Protecting Our Veterans From Mesothelioma & Lung Cancer

US soldiers

For our nation’s armed forces, which expanded at an incredible rate during the 20th century, asbestos was a widely and commonly used mineral with numerous applications through the 1980s.

Unfortunately, asbestos was also deadly.

Each year, we see the effects of the military’s rampant asbestos use firsthand in thousands of new diagnoses for mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other asbestos-related diseases in veterans who served in many branches of the miliary. These diagnoses, which happen decades after initial exposure, are a haunting reminder of the secrecy, cover-ups, and neglect exhibited by asbestos companies that knew their products were dangerous but continued to produce and sell them anyway.

At SWMW Law, our award-winning attorneys have helped numerous veterans who’ve suffered losses caused by deadly asbestos diseases. As a nationwide practice with a passion for helping the men and women who served and sacrificed for our country, we support the need to raise awareness about the resources veterans can access to protect their health and the various options they may have to secure needed compensation from responsible asbestos companies.

Health Risks Posed by Military Asbestos Exposure

Military veterans faced many risks in their service for our country, especially if they served in times of war and conflict, held certain jobs, or served in certain branches. However, nearly all veterans faced another risk that they were never told about: exposure to asbestos.

A naturally occurring mineral used widely in consumer, building, and military products for much of the 20th century, asbestos is a known carcinogen with a devastating legacy of causing mesothelioma (a rare and aggressive form of cancer that typically affects the lining of the lungs), lung cancer, and other cancers and diseases. These diseases result from the inhalation or ingestion of harmful asbestos fibers dispersed into the air whenever asbestos-containing materials are handled, repaired, maintained, displaced, removed, or otherwise disturbed.

Mesothelioma is a latent disease and symptoms take anywhere from 20 to 50 years after exposure to first appear, which is why countless veterans are still being diagnosed today after serving in the armed forces during the military’s peak years of asbestos exposure (the early 1900s through the 1980s). In fact, the data shows that while veterans account for just over 6% of the country’s population, they make up a disproportionate 30% of mesothelioma cases diagnosed every year.

How Military Service Members Were Exposed to Asbestos

Resistant to heat and corrosion, asbestos was an attractive additive for a large variety of products manufactured during the 20th century. It was especially beneficial for military applications and products, equipment, and assets that needed to withstand the demands of our nation’s growing military power.

Unfortunately, asbestos found in these products put the lives of millions of servicemen and -women directly at risk and has been responsible for decades of life-altering diagnoses.

In analyzing the research and handling these cases on behalf of veterans and families nationwide, our team at SWMW Law knows just how pervasive asbestos use was in the military and has seen the myriad of ways that service members were exposed. Some examples include:

Naval Service

While all military branches relied on asbestos, no branch used as much of the mineral as the U.S. Navy.

In fact, military records show nearly every ship commissioned by the Navy between 1930 and 1970 contained several tons of asbestos. Asbestos was prevalent throughout the insulation, gaskets, boilers, pumps, engines, and other components on ships, was found above and below deck, and was routinely subject to degrading forces and repairs that increased the likelihood of navy service members encountering asbestos fibers in their daily work.

In addition to ships themselves, Navy service members encountered asbestos-containing products in shipyards, sleeping quarters, and various other military-owned structures.

Learn more about Navy veteran asbestos exposure.

Other Military Branches

Asbestos was used in truly staggering quantities by all branches of the military and private contractors in the production and maintenance of various assets, including ships, aircraft, tanks, ground transport, artillery, barracks, and protective and fire-resistant equipment.

From the gear they wore and equipment they used to the facilities where they ate, slept, and worked, asbestos could be found nearly everywhere in military-owned assets. Some examples of exposure sources by branch include:

  • Army. Pipes, flooring, roofing, cement, and other building materials found on Army bases were known to contain asbestos. Army occupations with elevated exposure risks included mechanics who worked in the “motor pool” with asbestos-containing vehicle components, building construction and demolition workers, and engineers who operated equipment riddled with asbestos-containing materials.
  • Air Force. Aircraft, helicopters, radar stations, barracks, and other equipment used by the Air Force contained asbestos. Risks were pronounced for aircraft mechanics who serviced and repaired planes and helicopters filled with asbestos-containing components, as well as for pilots and others who served on military aircraft lined with asbestos insultation.
  • Coast Guard. Servicemembers in the U.S. Coast Guard were regularly exposed to asbestos throughout ships, engine rooms, and various insulation and fireproofing materials, as well as building materials found in housing structures and buildings on Coast Guard bases.

The scope of asbestos exposure in the U.S. military during the 20th century was nothing short of astounding, spanning all our major wars and conflicts (and especially WWII, the Korean War, and Vietnam War) and across our numerous bases and installations at home and abroad.

Given that asbestos can be found in all types of older materials and structures, as well as in a variety of products in countries that lack regulations, asbestos exposure remained an ongoing risk for servicemembers long after the U.S. began cracking down on the mineral in the 1980s. As such, many veterans exposed to asbestos while serving during and after the 1980s are still at risk of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases today.

Protecting Veterans Today

While asbestos companies knew the health risks posed by asbestos as early as the 1930s, it wasn’t until decades later that the U.S. military began taking corrective actions to protect servicemembers from being exposed to the harmful mineral. This included decades of asbestos abatement efforts, programs for inspection and control of legacy asbestos, and the creation of various resources for veterans who were exposed during the military’s many years of asbestos use.

