Navy Veterans & Mesothelioma

Asbestos was used extensively in the construction of Navy ships up until the late 1970s. Today, we know that mesothelioma in Navy veterans is directly linked to their asbestos exposure while serving.

If you or a loved one were exposed to asbestos while serving in the Navy and have suffered health consequences, you may be entitled to compensation.

Asbestos Exposure in the Navy

For those who served in the Navy, mesothelioma could have been caused by exposure to any number of asbestos products, including adhesives, thermal insulation, pipe insulation, valves, cables, deck matting, packing materials, paint, pumps and even thermal blankets that were used to put out fires. Those who worked on Navy ships, in shipyards and in certain jobs are more at risk.

Asbestos on Navy Ships

The environment aboard Navy ships often puts sailors at risk for asbestos exposure. Once asbestos fibers are disturbed and released into the air, they can remain for days. Sailors both work and live in confined spaces at sea which puts them at risk of breathing in the dangerous fibers on every type of ship, including:

  • Aircraft carriers, which are some of the largest ships in a fleet
  • Amphibious assault ships, like the USS Constellation
  • Battleships like the USS Missouri and USS New Jersey
  • Cruisers, another type of large ship that includes the USS Worden
  • Destroyers like the USS Benner USS Chevalier, plus destroyer escorts and frigates
  • Escort carriers, which were common during World War II
  • Minesweepers, which needed to be very durable
  • Submarines like the USS Seawolf and USS Triton

Asbestos in Navy Shipyards

Mesothelioma in Navy shipyard workers is also widespread. Although these workers weren’t exposed to asbestos as constantly as sailors at sea were, they worked regularly with the same asbestos-containing materials.

At Early, Lucarelli, Sweeney and Meisenkothen, we’ve represented Navy veterans who worked in naval shipyards from California to Maryland. Some of the naval shipyards that have been connected to asbestos exposure include:

  • Boston Naval Shipyard – Boston, Massachusetts
  • Great Lakes Naval Station – Chicago, Illinois
  • Mare Island Naval Shipyard – Vallejo, California
  • Norfolk Naval Shipyard – Norfolk, Virginia
  • Portsmouth Naval Shipyard – New Hampshire

Due to the high usage of asbestos in the Navy, veterans could have been exposed at many other sites across the country.

At-Risk Occupations in the Navy

Among Navy veterans, mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases are more common in those who worked in certain areas of the ship. One study of merchant marines, who experienced similar conditions as Navy sailors, found the most chest abnormalities in those who worked in the engine department. Other high-risk occupations include:

  • Armament workers
  • Boiler repairmen
  • Electricians
  • Engine workers
  • Gun turret operators
  • Hull maintenance workers
  • Insulators, also known as laggers
  • Machinists
  • Mechanics
  • Medical staff
  • Merchant marines
  • Metalsmiths and welders
  • Pipefitters
  • Plumbers
  • Pump operators
  • Sheet metal workers
  • Shipwrights
  • Steamfitters

Family Members Exposed to Asbestos

Unfortunately, mesothelioma in the Navy isn’t limited to veterans. Before protections like changing clothes and showering were put in place, shipyard workers and service members often brought asbestos fibers into their homes on their clothing, shoes and tools. Naval base housing also contained asbestos materials. As a result, immediate family members of Navy veterans are also at risk of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases through secondary exposure.

Prevalence of Mesothelioma in Navy Veterans

Today, the scientific community agrees that asbestos exposure causes mesothelioma, as well as other diseases, like lung cancer and asbestosis. While the exact number of mesothelioma cases is difficult to track by occupation in the United States, studies have confirmed that sailors and shipyard workers are at increased risk of asbestos-related diseases.

One study found that merchant marines were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with respiratory cancer compared to non-seamen. Another found asbestos-related changes in the lungs of over 50% of shipyard workers.

Treatment Options for Navy Veterans

Mesothelioma treatment options have come a long way in recent years. Veterans are entitled to treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which offers medical care at several of its facilities:

  • Boston: The Boston VA is a teaching hospital for Harvard University and works with the International Mesothelioma Program at nearby Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
  • Houston: The 118-acre Michael E. DeBakey Medical Center has an outstanding cancer center and has received awards for nursing excellence.
  • Los Angeles: Directed by mesothelioma pioneer Dr. Robert Cameron, the Los Angeles VA offers cutting-edge treatment options.

Mesothelioma Compensation for Navy Veterans

A mesothelioma diagnosis has life-altering effects for Navy veterans, including financial costs. There are several ways Navy veterans with mesothelioma can receive compensation.

1. Filing a VA Claim

The VA recognizes lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma as possible service-related conditions. For mesothelioma, Navy veterans need to file for VA benefits as they would any other disability. You’ll need an official mesothelioma diagnosis and proof of asbestos exposure during service. This can be a complicated process, but an experienced attorney can help, and once approved, veterans are eligible for the maximum amount of disability compensation. Surviving spouses may also be eligible for VA benefits.

2. Navigating Asbestos Trust Funds

Asbestos trust funds were set up by businesses that declared bankruptcy due to asbestos-related expenses. There are more than 65 trust funds with billions of dollars that can be used to compensate victims. An experienced lawyer can evaluate the specifics of your case to determine if you are eligible to receive compensation from one or more of these trust funds.

3. Filing a Lawsuit

Veterans and their families who file mesothelioma lawsuits aren’t suing the government—they’re suing the private companies who supplied asbestos products to the Navy. There may be multiple companies responsible for one person’s asbestos exposure, and it can be difficult to prove, so specialized knowledge and research is important. Most lawsuits end in a settlement, which is an amount of money your lawyer will negotiate with the defendants’ insurers. The average mesothelioma compensation can range from $1 million to $1.4 million.

Legal Support for Navy Veterans

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma after serving in the Navy, you deserve compensation. Our veterans served our country with courage and conviction, and we believe they deserve a law firm that will fight just as hard for them when it’s time to file a mesothelioma claim.

At ELSM Law, we have decades of experience with asbestos lawsuits, and we’ve worked with veterans from all walks of life. Contact us today and one of our advocates will get back to you as soon as possible.


How were Navy veterans exposed to asbestos while serving?

Navy veterans were exposed to asbestos while serving on ships and working in shipyards up until the late 1970s. Asbestos products were used to insulate pipes, cover ceilings, floors and decks, protect components from heat and fire, coat wires and paint a variety of items. Those who did repairs or worked in engine rooms and boiler rooms had the highest risk.

What are the treatment options for Navy veterans with mesothelioma?

Many Navy veterans are entitled to free medical care from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which runs several excellent mesothelioma treatment centers. Treatment for mesothelioma often consists of chemotherapy, radiation and/or surgery.

Can Navy veterans with mesothelioma qualify for compensation?

Yes—for those who served in the Navy, mesothelioma compensation is available from the VA, asbestos trust funds and through filing lawsuits. VA benefits are usually monthly payments, while trust funds and lawsuits result in one-time payouts. Asbestos trust funds are often a faster way to get compensation than through the VA or lawsuits.

Are there specialized lawyers for Navy veterans with mesothelioma?

Yes, some law firms specialize in cases of mesothelioma in Navy veterans and other military branches. They can help you through not only the legal process, but the process of applying for VA benefits. ELSM Law has proudly worked with veterans for decades.

Request a Free Case Evaluation

Request a free case evaluation now if you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma. The evaluation will cost you nothing. Our lawyers will travel to visit you at your convenience or conference call with you over the phone. We understand how difficult a time this is for you and will assist in any way that we can. You can also call us toll-free at 1-800-336-0086 at any time.