Mesothelioma and Army Veterans

Expert Fact Checked

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Jennifer Lucarelli Legal Advisor and Contributor

In the United States Army, asbestos was commonly found on bases and in vehicles and weapons. Army veterans have a high risk of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases. Army veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma may be eligible for VA benefits and other compensation.

01. Army Veterans’ Benefits & Compensation

Benefits for Army Veterans With Mesothelioma

Veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma after Army service may be entitled to disability benefits. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers compensation, healthcare options and other benefits for veterans with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease.

The United States Army used asbestos until the 1980s. However, Army personnel still may be exposed to asbestos in Army barracks or from equipment today. Because of the carcinogen’s widespread use, the VA has benefits to help veterans who develop diseases from Army asbestos exposure.

Compensation for Army Veterans Affected by Asbestos Exposure

Army veterans with an asbestos-related disease may be eligible for disability compensation. Filing a VA claim can help secure needed help for veterans who faced asbestos exposure in the Army.

Once a claim is filed, the VA will review the case and offer compensation based on set disability standards. Army veterans diagnosed with asbestos lung cancer or mesothelioma from Army service exposure are considered 100% disabled by the VA. This results in maximum disability compensation. Other asbestos-related illnesses with lower disability ratings, such as mild forms of asbestosis, may result in less financial compensation.

The 2023 disability rate for veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma following Army asbestos exposure has a monthly payment of $3,621.95.

Source: 2023 Veterans Disability Compensation Rates

In addition to filing a VA claim, Army veterans may get compensation by pursuing legal action. Other potential compensation options for Army veterans with asbestos-related illnesses include:

Experienced mesothelioma lawyers can help Army veterans determine the compensation options best for them. Some Army veterans may be eligible for multiple compensation options.

Some compensation examples include:

  • A 45-year-old Army veteran received more than $3.39 million
  • An 82-year-old Army and Air Force veteran received more than $2.28 million
  • A 56-year-old Army veteran received more than $2.01 million
  • A 60-year-old Army veteran received more than $1.38 million
  • A 78-year-old Army veteran and carpenter received more than $1.09 million

Compensation Options Available to Family Members of Army Veterans

Family members of Army exposure victims may also be eligible for certain benefits from the VA. Dependents of an Army veteran who passed away because of a military-related asbestos disease may receive dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC). This is monthly compensation paid to the surviving spouse, child or parent of the Army veteran.

According to 2023 DIC rates, if an Army veteran died from military-related mesothelioma, their surviving spouse may receive $1,562.74 or more in monthly compensation.

Source: 2023 VA DIC rates for spouses and dependents

Other Benefits for Army Veterans

The VA offers several benefits for veterans beyond financial assistance. For example, veterans may qualify for housing grants, life insurance and health benefits.

Veterans who suffered asbestos exposure in the Army and have developed an asbestos-related disease may receive treatment at VA medical centers. Because of the widespread use of asbestos across military branches in the 20th century, these facilities often have doctors specialized in treating mesothelioma.

Veterans Affairs Community Care Network

One of the newest additions to the VA benefits offered to Army veterans is the Veterans Community Care Program (VCCP). This program is an enhanced version of the former Veterans Choice Program.

Under the VA’s VCCP, eligible Army veterans can receive treatment for their asbestos-related disease at a local, non-VA treatment facility. This program may benefit Army veterans who do not have a VA treatment facility near their homes.

Program eligibility requirements are on the VA website.

02. Army Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos Exposure in the Army

The Army relied on asbestos for many reasons, including its durability and fireproofing capabilities. During construction, the Army used asbestos in Army barracks, exposing military personnel to the harmful mineral when they slept. Other structures and equipment also had asbestos.

Asbestos-containing materials were also inexpensive and easily accessible. These perceived benefits led to asbestos use across all branches of the U.S. military through the 1970s.