Thankfully, more research and growing awareness about the impact of asbestos exposure in the military have served as an impetus for additional and better resources. Today, veterans have access to a variety of support services that can help them prioritize their health, with a focus on identifying early signs of mesothelioma and asbestos-related cancers. Some examples include:

  • Monitoring Programs. Programs such as the Asbestos Medical Surveillance Program (AMSP) provide veterans of the Navy and other military branches who were exposed to asbestos during their service with medical monitoring services and screening for mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other asbestos-related diseases. The program also provides documentation of service-connected asbestos exposure, which is important for veterans who apply for VA disability benefits or take actions to seek compensation from asbestos companies.
  • VA Health Care. Veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases may qualify for treatment at VA hospitals, even if their conditions haven’t been connected to their service. Given the high rates of asbestos-related diseases among veterans, the VA has partnerships with many respected mesothelioma doctors, oncologists, and other specialists. It also operates several specialized mesothelioma treatment centers across the country, including major VA mesothelioma centers in Los Angeles, Boston, Houston, and Miami. Veterans, their families, and their caregivers may also qualify for a variety of VA benefits that can help them obtain and cover expenses for needed care.
  • Mesothelioma Specialists & Clinical Trials. There are independent resources for veterans who choose to seek care outside of the VA system or are interested in clinical trials. This includes the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, a nonprofit that can help you navigate the process of finding medical specialists and treatments, including clinical trials. Because seeing a mesothelioma specialist or participating in a clinical trial often requires patients to travel far from home, the Foundation also provides grants for patient travel.

Supporting the health of veterans who were exposed to asbestos during their service via screenings, monitoring, treatment, and specialized care can have a marked impact on improving outcomes and quality of life among veterans and their families. However, health alone is not the only concern for veterans and their loved ones. For many, money is also an issue.

Compensation for Veterans Diagnosed with Mesothelioma & Lung Cancer

Because mesothelioma and asbestos-related cancers can have profound financial consequences on the lives of veterans and their families, it’s important to educate veterans about their available sources of benefits and compensation.

Some important sources of compensation include various veterans benefits provided by the VA and compensation secured through legal actions against asbestos companies or asbestos bankruptcy trusts.

Available VA benefits and resources include:

  • Disability Compensation. Veterans with mesothelioma and asbestos-related cancers who also have a documented history of asbestos exposure during their time in the military may qualify for a 100% disability rating with the VA, entitling them to disability benefits.
  • Dependency and Indemnity Compensation. Also known as DIC, dependency and indemnity compensation provides monthly benefit payments for surviving dependents of veterans who died from mesothelioma.
  • Caregiver Benefits. Family members and others who care for veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases may be able to collect caregiver benefits. These benefits, which are offered through the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers, include monthly benefit payments, respite care, mental health counseling, and more.
  • Aid and Attendance Benefits. Veterans who are housebound or require assistance with daily needs due to their mesothelioma or asbestos-related disease may qualify for monthly aid and attendance benefit payments paid by the VA.
  • Geriatric and Extended Care: The VA maintains Geriatric and Extended Care programs for veterans with mesothelioma and other diseases. These programs offer home and community-based extended care and assisted living and nursing home care, which veterans may qualify for based on several factors, including their need for ongoing treatment and personal care and how far they live from a VA medical center.

Other avenues of compensation:

In addition to benefits awarded through the VA, clinical trials, and support provided by programs like the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, veterans may also have grounds to take legal action outside of the VA system and seek compensation from companies that manufactured, distributed, sold, or otherwise exposed veterans to asbestos-containing products. This includes:

  • Asbestos Bankruptcy Trusts. Asbestos companies had a long and disturbing legacy of concealing what they knew about the health risks of asbestos and endangering countless veterans, consumers, and workers in high-risk occupations. As such, these companies were required to fund special asbestos trusts when they filed bankruptcy and reorganized or went out of business. Billions of dollars were set aside in these trusts specifically for people who developed mesothelioma, cancers, and other health conditions because of their exposure, and filing a claim can help qualifying veterans obtain compensation from some of these funds. Like filing other types of disability or injury claims, veterans seeking compensation from a bankruptcy trust will need to provide documentation and evidence of their condition and exposure history.
  • Civil Lawsuits. Not all companies responsible for exposing veterans and consumers to asbestos went out of business. Some remain solvent and are still in business today, sometimes under new corporate ownership or business names. Because veterans and their families are unable to bring lawsuits against the military, civil claims filed against non-government companies (be they personal injury claims or wrongful death claims) can be a viable means for securing needed compensation. However, as with all civil lawsuits, these claims require veterans and surviving family members to meet a certain legal standard when proving that conditions were caused by a company’s negligence in exposing them to asbestos.

At SWMW Law, our award-winning asbestos exposure lawyers have decades of collective experience guiding veterans and their families through the process of seeking compensation for their losses. Over our years in service, we’ve recovered millions in compensation for veterans through both asbestos bankruptcy trust claims and civil lawsuits, including one in which we secured an $11.5 million jury award on behalf of a U.S. Navy machinist diagnosed with mesothelioma.

As a full-service firm that cares deeply about our veterans and military servicemembers, we go the extra mile to help veterans and their loved ones find the resources and systems of support they need during these trying times, all while working tirelessly on their behalf to fight for the compensation they deserve.

If you have questions about mesothelioma, lung cancer, or another health condition caused by asbestos exposure in the military, we want to help. Our attorneys proudly serve veterans and their families across the country, offer FREE consultations 24/7, and handle cases on contingency, which means there’s no fee unless we win. To learn more about how we can help, call (855) 744-1922 or contact us online.