Navy Veterans & Mesothelioma | Asbestos Exposure in the U.S. Navy (2023)

Quick Summary

Of all military branches, the one with the greatest risk of asbestos exposure was the U.S. Navy. This exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer. Navy veterans who develop mesothelioma may be able to access treatment and benefits through the VA, and they may also be entitled to compensation through legal claims.

Get Help Filing for VA Benefits

Legally edited and fact-checked by: Eric P.W. Hall (Capt RIANG)VA-Accredited Attorney

Topics on this page:

  • Navy Jobs That Used Asbestos
  • Asbestos on Navy Ships
  • Filing for VA Benefits

U.S. Navy Veterans With Mesothelioma

Military veterans make up the largest group of mesothelioma patients in the United States — and many of these veterans served in the U.S. Navy.

For decades, asbestos could be found on nearly all U.S. Naval vessels. Asbestos fibers can get stuck in the lining of the lungs or abdomen when inhaled or swallowed. This can lead to mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis, or other asbestos-related illnesses later in life.

Since asbestos was cheap and extremely heat-resistant, the U.S. Navy used it for everything from fireproofing materials on ships to insulation in onshore buildings. Asbestos was used in the majority of Navy ships built between 1930 and the early 1980s.

Types of military ships that used asbestos included:

  • Aircraft carrers
  • Amphibious warships
  • Auxiliary ships
  • Battleships
  • Cruisers
  • Coast Guard cutters
  • Destroyers
  • Destroyer escorts
  • Escort carriers
  • Frigates
  • Merchant marine ships
  • Minesweepers
  • Patrol boats
  • Submarines

If you were exposed to asbestos in the navy and developed mesothelioma later in life, you can pursue financial and medical benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Get help filing for VA benefits from our team — some of whom are even fellow veterans — and learn about other forms of compensation right now.

Benefits & Compensation for Navy Veterans With Mesothelioma

Financial and health care benefits from the VA, as well as private claims and asbestos trust fund payouts, can help your family cover the medical expenses associated with a mesothelioma diagnosis and provide peace of mind.

Navy Veterans & Mesothelioma | Asbestos Exposure in the U.S. Navy (1)

Video Summary: Military veteran Walter talks about his time in the U.S. Navy, being diagnosed with mesothelioma, and filing a mesothelioma claim. View Transcript

The word mesothelioma I didn’t know anything about. When I turned 70 I started getting pneumonia, but then as time went on they kept getting closer and closer and closer together [the occurrences] and I asked the doctor, I said, I wanna know why.

And they sent me downstairs to get a chest X-ray and the X-ray made it back before I got back up there.

He says, we're gonna go inside and take a look. He come up right to my bedside after the operation and showed me the pictures they took on the inside of the lung and he pointed out the cancer.

I really can’t explain it. I got a knot in my stomach, you know. But he told me then that there was no cure for it.

I was impressed by the Navy – seeing my uncle in that Navy uniform, you know – take pictures of him. So I just decided when I come outta school that I was gonna join the Navy.

I was very proud of that uniform. I was a boiler tender when I went aboard my first ship and started doing my first job. They told me — I asked them what the material was made out of and they told me it was asbestos.

It didn’t kill anybody on the spot that’s for sure, but it took years later when it started catching up with us. But, my understanding [is] that the powers-that-be knew.

I didn’t wanna sue my government and I damn sure didn’t wanna sue the Navy cause they're still feeding me. I wasn’t suing the government, I wasn’t suing the U.S. Navy, I was suing the manufacturer.

It was only 2 or 3 days and he was here [the lawyer]. He came and seen me, talked to me personally. He knew what kind of a man I was and how involved I was with my job in the Navy. Felt very comfortable with them. I was watching the way they handled it, they did good.

[It was] positive thinking, there was nothing negative about it, it was positive. They were prepared, they could go back to day 1, and I appreciated that. There was no guessing about it, they had the paperwork to back them up.

It was a hands-on approach I guess, and that’s what drew me. Cause that’s the way I do things – a hands-on approach. They damn well earned it.

Learn more about benefits and financial compensation options for Navy veterans with mesothelioma and their families below.

