United States Army Veterans And Mesothelioma Risks

Quick Summary

America has over 23 million military veterans. Many of these are army vets who served duty at home and abroad. Some were combat injured with permanent disabilities. Other veterans developed disabling diseases like mesothelioma after being exposed to military workplace carcinogens

The largest silent hazard ever faced by army veterans was asbestos. Now, many veterans are experiencing asbestos-related diseases decades after they were honorably discharged from active service.

About the US Army

U.S. Army history dates back to the War of Independence. Many internal and external conflicts involved the army which included the Civil War, both World War I and World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The American army is mostly a ground force supported by other military departments.

Today, the U.S. Army has 1.02 million service personnel, 476,000 are active service soldiers, 343,000 National Guard compliments, and 199,000 reservists. Civilian workers and dedicated contractors add another 330,000 people under the army’s command.

The United States Army is the largest branch of the American military. The Army falls under the Defense Department with U.S. President being its Commander-in-Chief. From there, power delegates to the Secretary of Defense who commissions hundreds of Generals, Colonels and other officers to organize the army and execute missions vital to United States security.

U.S Army veterans are proud their army is the strongest and most capable armed force the world has ever seen.

Asbestos Exposure in the United States Army

No branch of the American armed forces was exempt from using asbestos-containing materials (ACM). The U.S. Army was no exception. However, the army wasn’t a proficient consumer of ACM compared to the Navy and Air Force. Even though the army had a larger compliment than other departments, the case ratio of army veterans developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases was significantly less.

That’s not because the U.S. Army didn’t expose its personnel to ACM. It’s partly due to most soldiers working environment being in the open where they breathed well-ventilated air. However, that wasn’t the case for many army service people whose role was to install, maintain and demolish ACM in army buildings and vehicles.

Asbestos Exposure Update

The army utilized tons of asbestos products during the peak asbestos-consuming period from the 1930s until the 1980s. Army specifications called for asbestos products wherever fireproofing and heat control was required. Army building construction and vehicle maintenance found asbestos products strong, lightweight, non-rusting, electrically non-conductive and chemically stable when used as products additives. As well, asbestos raw materials were cheap and easily sourced.

It was no secret asbestos exposure was dangerous to veterans’ health. There were plenty of health warnings during World War II that unprotected asbestos exposure would lead to long latency periods before mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis and pleural disorders would surface. But that news was ignored, minimalized and even covered-up up from service personnel who spent their careers around high-risk asbestos exposure occupations and products.

Army High-Risk Asbestos Exposure Occupations and Products

Army service personnel experienced asbestos exposure from occupations where ACM products discharged loose asbestos fibers into the air. There were two main categories of asbestos exposure risks. One was those directly exposed to airborne asbestos by handling, cutting, sanding and installing ACM. That included maintenance workers who breathed in asbestos dust every time they serviced brakes and clutches on army vehicles or re-wrapped asbestos-covered pipes in basement boilers.

The other exposure type was incidental. That fell on unfortunate and unsuspecting army personnel who experienced secondary asbestos exposure from being in the environmental vicinity where primary-risk workers cross-contaminated them. Exposure traveled from workplaces to family residences through vehicles, tools, and clothing polluted with asbestos fibers.

Almost every U.S. Army occupation had some asbestos exposure risk degree. That was until a serious effort happened in the 1980s to stop asbestos products and abate army assets from this carcinogenic substance. Most asbestos products in army vehicles and structures are now gone. Remaining ACM is encapsulated to prevent fiber discharge.

However, that did little good for countless veterans once employed in these high-risk army occupations:

  • Tank and armored vehicle personnel
  • Electricians, plumbers, and pipefitters
  • Boilermakers and furnace tenders
  • Carpenters and construction workers
  • Heavy and light equipment mechanics
  • Insulators, drywallers, and painters
  • Renovation and demolition specialists
  • Weapons technicians
  • Welders and metal workers
  • Machinists and millwrights
  • Firefighters

ACM products were found across every army base and inside every army vehicle. Army vets couldn’t escape asbestos exposure even when working with other military units. Soldiers were transported in Navy ships stuffed fill of asbestos as well as Air Force planes using asbestos to lighten the weight and strengthen frames.

