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Veterans and Mesothelioma

Legally Reviewed by Joseph P. Williams on November 29, 2023

Veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces who served from the 1940s through the 1970s face an increased risk of mesothelioma due to

the widespread use of asbestos in military equipment and structures. In fact, veterans comprise the largest demographic group of mesothelioma patients. However, because it can take upwards of 40 years after asbestos exposure for mesothelioma symptoms to become evident, many veterans are only now being diagnosed with a disease that took root decades ago. If you or a family member is a veteran who developed mesothelioma, The Williams Law Firm, P.C. is here to help you recover the financial security you need to cope with medical costs and other related expenses. Led by award-winning New York mesothelioma attorney Joseph P. Williams, our law firm has an extensive record of success in asbestos exposure cases, and we’re proud to represent veterans and their families from across the country. Please call us today at (855) 575-6376 to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation or contact us online to tell us your story now.

Mesothelioma in WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam Veterans

Asbestos use in the Armed Forces peaked between the 1940s and the 1970s, spanning the major military engagements of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Today, many veterans who served during this time period are dealing with the effects of mesothelioma. According to National Cancer Institute’s most recent Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program (SEER) report, individuals 75 and older are more likely than any other age group in the U.S. population to be diagnosed with mesothelioma. The report also found that:

  • Men in the survey group were between three and four times more likely to develop mesothelioma than women.
  • Mesothelioma is more common in Caucasians than any other ethnicity.
  • Incidence rates of mesothelioma in women ages 65-75 were on the rise while incidence rates for men in this age group were on the decline.

In the United States, veterans comprise approximately 30 percent of all mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer patients—the largest population of asbestos exposure victims. This is because asbestos was widely used in military facilities, combat and support vehicles, and ships.

Asbestos Use by Military Branch

Throughout much of the 20th century, asbestos and asbestos-containing products were used in every branch of U.S. Armed Forces.

Asbestos and the Air Force

The Air Force used asbestos and asbestos-containing products in both aircraft and structures. In airbases and barracks, asbestos was used in insulation, piping materials, joint compounds, and ceiling and flooring tiles among other materials. Asbestos was also used in aircraft and aircraft components such as brake pads, gaskets, and engine firewalls.

Asbestos and the Army

The Army likewise employed asbestos in buildings as well as vehicles. Asbestos and asbestos products were used in Army base structures, including barracks, where the carcinogenic material could be found in plumbing, insulation, foundation materials, caulking, and floor and ceiling tiles. Asbestos-containing components were also used in Army aircraft and ground vehicles including tanks, helicopters, personnel carriers, and support vehicles.

Asbestos and the Coast Guard

Asbestos exposure was especially prevalent in the Navy and Coast Guard thanks to the material’s extensive use in shipbuilding and ship repairs. The heat-resistant properties of asbestos made it a popular insulator for pipes and boilers, and ship interiors were lined with asbestos-based fireproofing material. Asbestos-containing products could be found in nearly every area of a ship, including:

  • Boiler rooms
  • Crew quarters
  • Engine rooms
  • Mess halls
  • Pump rooms
  • Weapons, ammunition and equipment storage

Those working in shipyards faced the greatest risk for asbestos exposure as ships were manufactured, repaired or deconstructed.

Asbestos and the Marine Corps

As with the other military branches, the Marine Corps used asbestos in the construction of bases and barracks, as well as in aircraft and service vehicles. Asbestos was used in various Marine facilities as an insulator and to provide protection from heat and fire. Asbestos-containing components were used in all manner of tactical and transit vehicles, from aircraft to personnel carriers to aquatic vessels.

Asbestos and the Navy

Among the Armed Forces, the Navy and Coast Guard were the biggest consumers of asbestos and asbestos-containing products. Asbestos was found throughout ships, from mechanical components to paint. Navy and Coast Guard jobs that carried particularly high risks for asbestos exposure include:

  • Boiler technicians
  • Electricians
  • Gunner’s mates
  • Hull technicians
  • Machinists
  • Metalsmiths
  • Pipefitters

As with Coast Guard veterans, Navy veterans who worked in the shipyards faced a heightened risk for asbestos contact. Asbestos fibers were prone to be broken down and released during ship construction, retrofitting, repairs and demolition.

Experienced Legal Help for Veterans Exposed to Asbestos

By the time the U.S. Armed Forces began phasing out asbestos in the 1970s, the damage had been done. But financial help is available for veterans affected by asbestos exposure.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers benefits to veterans with illnesses caused by asbestos. VA claims related to asbestos differ from other asbestos exposure cases, which are usually paid via trust funds established on behalf of companies that manufactured asbestos or whose employees had contact with asbestos-containing products. To be eligible for VA asbestos exposure benefits, veterans must have had contact while serving in the military and must not have received a dishonorable discharge.

Military benefits may fail to cover the costly medical treatments necessary to manage mesothelioma or lung cancer. In some cases, veterans and their families may be able to take legal action against the companies that manufactured and sold asbestos products to the military.

If you or a loved one developed mesothelioma after military service, attorney Joseph P. Williams of The Williams Law Firm, P.C. is here to answer your questions and help you pursue the financial security you need. We understand the physical, financial and emotional impacts of asbestos-related diseases, and we are dedicated advocates on behalf of asbestos exposure victims and their families.

Please call us today at 855-575-MESO (6376) or contact us online to arrange your free consultation. The Williams Law Firm, P.C. is based in New York, but we work with mesothelioma patients and their families nationwide. We’re happy to meet with you at your convenience via video conference, or at your home or hospital room.