Lung Cancer and Veterans

Each year, thousands of U.S. veterans develop lung cancer as a result of smoking and exposure to carcinogens like asbestos. Asbestos may cause lung cancer in veterans 10-50 years after a veteran’s initial exposure while on active duty. Veterans with lung cancer may be eligible for military benefits and other forms of compensation.

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Do Veterans Have a Higher Risk of Lung Cancer?

Yes. U.S. veterans have a 25% to 76% higher risk of lung cancer, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It is also the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among U.S. veterans.

Veteran sits outside home in front of American flagMany veterans are at a high risk of lung cancer if they were exposed to asbestos, a fiber-like substance that causes cancer.

Asbestos products were used by all military branches between the 1930s and early 1980s before the health risks were known to the public.

Military veterans with service-connected lung cancer can pursue VA benefits and legal compensation (which can be accessed without involving the military) to help cover medical costs and other expenses.

Get a free case review now to see how we can help you or a U.S. veteran you love get VA benefits and compensation for lung cancer.

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U.S. Veterans at Risk for Other Types of Cancers

In addition to lung cancer, U.S. veterans who were exposed to asbestos are at risk of many other types of cancers, most notably mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma forms in the linings of the lungs, abdomen, heart, or testicles 10-50 years after asbestos exposure, which is the only known cause. Since asbestos was widely used by the military for decades, roughly 1 in 3 mesothelioma patients is a U.S. veteran.

U.S. veterans can also develop other asbestos-caused cancers like:
  • Bladder cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Prostate cancer

Call (877) 446-5767 to find out your eligibility for benefits and compensation. We’re here to help veterans with asbestos illnesses like lung cancer or mesothelioma get the justice they deserve.

Military Branches and Occupations Most at Risk of Lung Cancer

Every branch of the U.S. military used asbestos between the 1930s and early 1980s. Some veterans may be at a higher risk of asbestos-related lung cancer depending on which military branch they served in and what job they held.

Learn how each branch used asbestos below.

U.S. Navy

Veterans who served in the U.S. Navy are most at risk of asbestos exposure. The Navy used more asbestos-containing materials than any other military branch.

Did You Know?

Between the 1930s and early 1980s, government mandates required all Navy ships to be built with asbestos due to the material’s fireproofing abilities.

Service members could breathe in or swallow asbestos fibers disturbed while working on U.S. Navy ships. Those at the highest risk included boiler tenders, engine room workers, insulation workers, and pipefitters.

U.S. Navy shipyard workers were also at a high risk since they installed, repaired, and removed asbestos-containing parts every day. Nearly 100 shipyards across 11 U.S. states put service members at risk of asbestos lung cancer and other serious illnesses.

U.S. Air Force

The U.S. Air Force used asbestos on planes, buildings, and vehicles to help with fireproofing and durability. Air Force pilots, mechanics, and welders were among those at a very high risk of exposure and lung cancer later in life.

U.S. Army

The U.S. Army used asbestos in cement, insulation, and other construction materials used to make bases and vehicle parts like brakes.

Dozens of U.S. Army bases across the country were built with asbestos products before the risks were known. In some cases, older buildings on these bases could still have asbestos today.

U.S. Coast Guard

Like the Navy, the U.S. Coast Guard used asbestos-containing materials to fireproof and reinforce hundreds of its ships.

U.S. veterans who worked in boiler rooms, engine rooms, and other areas on Coast Guard ships faced daily exposure to asbestos fibers.

U.S. Marine Corps

U.S. Marine Corps veterans who spent significant amounts of time in buildings, ships, or vehicles containing asbestos are at risk of lung cancer.

Notably, Marines stationed on Navy ships, shipyards, or bases may have been exposed to increased levels of asbestos.

Get a free case review for help pursuing compensation if you served in the U.S. military and now have lung cancer.

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What Causes Increased Lung Cancer Risk in Veterans?

Notable causes of lung cancer in military personnel include smoking and exposure to toxic chemicals like asbestos. Learn about the most common causes below.

