Mesothelioma & Navy Veterans

The War-Related Illness and Injury Study Centers (WRIISCs) were established in 2001 by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide various types of health services to veterans. One of the duties that is included in the agency’s mission is to make educational material regarding possible environmental exposures that may adversely affect veterans’ health available.

In November of 2009, the WRIISC located in East Orange, New Jersey published a pamphlet titled Exposure to Asbestos: A Resource for Veterans, Service Members and their Families that explained the exposure risks associated with military service, especially the Navy.

Asbestos-Containing Material was Widely Used by the Military

As in private industry, the heat and fire resistant qualities of asbestos made it popular with the military for use in:

  • Gaskets
  • Valves
  • Cements
  • Adhesives
  • Floor and pipe coverings

    The Navy used asbestos containing materials in ships constructed before the mid 1970s as well as in its shipyards.

    The ships had asbestos-containing materials in the engine and boiler rooms, navigation rooms, sleeping quarters, and mess halls.

    Navy Personnel Could be Exposed to Asbestos in a Number of ways

    According to the WRIISC pamphlet, the following list includes the ways in which those serving in the Navy could have been exposed to asbestos:

    • Navy Veterans who served on ships whose keels were laid before 1983.

    • Navy Veterans who worked in shipyards from the 1930s to the 1990s, as asbestos was widely used in ship building and construction materials during that time.

    • Navy personnel who worked below deck before the early 1990s since asbestos was often used below deck and ventilation was often poor.

    • Navy Seamen who were frequently tasked with removing damaged asbestos lagging (floor and pipe coverings) in engine rooms and then using asbestos paste to re-wrap the pipes, often with no respiratory protection and no other personal protective equipment especially when the wet technique was not used in the removal.

    In addition, military personnel may have been exposed if:

    • They renovated asbestos-containing structures and/or removed asbestos-containing materials.

    • They worked with or handles any damaged asbestos-containing material.

    • They worked as pipe fitters, welders, and boiler operators before the mid-1990s.

    The Navy Developed a Policy to Eliminate Asbestos use for Thermal Insulation

    In October 1975, the Navy implemented a policy change regarding the elimination of asbestos for thermal insulation in newly constructed ships. That policy change also called for the removal of damaged asbestos-containing insulation and the replacement of that insulation with non-asbestos material. In addition, any insulation that was removed because of the need to make necessary repairs would also be replaced.

    In January 1979, the policy was extended to include the replacement of asbestos-containing insulation in high-maintenance areas where repairs would normally occur during the time a ship was in operation. At the time of this added provision, it was anticipated that over the next five years, all shipboard thermal insulation would be removed and replaced except for the percentage of insulation that receives only minor repairs during a ship’s lifetime.

    Asbestos Exposure on:

    Aircraft Carriers





    Navy Shipyards


    Still working on information and links

    Veterans already enrolled in VA health care, contact your local VA health care facility to receive care under the new law. Those not already enrolled should call 1-877-222-8387 for assistance.

    Family members will receive care after Congress appropriates funds and VA publishes regulations.

    Compensation benefits

    The new law applies to health care, not disability compensation. At this time, there is insufficient scientific and clinical evidence to establish a presumptive association between service at Camp Lejeune during the period of water contamination and the development of certain diseases.

    VA is closely monitoring new research. VA representatives regularly attend the quarterly Community Action Panel meetings hosted by The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).

    Veterans may file a claim for disability compensation for health problems they believe are related to exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. VA decides these claims on a case-by-case basis.

    VA Benefits

    The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs now recognizes mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases as service-related medical conditions.  This means that veterans with mesothelioma are able to apply for Veteran Affairs (VA) benefits to pay for their treatment. 

    The application process for VA benefits is arduous, and some veterans who have mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease you may have a claim.  A veterans' Service Officer can help you with the VA benefits claims process and can guide you through the process of compensation for your military occupational exposure to asbestos.

    Contact a Veterans' Service Officer

    Because of the long latency period of mesothelioma, many veterans whose tours of duty ended decades ago may just now be facing a mesothelioma diagnosis.  We at the DAV have a deep respect and gratitude for the men and women who have served our country in times of war and in times of peace.  It is our honor as veterans to help veterans pursue justice after asbestos exposure.  If you have been affected by military asbestos exposure, you may be eligible for compensation.  Please contact a Veterans' Service Officer to schedule a FREE consultation.

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