VA Financial Benefits

Certain VA benefits, such as disability compensation and pensions, can help cover lost wages and caregiver expenses.

To get VA financial benefits, Navy veterans must:

  • Have been honorably discharged
  • Provide a detailed report of their U.S. Navy asbestos exposure
  • Show that over 50% of their exposure occurred while serving in the U.S. Navy

The VA often awards a 100% disability rating to mesothelioma Navy veterans. As of December 2022, this means married veterans can receive up to $3,823.89 each month from disability compensation alone. You could qualify for this amount or less, depending on your case.

Get help applying for mesothelioma VA benefits right now.

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VA Health Care

U.S. Navy veterans with mesothelioma can access low-cost or free treatment from cancer specialists if they have VA Health Care benefits.

Two world-renowned mesothelioma doctors serve Navy service members as part of the VA Health Care System.

  • Dr. Avi Lebenthal

    Based in Massachusetts, Dr. Lebenthal is a renowned pleural mesothelioma specialist (and veteran of the Israeli army) with years of experience treating veterans.

  • Dr. Robert Cameron

    A top cancer doctor in California, Dr. Cameron treats pleural mesothelioma in Navy veterans with the most effective treatments available.

    Visit the UCLA Health website to learn more about Dr. Robert Cameron.


The Mesothelioma Veterans Center has no affiliation with and is not endorsed or sponsored by Dr. Robert B. Cameron. The contact information above is listed for informational purposes only. You have the right to contact Dr. Cameron directly.

Veterans can apply for VA Health Care alongside other mesothelioma Navy benefits to pursue treatment from these doctors.

Legal Claims

Veterans with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases may qualify to file private legal claims (mesothelioma lawsuits) and/or asbestos trust fund claims. The average payout from a private mesothelioma claim is $1 million.

  • Mesothelioma lawsuits are filed against manufacturers of asbestos products, not the U.S. Armed Forces or the government.
  • Asbestos trust fund claims can be filed if a veteran was exposed to asbestos-based products made by a bankrupt company that set aside money in trusts.

Pursuing lawsuits and trust fund claims won’t prevent veterans from getting VA benefits.

Laws called statutes of limitations set time limits to file these claims. For help, contact an attorney as soon as possible to avoid missing out. Skilled mesothelioma lawyers can help veterans file for compensation within the deadlines.

Call (877) 450-8973 to explore your legal options after a mesothelioma diagnosis.

Navy Asbestos Settlements

An asbestos settlement is the most common outcome of a mesothelioma lawsuit.

Through a settlement, Navy veterans with mesothelioma receive money from the manufacturers of the asbestos-based products they were exposed to, and the lawsuit does not go to trial.

In many cases, mesothelioma settlements are preferred by lawyers because clients usually start to receive money in as little as 90 days. Navy veterans have often been awarded millions of dollars from these settlements.

Recent Navy asbestos settlements include:

  • Navy Veterans & Mesothelioma | Asbestos Exposure in the U.S. Navy (5)$4.3 millionU.S. Army veteran, Florida
  • Navy Veterans & Mesothelioma | Asbestos Exposure in the U.S. Navy (6)$3 millionU.S. Navy veteran, California
  • Navy Veterans & Mesothelioma | Asbestos Exposure in the U.S. Navy (7)$2.4 millionNavy boiler tender, Pennsylvania
  • Navy Veterans & Mesothelioma | Asbestos Exposure in the U.S. Navy (8)$1.29 millionNavy mechanic, Florida

Navy veterans can work with experienced mesothelioma lawyers to file lawsuits and reach asbestos settlements. These lawyers will work on a veteran’s behalf to get the most compensation.

Start the process now: Get connected with an experienced mesothelioma lawyer.

Where Was Asbestos Found on Navy Ships?

Asbestos could be found aboard Navy vessels in:

  • Berthing
  • Boiler rooms
  • Bulkheads
  • Deck flooring
  • Engine rooms
  • Gaskets
  • Insulation
  • Pipe lagging
  • Pumps
  • Seals
  • Valves

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When disturbed, asbestos fibers can become airborne for hours. Navy personnel working on insulation, piping, or other parts of the ship often unknowingly released asbestos into the air while performing their normal duties.