Asbestos is low-risk when intact and left undisturbed. However, many of these asbestos products wear down easily from daily use and old age. Army asbestos exposure put soldiers and veterans at risk of asbestos-related diseases.

Asbestos can be found in many buildings constructed before 1980, including throughout military bases.

The mineral was used most often for insulation purposes, but can also be found in:

These construction materials could be found in barracks, mess halls and weapon storage areas.

U.S. Army Reserve Centers (ARCs), off-site locations used to train part-time military personnel, also used asbestos materials in their construction.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 20 Army Reserve Centers across the country still had asbestos-containing materials on-site in 2005.

Army veterans are also at risk of exposure from military equipment. For instance, Army vehicles used asbestos to prevent fires in high-heat areas.

Army Vehicle Parts Often Containing Asbestos

Automotive parts that experienced high temperatures were often made with asbestos. The Army used these parts in their vehicles. Army combat and transport vehicles and tank transporters all may contain asbestos parts. Common asbestos-containing automotive parts include:

  • Brake pads
  • Clutch plates
  • Gaskets
  • Insulation

Army soldiers and mechanics assigned to maintaining and repairing vehicles were at risk of asbestos exposure. When performing maintenance work on the vehicles, fibers could become airborne. This posed a risk for individuals on base and in combat.

Army Jobs With a High Risk of Asbestos Exposure

  • Carpentry
  • Construction
  • Demolition
  • General soldiers
  • Insulating

Risk of Secondary Exposure Due to the Army’s Use of Asbestos

Active-duty soldiers, construction workers, maintenance staff and mechanics frequently faced asbestos exposure in the Army. Other civilian workers and families may have also been exposed to asbestos. If loved ones lived on base, or a soldier returned home with the asbestos-contaminated clothing they wore on base, asbestos fibers may have been transferred and inhaled. Family members exposed in this way experienced secondary asbestos exposure.

According to a 2020 Department of Defense (DoD) report, there are 10,559 Government-Owned and Government-Controlled Military Family Housing Units (GO-GC) for the Army. This total includes homes in the United States and across the globe. Family members of veterans may have been exposed to asbestos when living in these homes.

Source: Evaluation of the DoD’s Management of Health and Safety Hazards in Government-Owned and Government-Controlled Military Family Housing, 2020

03. Army Veterans’ Mesothelioma Risk

Mesothelioma Risk Among Army Veterans

Army asbestos exposure puts veterans and active personnel at higher risk for asbestos-related diseases. In fact, because the military used asbestos extensively throughout all branches in the 20th century, veterans comprise about one-third of mesothelioma diagnoses.

Mesothelioma has a latency period of 10 – 50 years. Meaning, Army veterans often are not diagnosed until years after their service-related asbestos exposure.

According to the EPA, no level of asbestos exposure is safe. However, asbestos is most hazardous when friable and airborne. Wear and tear of machinery and buildings on Army bases, Army Reserve Centers and in equipment during combat can lead to airborne asbestos, which is easily inhaled or ingested.

Malignant mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure and occurs when asbestos fibers are ingested or inhaled. Once in the body, the fibers may embed in the lining of the lungs, abdomen or heart.

Although the military has made efforts to protect active-duty soldiers from asbestos exposure, thousands of Army veterans have already been exposed to the carcinogen.

04. Mesothelioma Treatment for Veterans

Mesothelioma Treatment for Army Veterans

When seeking treatment for an asbestos-related disease like mesothelioma, Army veterans have options. Veterans who faced asbestos exposure in the Army can seek treatment at a local facility through the VA’s Community Care Network (CCN).

The CCN lets veterans see experienced mesothelioma doctors close to home. They may also seek treatment within the VA healthcare system.

Mesothelioma Treatment Centers Near Large Army Bases

Mesothelioma Treatment Center in North Carolina (Near Fort Bragg)
Mesothelioma Treatment Center in Texas (Near Fort Hood)
Mesothelioma Treatment Center in Washington (Near Joint Base Lewis-McChord)
05. Protection From Exposure

Protecting Army Veterans From Asbestos Exposure

The Army Public Health Center has worked to develop regulations to protect soldiers and other workers from asbestos exposure.

