Veterans make up over 30 percent of all mesothelioma cases.  People who were exposed to asbestos and develop mesothelioma due to military service are entitled to benefits and financial assistance from the U.S. government through the Veterans Administration (VA).

Veterans and Mesothelioma

Veterans are at higher risk of mesothelioma than most of the general population.  The military used many products containing asbestos for heat insulation and veterans who worked in these areas were likely to have been exposed.  In addition, many veterans performed similar jobs after leaving the military.


U.S. Army veterans may have been exposed to asbestos at one of 32 Army installations.  Some of these installations were closed in the 1990s but the sites required an estimated $1 billion in cleanup costs, partly due to asbestos contamination. Soldiers serving in Iraq may also be at risk due to building destruction and demolition which may have released large amounts of asbestos into the dry desert air.

Air Force

U.S. Air Force veterans were heavily exposed to asbestos, both on military bases and in aircrafts.  It was widely used in the construction of Air Force bases such as Ellsworth, Lowry, Tinker and Williams until the 1980s. In 2002 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found that many areas of Air Force base buildings contained significant portions of asbestos including insulation, wallboard and ceiling tile.  As bases have been decommissioned, building demolition has been required, which may have presented additional risks to Air Force veterans.


Like others who served in the military, U.S. Marine Corps veterans are at high risk of developing mesothelioma. The Marine Corps works closely with the Navy, which has seen the greatest use of asbestos.  Asbestos was widely used in ships, but also in airplanes and armored vehicles that were used by the Marines and was also a part of bulletproof protection.  In addition, as Marines are often first into action, they may have faced greater danger from building destruction caused by explosions.


The U.S. Navy was the largest consumer of asbestos products in the military.  Asbestos was widely used in hundreds of ship building operations such as fireproofing, insulation for boiler rooms and piping, in ammunitions storage along with virtually every surface of the ship including wall insulation, flooring cables, gaskets and valves.  Sailors were at additional risk due to close quarters with minimal airspace where any disturbance may cause fibers to become airborne.  Though asbestos use was largely discontinued in the 1970s, deconstruction of ships posed additional risks and as asbestos is still contained on hundreds of vessels, at least 20 Navy ratings remain at high risk for asbestos exposure.

Merchant Mariners

Even though they face some of the same risks as Navy Veterans and may have acted alongside or in aid of the military, merchant mariners are considered civilians and are ineligible for Veterans Benefits, unless they served during World War II.   WW II mariners have been eligible since 1988, when the National Maritime Union filed suit against the U.S. government, creating the Shipping Reform Act of 1988 and also extending VA benefits.  No other merchant mariners are eligible for VA assistance.

Mesothelioma Latency Time

Mesothelioma takes many years to develop after exposure, also known as a latency time.  The latency time of mesothelioma is 20 to 50 years and for veterans, it means that those who served as far back as the 1950s are still at risk.  Even though widespread asbestos use was discontinued in the 1970s and 80s, many military installations, ships, airplanes and vehicles still contain asbestos and continue to present a risk.  In addition, more recent events, such as the decommissioning of military bases and ships have present new risk and military action in desert theaters may pose risk from explosion-related debris.  This means that virtually any veteran who served in the military since the 1950s is at risk and mesothelioma will continue to be diagnosed in veterans for years to come.

Veterans Mesothelioma Benefits

Veterans account for one-third of all mesothelioma patients and they are entitled to assistance with from the Veterans Administration.  Veterans with mesothelioma may be eligible for medical coverage and disability compensation, depending on certain criteria.

How Can I Receive My VA Benefits?

In order for a veteran with mesothelioma to receive benefits from the Veterans Administration, a claim must be filed.  The claim will be evaluated and approved based on certain criteria.   In addition, in some cases, surviving spouses also qualify for assistance through the VA. Many veterans find that navigating the application process can be difficult.  Veterans who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma should seek assistance for filing a claim.

Help Filing a Claim

Veterans who are diagnosed with mesothelioma can receive full financial benefits from the Veterans Administration if they meet certain criteria.  They may be eligible for medical coverage, disability benefits and pension, depending on individual circumstances.  Unfortunately, the claim-filing process is complex and can be challenging, particularly in disease like mesothelioma, where benefits are directly related to active-duty exposure.  For these veterans, free help is available to aid in filing claims for mesothelioma benefits.

Caregivers and Dependents

In addition to benefits for the veteran, the Veterans Administration also provides caregiver benefits related to mesothelioma.  Dependents of the veteran diagnosed with mesothelioma, including surviving spouses, may also be eligible for compensation through the VA.