Did you know?

The widespread use of asbestos on Navy ships started in the 1930s and continued into the late 1970s. During this time, the health risks were hidden by makers of asbestos-based products. Thousands of veterans are now at risk of mesothelioma after Navy service as a result.

Get our free Navy ships guide to learn more about the risks of asbestos on these vessels.

Mesothelioma and Navy Asbestos Exposure in Shipyards

U.S. Navy shipyard workers also have an increased risk of developing mesothelioma from prolonged asbestos exposure.

[quote] “The large group most threatened is the 4.5 million people who worked in World War II shipyards, where asbestos dust was so pervasive that one often could not see across a room” Janet Battaile, New York Times [/quote]

Shipyard workers often had to remove used or damaged asbestos materials and install new ones, releasing thousands of fibers into the air. Anyone working in or even walking through a shipyard was at risk of inhaling asbestos. This is just one reason why the U.S. Navy and mesothelioma are linked.

The U.S. Navy did not start equipping service members with breathing protection until the late 1970s. Thus, anyone who worked in shipbuilding before this time would likely have had significant asbestos exposure.

U.S. Navy Rates With High Asbestos Exposure Risk

Many U.S. Navy rates (jobs) put service members at risk of asbestos exposure. Some rates, such as boiler technicians and machinists’ mates, required that veterans work with asbestos daily.

U.S. Navy veterans who typically develop mesothelioma often served between the 1930s and the early 1980s and likely fought in World War II, Korea, and/or Vietnam.

Learn about Navy rates most commonly associated with asbestos exposure below, or get a free veterans packet for more information.

Get a FREE Veterans PacketGet information on:Treatment OptionsMesothelioma SpecialistsVeterans BenefitsGet a Free Veterans Packet

Boiler Technicians

Boiler technicians worked on the steam boilers that propelled U.S. Navy ships. 20th-century boilers often contained asbestos insulation as well as asbestos in other parts. Further, boiler technicians often wore asbestos-laced gloves during maintenance.

Damage Controlmen

Damage controlmen fixed parts of the ship after an enemy attack, often making emergency repairs. Before the 1980s, many repair jobs put damage controlmen in direct contact with asbestos-based products.

Damage controlmen also wore firefighting suits lined with asbestos for heat resistance.

Electrician’s Mates

Navy Veterans & Mesothelioma | Asbestos Exposure in the U.S. Navy (11)

Electricians on U.S. Navy ships were often exposed to asbestos because the material was used as insulation for electrical wiring in turbine generators, motor generators, motor controllers, and switchboards.

Gunner’s Mates

Gunner’s mates wore protective asbestos gloves to reduce their risk of burns while operating machine guns, anti-aircraft artillery, and other weapons systems. As the gloves became worn, they released asbestos fibers into the air.

Ammunition storage rooms were also lined with asbestos insulation to prevent sparks and explosions.

Hull Maintenance Technicians

Hull maintenance technicians (HTs) were responsible for installing and repairing metal infrastructures such as valves, sanitation, and plumbing systems around the ship.

They often worked on asbestos-based insulation and pipe gaskets. HTs often needed to remove asbestos insulation before performing a repair, too.

Machinery Repairmen

Machinery repairmen were put at risk when they needed to install and remove gaskets lined with asbestos. They also fixed machinery and furnaces that contained asbestos.

Machinist’s Mates and Enginemen

Machinist’s mates and enginemen were responsible for fixing the engines and other equipment that powered a ship, such as turbines, valves, pumps, and air conditioning systems.

Working in engine rooms for long periods of time exposed these workers to asbestos from piping, insulation, adhesives, and gaskets.


Metalsmiths were responsible for welding sheet metal into different shapes to repair damage to Navy ships. Because these welders worked at high temperatures, they wore protective gear lined with asbestos to prevent burns.


Pipefitters were exposed to asbestos through the piping systems that they worked on. They often had to remove and reinstall asbestos insulation to perform repairs.


Seabees helped build bases, pave roads, and clear land. U.S. Navy Seabees used various asbestos products in construction including insulation, ceiling and flooring tiles, roofing shingles, and more.

