U.S. Navy Veterans: Asbestos Exposure & Mesothelioma

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In the 1930s, a “miracle” mineral became widely available and used across the United States military. This fibrous and dangerous mineral called asbestos was very popular for use in buildings, ships, aircraft, and other military vehicles. At the time, the dangers of asbestos were unknown to the military. Most manufacturers and distributors of asbestos products kept the truth about asbestos hidden for decades. By the 1970s, when word of the dangers of asbestos came out, it was too late for many veterans.

Many of the veterans who served in the military from the 1930s through the 1980s developed mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses. The greatest branch of the military to suffer was the Navy.

While the United States Navy cannot be sued for their part in exposing veterans to asbestos, the manufacturers that sold them the products can be held responsible. Thankfully, the VA provides health benefits to Navy veterans who have developed mesothelioma as a result of their time in the service. However, that coverage is small in comparison to the compensation that could be obtained through a mesothelioma claim against manufacturers.

Asbestos Exposure in the Navy

Hundreds of products containing asbestos were used in Navy vessels and buildings. If these products were disturbed in any way during installation, repairs, or removal, they released tiny asbestos fibers. These fibers could easily lodge themselves within the lungs of Navy sailors or shipbuilders, later causing asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma. However, Navy veterans wouldn’t necessarily know right away that they had been affected. Mesothelioma can be dormant for 10-50 years, meaning veterans may not show symptoms until decades after their exposure.

Asbestos products that were used in the Navy included:

  • Bedding compounds
  • Insulation
  • Flooring, ceiling, and roofing tiles
  • Paneling
  • Caulking
  • Tubing
  • Piping
  • Valves
  • Gaskets
  • Cables
  • Adhesives
  • Electrical wiring
  • Thermal materials

As you can imagine, this meant that the majority of ships and Naval vessels were constructed with asbestos products. These products were in navigation rooms, engine rooms, boiler rooms, mess halls, and even in the Sailor’s rooms. They were used heavily throughout entire Naval vessels. (See our list of vessels known to have asbestos below.)

Many of these Naval vessels had poor ventilation, which added to the Navy veteran’s risk level. The air and the asbestos fibers would become trapped in certain rooms and could linger in the air for hours. This provided a greater opportunity for asbestos fibers to enter the lungs of these veterans.

Navy Veterans With the Highest Risk of Mesothelioma

According to the VA, certain Navy jobs had higher risk levels than others of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. These jobs included:

  • Shipyard Workers: These workers built, renovated, and demolished ships on behalf of the United States Navy. Some of them served in the Navy, while others were simply contractors. They were regularly exposed to asbestos fibers and had a high level of risk.
  • Boiler Technicians: These technicians were responsible for the steam boilers that helped propel the Navy ships. They had one of the highest levels of asbestos risk, as the boilers were usually made with all or mostly asbestos products. The gloves they used while tending the boilers were also laced with asbestos.
  • Machinist’s Mates and Enginemen: These veterans serviced much of the equipment that powered the Navy ships. They worked in the engine rooms for long periods. These engine rooms contained many asbestos products, including valves, pumps, heating and cooling systems, turbines, piping, and more.
  • Hull Maintenance Technicians: These technicians were responsible for the installation and repair of plumbing systems on Navy ships. They were constantly working with asbestos pipes and insulation, putting them at high risk for asbestos-related diseases.
  • Pipefitters: These veterans were responsible for the installation and repair of pipes in Navy vessels. Their work could send many asbestos fibers into the air, putting them at high risk for asbestos-related diseases.

When word of the dangers of asbestos spread to the United States military, they began investing in massive asbestos abatement efforts. While they successfully removed most of the asbestos by the late 1990s, some asbestos remains in many Naval ships, buildings, and barracks.

Mesothelioma Compensation for Navy Veterans

The benefits available to Navy veterans with a mesothelioma diagnosis pale in comparison to a life lived without it, but they are available. These benefits include:

  • VA claims: Veterans with service-related mesothelioma are granted 100% disability with the maximum monthly disability compensation amount.
  • Healthcare: Veterans can receive treatment from VA treatment centers around the country.
  • Survivor benefits: Surviving spouses of veterans who die from mesothelioma are usually eligible for dependency and indemnity compensation.

There are also other legal avenues by which Navy veterans can seek compensation for their mesothelioma diagnosis. It’s recommended to have an experienced asbestos lawyer for these, as they will be able to help you negotiate for the highest level of compensation. These legal avenues include:

  • Trust Fund Claims: Veterans can file claims with asbestos trust funds that compensate families facing mesothelioma that was caused by certain manufacturers.
  • Personal Injury Claims: Veterans can file personal injury lawsuits against the manufacturers and companies that contributed to their asbestos exposure.