Veterans Asbestos Exposure

Between the 1930s and the early 1980s, each military branch widely used asbestos-containing materials in its bases, vehicles, and ships.

The U.S. military relied on asbestos for:

  • Durability
  • Fireproofing
  • Insulation

U.S. military personnel didn’t know the risks of asbestos exposure. Manufacturers of asbestos-based products learned of the dangers in the 1930s but concealed the truth to keep making money.

By the time the risks of asbestos became public knowledge, millions of people had already been exposed — many of them U.S. veterans.


Smoking is the biggest cause of lung cancer among veterans and the general population. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that military personnel and veterans are more likely to smoke than non-veterans.

The prevalence of smoking is high among veterans who develop lung cancer. Approximately 85% of veterans diagnosed with lung cancer report that they are active or former smokers.

“I’d been a smoker, a long-term smoker. And I said, ‘I’m up for doing whatever it takes to fight this and beat it.”

— Buddy, U.S. veteran and 10+ year stage 4 lung cancer survivor

U.S. veterans who smoked and who were also exposed to asbestos are at an especially high risk of lung cancer. Asbestos exposure greatly worsens the damage that smoking causes to the lungs.

Exposure to Other Toxic Chemicals

In addition to asbestos, service members may have been exposed to a host of other harmful chemicals that can cause lung cancer.

These include:

  • Agent Orange: Vietnam War veterans may have been exposed to Agent Orange. Even the smallest of traces of the chemical could remain in the body for decades, causing lung cancer and other health issues.
  • Radon: Radon gas exposure is the second most common cause of lung cancer. Veterans who served during World War II or were part of nuclear weapon testing might be at an increased risk of developing lung cancer due to radon exposure.
  • Other hazards: U.S. veterans could have been exposed to many other cancer-causing toxins while serving. These include contaminated water sources on military bases like Camp Lejeune, burn pits used during the Gulf War, and mustard gas or lewisite.

U.S. veterans who were exposed to these toxins should make sure to promptly see a doctor if they start to feel unwell — even if the exposure happened decades ago.

VA Benefits for U.S. Veterans With Asbestos Lung Cancer

U.S. veterans who developed lung cancer or other diseases from on-duty asbestos exposure may qualify for a wide range of VA benefits.

Notable asbestos lung cancer VA benefits include:

Doctor talks with patient about to receive an MRI scan
Patient getting an MRI scan
  • Disability benefits: The VA often assigns a disability rating of 100% to veterans with active, service-connected cancer. Married veterans with lung cancer may receive nearly $4,000 per month in compensation as of 2024.
  • Family support: Family members who care for a veteran diagnosed with lung cancer may qualify for additional VA benefits, like compensation and respite care. If a veteran passes away, loved ones may receive survivor benefits including funeral reimbursement.
  • Lung cancer VA treatments: Veterans who have VA health care can get lung cancer treatments for free or at a reduced cost, depending on their disability rating. There are expert lung cancer doctors on staff at many VA facilities who work to improve the quality of life for veterans.
  • Lung cancer screening programs: Early detection is key to improving lung cancer survival time. The VA Lung Precision Oncology Program gives doctors the resources to screen for and treat lung cancer. Veterans with multiple risk factors for lung cancer are prioritized for screenings.

“If I hadn’t been doing the VA lung cancer screening, I’d probably still be smoking. It could have been too late.”

— Bernard, U.S. Army veteran with lung cancer

To learn which benefits you may have access to, contact our patient advocates at Lung Cancer Group.

Compensation for Veterans With Asbestos Lung Cancer

Outside of VA benefits, U.S. veterans can receive compensation for asbestos-related lung cancer by filing different types of claims or lawsuits.

Compensation options for veterans exposed to asbestos include:

  • Asbestos trust funds: These trusts allow veterans and civilians to get compensation for lung cancer without filing a lawsuit. As of 2024, over $30 billion is available in these trusts.
  • Lung cancer lawsuits: Veterans may qualify to file a lawsuit to hold manufacturers of asbestos-containing products financially accountable for their illness. The U.S. military and government aren’t sued.

Our legal partners recently secured $1.57 million for a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and boilermaker from Nevada. We may be able to help you or a U.S. veteran you love, too.

