy veterans may be able to file a claim and access some of the following benefits:

  • Aid and Attendance Payments (also known as “Household Benefits”)
  • Dependency and Indemnity Compensation
  • Caregiver Benefits
  • Geriatric and Extended Care
  • VA Pension

Getting Compensation for Mesothelioma through Civil Litigation

Veterans who are suffering from mesothelioma may pursue other forms of compensation outside of the standard VA claims. These include personal injury lawsuits and asbestos bankruptcy trust fund claims, both of which provide financial relief for families faced with this asbestos-related illness. Through these legal avenues, those affected have the opportunity to receive a monetary payout that can help cover medical expenses or lost wages due to their condition. Additionally, plaintiffs may also receive additional funds for pain and suffering as well as for punitive damages if it is determined that negligence or willful misconduct contributed to their diagnosis or health complications.

Navy veterans cannot sue the U.S. military or any government entity. You can only file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against a private company that sold asbestos-laden materials to the Navy. 

Our experienced attorneys at SWMW Law are proud to represent U.S. Navy veterans in asbestos-related claims nationwide. We can help you understand your legal options if you were diagnosed with mesothelioma or any other disease linked to asbestos exposure. With over $750 million already recovered for our clients, our case results speak for themselves, and we are ready to put our firm’s extensive resources to work for you.

We are ready to fight for you and your family – because accountability matters. Schedule a free initial consultation by calling (855) 744-1922 or contacting us online.

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