Veterans Affairs (VA) also provides benefits and compensation for any Navy veterans exposed to asbestos during their military service and who became ill as a result. This can include:

  • Healthcare coverage
  • Disability compensation
  • Dependency and indemnity compensation
  • Special and monthly disability

These benefits can usually be obtained after providing the following to the VA:

  • Medical records that show your illness or disability
  • Service records that show your military job or specialty
  • A doctor’s statement that says there is a connection between your military service and your diagnosis

The only reason that veterans may not receive compensation for these things is if they were dishonorably discharged.

Asbestos diseases that are recognized and typically covered by the VA include:

  • Mesothelioma
  • Asbestosis
  • Lung cancer
  • Pleural effusion
  • Pleural plaques

At Serling & Abramson, P.C., we’ve successfully represented many Navy veterans in the state of Michigan. Since 1970, our team has worked hard to get Navy veterans and their families the compensation they deserve for what they’ve endured. If you or a loved one has a mesothelioma diagnosis and you need an experienced law firm to represent you legally, we’ve got you covered.

Learn More about Asbestos in the Military Am I At Risk?

How to File a Mesothelioma or Asbestos Claim with Veterans Affairs

Filing mesothelioma or other asbestos-related claims with Veterans Affairs isn’t as simple as filling out some paperwork. How everything is compiled and written matters a great deal. You could experience some disappointing results if you don’t have an experienced asbestos lawyer to help you get everything organized properly. Our lawyers can help you with this process and walk alongside you until you get results.

Why File in the First Place?

Mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses are expensive. Between doctor’s appointments, treatments, and long-term care, there’s a lot of money involved in these cases. Getting compensation ensures that finances aren’t an added burden. These can typically be resolved within eight months to a year.

Compensation is determined by a veteran’s disability level and is interpreted on a percentage scale. Mesothelioma and other cancers are automatically granted a 100% disability rating. This disability compensation is then paid monthly. In December 2019, Veterans Affairs increased compensation, and the disability benefit for mesothelioma sufferers now starts at around $3,100 a month. This increases depending on the number of dependents. This disability compensation isn’t affected by a veteran’s age or household income, and it’s paid tax-free.

If a veteran is approved for disability, they are also usually granted access to free cancer treatment through the VA healthcare system.

How Filing with the VA Helps You File a Claim Against Asbestos Manufacturers

According to the Feres Doctrine and the Federal Tort Claims Act, the United States military is protected from mesothelioma and asbestos lawsuits. While you can’t sue the United States Navy for their role in your exposure to asbestos and diagnosis, you can sue the companies liable for supplying the military with asbestos.

Many veterans have been compensated with thousands to millions of dollars by filing and winning lawsuits against the companies responsible for their asbestos-related illness. Having a knowledgeable and experienced asbestos lawyer provides you with the best chance to receive the same level of compensation for what you’ve endured. You have every right to seek this compensation, and we can help.

If a loved one passed away from mesothelioma or another asbestos-related illness, we can help you file a wrongful death claim, in which you could potentially receive compensation for:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Remaining healthcare expenses
  • Lost wages
  • The value of the lost support your loved one provided
  • Inheritances lost by children
  • Loss of care felt by children
  • Pain and suffering that you’ve experienced

While we understand this doesn’t bring back your loved one, it can help relieve the financial burdens associated with their passing.

How We Can Help

At Serling & Abramson, P.C., we have spent the last 40+ years advocating and fighting for mesothelioma and asbestos illness patients and their families.

We have successfully recovered financial compensation for them that relieved the burden that they had felt previously. We pride ourselves on being the first and finest in Michigan for mesothelioma and asbestos litigation. We know the asbestos products that were used throughout Michigan and where the exposures occurred.

List of Military Ships Built With Asbestos Products

Thousands of ships, both commercial and military, were constructed with asbestos products. Commercial ships with asbestos have been harder to track, but it’s been easier to identify ships in the military that typically had been built with asbestos products. Let’s take a look at the types of ships that were built with asbestos products and known military craft that had asbestos.

Aircraft Carriers

Used to transport aircraft during wartime, aircraft carriers needed fireproof structures and were perfect candidates for asbestos product use. Aircraft carriers containing asbestos served in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Cold War. Military personnel who served on these ships were at high risk of exposure to asbestos and accounted for 30% of mesothelioma diagnoses. The risk of exposure continues, as many of these ships are retired and repaired for historical purposes.