Get a free case review now to learn if you qualify for lung cancer compensation.

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Lung Cancer and Veterans: Get Help Now

Asbestos exposure during military service may have caused you or a U.S. veteran you love to develop lung cancer later in life. After selflessly serving your country, let us help you get the support and justice you deserve.

Work with our team to secure lung cancer compensation for:

  • Health care costs
  • Household bills
  • Lost wages
  • Other expenses

Our team can help identify if and how you were exposed to asbestos while serving and swiftly pursue the lung cancer compensation you deserve.

Call (877) 446-5767 or get a free case review now to start the process.

Asbestos Lung Cancer and Veterans FAQs

What benefits can I claim if I have lung cancer?

If you’re a U.S. veteran with lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos or other toxins while serving, you may qualify to claim a wide range of benefits offered by the VA.

Notable benefits include:

  • Almost $4,000 a month in disability benefits
  • Free or low-cost treatments from VA medical centers
  • Resources and compensation for survivors

You may also be able to secure compensation by filing lawsuits and asbestos trust fund claims after a lung cancer diagnosis. Call (877) 446-5767 now to see if you qualify.

Lung cancer incidence is very high in the U.S. veteran population. Many veterans smoked and were exposed to carcinogens like asbestos while serving. Around 7,700 U.S. veterans are diagnosed with lung cancer per year.

Lung cancer mortality rates are also high, with it being the biggest cause of cancer-related deaths among U.S. veterans, according to the UCI Chao Comprehensive Cancer Center. Roughly 15 veterans die every day from it.

A presumptive condition means that the VA automatically believes that military service led to the diagnosis.

Asbestos lung cancer is not automatically a presumptive VA condition. You must show that you were exposed to asbestos while serving and that you now have lung cancer caused by this exposure in order to receive benefits.

Between the 1930s and 1980s, asbestos products were used by all branches of the U.S. military. They were most commonly used in construction, ships, and vehicles.

You may not remember specifically where you might have been exposed since it takes decades for asbestos-related diseases to appear after exposure.

Fortunately, we offer help for veterans with cancer to determine when, where, and how they suffered asbestos exposure. Contact our patient advocates now to get started.

U.S. veterans with active, service-connected asbestos lung cancer typically receive a 100% disability rating.

This allows veterans with cancer to get the highest financial payouts from their VA disability benefits. They can also get free or inexpensive treatments through the military’s health care system.

Yes. In some cases, the VA may provide financial assistance to cover lung cancer care expenses. Veterans diagnosed with lung cancer should submit a VA benefits claim to get this coverage.

We can also assist veterans with lung cancer in filing additional claims for compensation that can cover treatment costs.

Call (877) 446-5767 now for help pursuing compensation to pay for lung cancer treatments.

Lung Cancer Group was established by a team of caring advocates so those with lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases can get the help they deserve. Our site provides the most accurate and up-to-date information about lung cancer, its link to asbestos, and financial compensation available to patients. Contact us to learn more and get assistance.

  1. American Cancer Society. (n.d.). Lung Cancer. Retrieved May 28, 2024, from
  2. GO2 for Lung Cancer. (2024, May 6). Buddy | GO2 for Lung Cancer Survivor Spotlight. Retrieved May 28, 2024, from
  3. (2022, May 13). Asbestos Illness Related to Military Service. Retrieved May 28, 2024, from
  4. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2024, January 11). Organizations Serving Military Service Members and Veterans. Retrieved May 28, 2024, from
  5. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2023, October 13). Public Health – Asbestos. Retrieved May 28, 2024, from
  6. U.S. Medicine. (2021, November 9). Understanding the Breath-Taking Lung Cancer Risks in Servicemembers, Veterans. Retrieved May 28, 2024, from
  7. VA Office of Research & Development. (n.d.). Cancer. Retrieved May 28, 2024, from
  8. VA Office of Research & Development. (n.d.). VA Lung Precision Oncology Program (LPOP). Retrieved May 28, 2024, from,About,survival%20than%20the%20general%20population
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