These were the common ACM products army veterans experienced:

  • Concrete powder in foundations and mortar
  • Roofing shingles and siding products
  • Floor and ceiling tiles
  • Drywall, insulation, paint, and adhesives
  • Vehicle brakes and clutches and hoses
  • Gaskets, valves, and hoses
  • Fireproofing inside combat vehicles
  • Boiler liners and duct wraps
  • Pipe coatings

Support for Army Veterans Exposed to Asbestos

Army veterans who developed mesothelioma and illnesses caused by service-related asbestos exposure deserve all the support they can get.

It’s long established that military veterans make up the largest single segment of America’s population with asbestos-related disabilities. That’s no coincidence. Many veterans are now seriously ill because of health hazards previously present at their army workplaces.

These disabled veterans are entitled to illness compensation no fault of their own. Veterans can be supported for all medical costs, wages lost and the pain they suffered after years of honorable service. Disabled veterans with mesothelioma have a number of support options available to them. A word of caution, though. This can be a challenging legal country unless represented by a law firm specializing in mesothelioma litigation and asbestos case law.

These are army veteran’s compensation and support options:

Seeking Treatment for Mesothelioma

Veterans who developed mesothelioma through active-service asbestos exposure may be eligible for disability benefits. Additionally, veterans with a mesothelioma diagnosis can undergo treatments at 2 VA hospitals with mesothelioma programs. The Boston VA and the West Los Angeles VA both have mesothelioma treatment programs run by 2 of the top mesothelioma specialists in the country.

Mesothelioma Help Now assists army veterans and their families to understand this disease and cope with the road ahead. Through education and support, we learn together and make sure you’re prepared to face the future. Call our compassionate Mesothelioma Help Now service assistants at (800) 584-4151. We can also help you with an online chat about mesothelioma.

View Author and Sources

  1. US Army Official Website, General Information, Retrieved from https://www.army.mil/ Accessed on 06 January 2018
  2. The United States Army, “Mission and Organization”, Retrieved from https://www.army.mil/info/organization/ Accessed on 06 January 2018
  3. The United States Army, “Asbestos Can Only Pose Danger When Airborne”, Retrieved from https://www.army.mil/article/137053/Asbestos_can_only_pose_danger_when_airborne/ Accessed on 06 January 2018
  4. Department of Veterans Affairs, War Related Illness and Injury Study Center, “Asbestos Fact Sheet”, Retrieved from https://www.warrelatedillness.va.gov/WARRELATEDILLNESS/education/factsheets/asbestos-exposure.pdf Accessed on 06 January 2018
  5. Department of Veterans Affairs, “Compensation – Asbestos”, Retrieved from https://www.benefits.va.gov/COMPENSATION/claims-postservice-exposures-asbestos.asp Accessed on 06 January 2018
  6. Department of Veterans Affairs, “I am a Veteran” Retrieved from https://va.gov/opa/persona/index.asp Accessed on 06 January 2018
  7. Department of Veterans Affairs, “Exposure to Hazardous Materials – Asbestos” Retrieved from https://www.vets.gov/disability-benefits/conditions/exposure-to-hazardous-materials/asbestos/ Accessed on 06 January 2018
  8. VA/Vets.gov website, Veterans Disability and Healthcare Benefits”, Retrieved from https://www.vets.gov/ Accessed on 06 January 2018
  9. Military.com, “Asbestos Illness Related to Military Service” Retrieved from https://www.military.com/benefits/veteran-benefits/asbestos-and-the-military-history-exposure-assistance.html Accessed on 06 January 2018
  10. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, “Asbestos Fact Sheet” Retrieved from https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tfacts61.pdf Accessed on 06 January 2018

Last modified: May 7, 2018