Here’s a list of ships with known or possible asbestos use and their status in the fleet:


  • USS Abraham Lincoln
  • USS Carl Vinson
  • USS Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • USS Enterprise (CVN-65)
  • USS George HW Bush
  • USS George Washington
  • USS Harry S Truman
  • USS John C. Stennis
  • USS Nimitz
  • USS Ronald Reagan
  • USS Theodore Roosevelt


  • USS America
  • USS Constellation
  • USS Forrestal
  • USS Independence (CVL-22)
  • USS Independence (CV-62)
  • USS Oriskany


  • USS John F. Kennedy
  • USS Kitty Hawk
  • USS Saratoga (CV-60)


  • USS Antietam
  • USS Bataan
  • USS Belleau Wood
  • USS Bennington
  • USS Bon Homme Richard
  • USS Boxer
  • USS Bunker Hill
  • USS Cabot
  • USS Coral Sea
  • USS Cowpens
  • USS Enterprise (CV-6)
  • USS Essex
  • USS Franklin
  • USS Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • USS Hancock
  • USS Kearsarge
  • USS Lake Champlain
  • USS Langley
  • USS Leyte
  • USS Monterey
  • USS Philippine Sea
  • USS Princeton (CV-37)
  • USS Randolph
  • USS Ranger (CV-4)
  • USS Saipan
  • USS San Jacinto
  • USS Shangri-la
  • USS Tarawa
  • USS Ticonderoga
  • USS Valley Forge
  • USS Wasp (CV-18)
  • USS Wright

Keel Laid

  • USS Gerald R. Ford


  • USS Hornet (CV-8)
  • USS Langley
  • USS Lexington (CV-2)
  • USS Princeton (CVL-23)
  • USS Saratoga (CV-3)
  • USS Wasp (CV-7)
  • USS Yorktown (CV-5)


  • USS Hornet (CV-12)
  • USS Intrepid
  • USS Lexington (CV-16)
  • USS Midway
  • USS Yorktown (CV-10)

On Donation Hold

  • USS Ranger (CV-61)


  • USS Iwo Jima
  • USS Reprisal

Amphibious Warships

Designed to land ground force cargo and support United States Marines when they’re on land, amphibious warships were and are essential to combat and were insulated with asbestos. They were primarily commissioned in the 1940s to support World War II efforts.

There have been hundreds of amphibious warships that had asbestos products. Asbestos was used on piping throughout the ships and the sailors on these warships were in close quarters with poor ventilation. It’s safe to assume that you should see a doctor to monitor you for symptoms of asbestos-related illnesses if you were ever on an amphibious warship.


Battleships were also built with asbestos due to their need to be able to protect against extreme heat and fire. Battleships carried thousands of passengers at a time, putting them all at risk of exposure to asbestos (most unknowingly).

Here is a list of battleships (and their current status) that had known asbestos or were suspected of having asbestos products onboard:

  • USS Alabama (Museum)
  • USS Massachusetts (Museum)
  • USS Missouri (Museum)
  • USS North Carolina (Museum)
  • USS Texas (Museum)
  • USS Wisconsin (Museum)
  • USS Arizona (Sunk)
  • USS Arkansas (Sunk)
  • USS Idaho (BB-24) (Sunk)
  • USS Nevada (Sunk)
  • USS New York (Sunk)
  • USS Oklahoma (Sunk)
  • USS Pennsylvania (Sunk)
  • USS Utah (Sunk)
  • USS California (Scrapped)
  • USS Colorado (Scrapped)
  • USS Delaware (Scrapped)
  • USS Florida (Scrapped)
  • USS Idaho (BB-42) (Scrapped)
  • USS Indiana (Scrapped)
  • USS Kansas (Scrapped)
  • USS Maryland (Scrapped)
  • USS Michigan (Scrapped)
  • USS Minnesota (Scrapped)
  • USS Mississippi (BB-41) (Scrapped)
  • USS New Hampshire (Scrapped)
  • USS New Mexico (Scrapped)
  • USS North Dakota (Scrapped)
  • USS South Carolina (Scrapped)
  • USS South Dakota (Scrapped)
  • USS Tennessee (Scrapped)
  • USS Vermont (Scrapped)
  • USS Washington (Scrapped)
  • USS West Virginia (Scrapped)
  • USS Wyoming (Scrapped)
  • USS Iowa (Unknown)
  • USS New Jersey (Unknown)
  • USS Mississippi (BB-23) (Sold to Greece)


Over 140 United States Navy cruisers that were constructed and repaired contain asbestos products. Any shipbuilders, crews, or military personnel aboard these is assumed to be at risk of asbestos exposure. They were used in wartime, with appearances in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Cold War. Asbestos was primarily used for insulation and piping on cruisers.


Hundreds of Navy destroyers that were constructed and repaired contain asbestos products. There were over 300 destroyers used in World War II alone, meaning thousands of people were exposed to asbestos. These destroyers were instrumental in offensive and defensive strategies, making them a popular choice in wartime. They were used in World War I and World War II and typically had asbestos in the insulation and piping.


Over 300 minesweepers were responsible for clearing open areas of mines so that larger warships could safely pass through during wartime. These had some of the greatest amounts of asbestos on board, given their job, and were primarily used in World War II. It can be assumed that any shipbuilders, crewmembers, repairmen, and military personnel aboard these minesweepers were exposed to asbestos.


Submarines were also some of the most asbestos-ridden ships in the military fleets, and they had incredibly poor ventilation. Any person who built or spent any amount of time on submarines can be assumed to have been exposed to asbestos.