During the Vietnam War, the United States military used asbestos extensively. Toward the conclusion of the war, new regulations forced corporations involved in the war effort to decrease their asbestos use greatly. By this time, however, it was too late for many military members who had been exposed to the deadly substance. Many Vietnam War vets had heavy exposure to asbestos during their service and suffered serious health consequences later, including mesothelioma.
The greatest use of asbestos by the American military was from the 1930s through the 1970s. This means that Vietnam veterans are at higher risk of developing serious health problems caused by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos was a constant presence in the Vietnam War at home and abroad in bunkers, on ships and planes, electrical wiring in mess halls and many other buildings. If you served in the Vietnam War and were diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may be able to qualify for compensation and care through the Veterans Administration.
Vietnam War Veterans and Asbestos-Related Disease Risks
Statistics show Vietnam veterans are at higher risk of developing various asbestos-related diseases compared to the US population. The NIH reports that many countries in Asia imported and used asbestos in great quantities, especially during the Vietnam War. Even today, many decades after the substance was found so dangerous to human health, chrysotile asbestos is still used heavily in Vietnam. The American military also was a heavy user of asbestos during this timeframe in vehicles, ships, protective gear, and barracks.
Navy Veterans Run Highest Risk of Illness
Of all US military branches, the Vietnam veterans who served in the US Navy have the greatest risk of developing illnesses related to asbestos exposure. Ships were commonly packed with materials that contain asbestos (called ACMs) during the entire period of the war. (atsdr.cdc.gov)
Starting in the 1930s, the Navy began to add ACMs to many of its ships because of its ability to contain a fire, as well as for affordability and ease of use. The Surgeon General of the US Navy warned at that time that asbestos was dangerous to human health. But the Navy continued to use this very dangerous mineral for decades, throughout the Vietnam War era. In fact, almost every military ship during the war was both built and repaired with materials containing asbestos – from tiling on the ships’ floor to wiring to piping systems and much more.
While using asbestos in the time period was not new, it peaked during the Vietnam War period. Veterans who served in any military branch during this period are at higher risk of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Veterans of the war who worked in the following occupations carry the highest risk:
- Roofers and carpenters
- Shipyard workers
- Ship repairers
- Demolition workers
- Insulation installers
- Cement sheeters
Also, much military transportation during the war was both built and maintained with all kinds of asbestos products. This included not just ships, but also vehicles, aircraft, and tanks. Asbestos also was used often in brake parts, gaskets, wiring, thermal insulation and clutches. Therefore, many vehicle mechanics in the military were exposed heavily to asbestos.
Asbestos Exposure After the Vietnam War
Many Vietnam war veterans kept working in the same field in which they were trained during their service once they entered the civilian workforce. For example, construction work continued for many Vietnam veterans after they left the military. But the construction industry and many others also relied heavily on asbestos-containing materials. Vietnam veterans who kept working in fields related to asbestos product may have been further exposed after their service.
Vietnam Veteran Compensation for Mesothelioma
Veterans who were exposed to asbestos who developed serious health problems, such as mesothelioma, are urged to get compensation from the VA. Mesothelioma is just one of the diseases associated with asbestos in the US military that is considered a disability related to service. Some of the other diseases that are approved by the VA for disability pay are:
- Asbestos-related lung cancer
- Pleural effusions and plaques
- Throat cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Colorectal cancer
If you want to qualify for disability benefits related to an asbestos-related disease, you need to have an honorable discharge from your branch of the service. There must also be strong evidence that the illness is related to your exposure to asbestos that happened during your service. The two major types of support offered to injured military veterans are:
- Disability pay: This is paid out one time each month. The amount that you get every month will depend on how severe your injury is and the rating the military gives you. For instance, a disabled rating of 100% will pay out more every month than someone who is just 20% disabled. At this time, mesothelioma is a 100% disability rating.
- Free medical care also can be made available to veterans who have disabilities. Although most veterans who have been injured and have a disability related to their service will qualify, it is always a good idea to read the current eligibility requirements.
If you are a Vietnam veteran and have not yet been diagnosed with mesothelioma or any other illness related to asbestos, there is a possibility that your group of veterans may not have been affected. But, remember to get annual medical checkups if you think you ever worked around asbestos. Asbestos-related diseases can have a latency period of as much as 50 years. So, many Vietnam veterans are only now being diagnosed with illnesses related to asbestos.
Vietnam Veterans and Mesothelioma Trust Funds
Vietnam veterans cannot sue the US government for illnesses and injuries, but the corporations that sold the asbestos-containing materials to the US military may be held liable in a personal injury lawsuit. Some of the companies have established mesothelioma trust funds, which also are known as asbestos trust funds.
Mesothelioma trust funds have been established by companies that made materials containing asbestos but have since filed for bankruptcy. One of the requirements to file bankruptcy is to put aside funds to handle lawsuits that are filed against the companies by Vietnam veterans and anyone else who became sick from the companies’ asbestos-containing products.
If you believe you were exposed to asbestos during your military service during the Vietnam War, you may have a right to be compensated in a civil lawsuit. It is recommended to check with a skilled mesothelioma attorney as soon as possible. You have just a limited time to file your suit after you are diagnosed, so act fast.
Get Mesothelioma Legal Help
With over $30 billion available for victims through the Asbestos Trust Funds, you could be entitled to financial compensations without ever filing a lawsuit? Mesothelioma & Lung Cancer victims qualify immediately. Complete the form or call us toll free (800) 352-0871
- Asbestos Toxicity: Who Is At Risk of Exposure to Asbestos? (2015). Retrieved from https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/csem/csem.asp?csem=29&po=7