Merchant Marines

Members of the merchant marines provided aid to the U.S. Navy while still remaining civilians. They transported vital supplies to troops during World War II and later wars.

Unfortunately, merchant marines may have been exposed to asbestos as their ships likely contained tons of asbestos-based products, like boiler insulation and gaskets.

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Video Summary: VA-accredited attorney Eric Hall explains why U.S. Navy veterans are at a high risk of a deadly cancer called mesothelioma. The U.S. Navy heavily relied on asbestos, the only known cause of mesothelioma, between the 1930s and early 1980s. Thankfully, Navy veterans with mesothelioma can get financial aid and medical care by applying for VA benefits. Call (877) 450-8973 to get started. View Transcript

Military members who served between the 1930s and 1980s were very likely exposed to asbestos, particularly in the Navy, because asbestos was used throughout the ships to insulate pipes and insulate their boiler systems.

And being that you were a sailor on a ship, you would've likely been on ship for months at any given time. And that's why we see the highest rate of mesothelioma cases in Navy veterans.

Veterans diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases are entitled to several different types of benefits from the VA, to include disability benefits, [and] health care benefits. There are even survivor benefits for those with asbestos-related diseases.

If a veteran believes they were exposed to asbestos while serving in the military, we encourage them to call the Mesothelioma Veterans Center so that we can work together to help them file for VA benefits.

Do you have mesothelioma after serving in the U.S. Navy? Chat with our team now to learn about the benefits you can access.

Secondhand Asbestos Exposure in the U.S. Navy

Service members’ families who lived on U.S. Navy bases were also likely to have been exposed to asbestos, putting them at risk of mesothelioma.

Did you know?

Navy housing, office buildings, and construction sites could all be sources of exposure if asbestos fibers in these areas were disturbed and entered the surrounding air.

Sailors may have unknowingly exposed their loved ones to asbestos through their clothing, hair, and equipment.

For example, shipbuilders may have brought dusty, asbestos-covered clothing back home. Family members could be exposed if they touched the clothes (such as while doing laundry).

Get Help Filing a Mesothelioma Navy Veterans Claim

Starting the legal or VA claims process can be overwhelming, but the Mesothelioma Veterans Center can help.

Our VA-accredited service representatives can quickly assist you in filing a Navy mesothelioma claim. They can also discuss your asbestos exposure history and what other benefits may be available to you.

Get Help Filing for VA Benefits

FAQs About Mesothelioma in Navy Veterans

What can I do if I was exposed to asbestos while serving in the Navy?

If you were exposed to asbestos while you served, keep a close watch on your health.

See a doctor if you develop possible symptoms of mesothelioma, such as shortness of breath, a dry cough, or chest pain. Cases of mesothelioma are more treatable if they’re diagnosed before the cancer spreads.

If you were diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, see what benefits are available to you. You may qualify for VA benefits and legal compensation.

Do some U.S. Navy ships still use asbestos?

Yes. A small number of U.S. Navy ships still have asbestos-based products on board.

These include the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, the USS Mount Whitney, the USS Nimitz, and others. The asbestos on these ships is contained and is not dangerous.

Cases of mesothelioma in Navy personnel usually stem from those handled asbestos-based products directly.

How can I apply for mesothelioma Navy VA benefits?

You can apply for Navy mesothelioma benefits by working with our team. We have representatives who can help you gather the information needed to pursue VA benefits for mesothelioma.

We can also connect you to legal help if you want to pursue other benefits and financial payouts. Call (877) 450-8973 to learn more about accessing VA benefits and other options.

When did the U.S. Navy stop using asbestos?

Once the U.S. government and military realized asbestos could lead to deadly illnesses, they stopped using it and took steps to prevent further harm.

Manufacturers hid the dangers of asbestos from the military — in the name of profits — until the late 1970s when lawsuits began to surge.

Around this time, massive projects were started to remove dangerous asbestos from military assets. However, these efforts were insufficient to prevent mesothelioma in Navy service members who were already exposed.

Asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma can take 10-50 years to develop, meaning many cases of mesothelioma in Navy veterans are only now being diagnosed.

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