The Army’s Installation Asbestos Management Program

The Army implemented the Installation Asbestos Management Program in the late 1990s. The program was an effort to protect soldiers from asbestos exposure in the Army.

The program requires Army facilities in the United States and overseas to:

  1. Abide by asbestos regulations implemented on state and federal levels.
  2. Implement asbestos management plans to deal with any identified asbestos quickly and safely.

As a result of this program, some bases were required to perform asbestos abatement. Replacing the hazardous mineral with safer alternatives was also recommended as part of the program.

Asbestos Protection Services Provided by the Army

Each Army installation has a set team running an asbestos protection program. Duties of this team include:

  • Completing surveys to identify asbestos-containing materials
  • Creating operation, maintenance and abatement plans for asbestos at the installation
  • Educating Army families about asbestos exposure
  • Managing asbestos-containing materials to mitigate risk to Army personnel and their families
  • Monitoring existing asbestos-containing materials to ensure they remain in “good condition”
  • Providing medical surveillance for Army personnel exposed to asbestos
  • Training the service members working with asbestos

Source: U.S. Army Asbestos-Frequently Asked Questions

Department of Defense Reports Asbestos Health Risks Continue in the Army

Programs in place help mitigate Army asbestos exposure. However, a DoD report detailed that environmental health risks are also an issue at Army installations.

The April 2020 report noted mishandling of asbestos-containing materials at military installations. The DoD inspected asbestos handling at eight military installations, including two Army installations.

Specifically, the report noted:

  • Five of the eight military installations did not have accurate records of the location and condition of asbestos-containing materials in the military family housing.
  • Six of the eight military installations did not notify service members and their families living in the installation housing of the asbestos risk.

An April 2020 DoD report noted the United States Army Garrison Wiesbaden in Germany did not notify Army housing residents of asbestos-containing materials in their homes.

An Army spokesperson said all Army policies would be updated to align with the DoD health and safety hazard management policies within three months of DoD policy publication.

The issues found across military housing by the DoD highlight the asbestos hazards within the armed forces. The risk of asbestos exposure continues for Army personnel and their families.

Veterans exposed to asbestos through their service with the United States Army can hold the negligent parties responsible and receive compensation. Army veterans working with VA-accredited lawyers at experienced mesothelioma law firms can rest easy knowing their mesothelioma claim is being handled by professionals.

06. Common Questions

Common Questions About Mesothelioma and Army Veterans

When was asbestos banned in the Army?

The United States and the U.S. Army have not banned asbestos. The United States generally stopped using asbestos in Army barracks and other new construction nationwide in the 1980s. However, some older buildings and other equipment may still have asbestos present. The DoD actively monitors asbestos use.

Is asbestos still used in the Army?

The U.S. Army does not use asbestos in new construction. The United States stopped using asbestos in new applications by the 1980s. However, older buildings on Army bases and some equipment may still have asbestos. Although asbestos is considered safe while it is undisturbed, asbestos exposure in the Army remains a concern.

How is asbestos used in the Army?

The U.S. Army and other branches of service used asbestos products in buildings on bases, truck and tank parts and other vehicles. Some common places asbestos could be found include:

  • Brake pads
  • Clutch plates
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Floor tiles
  • Gaskets
  • Insulation
  • Roofing shingles

Because of the mineral’s use in the Army, asbestos exposure remains a concern.

Where can Army veterans receive treatment for mesothelioma and are there specialized mesothelioma treatment centers near military bases?

Veterans can seek care at local VA medical centers. Some of these centers specialize in asbestos diseases. Veterans may be eligible to go to closer mesothelioma cancer centers through the VA’s Community Care Network (CCN). If diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease like mesothelioma, Army veterans may want to speak with an experienced asbestos attorney to see what compensation options are available.