Yeoman and Asbestos Exposure


The U.S. Navy began using asbestos in building its ships in the 1930s. It continued applying asbestos in shipbuilding for decades, unknowingly putting the personnel at a high risk of developing asbestos-related diseases. Asbestos was affordable and fireproof, suitable isolation for pipes, boilers, furnaces, gaskets, pumps, ceilings, floors, and wall insulation on the vessels.

With asbestos being abundantly present, the personnel had minimal chances to avoid exposure. As a consequence, many of the service members who served on the ships built before 1980 developed asbestos-related cancers years later:

One of the oldest ratings in the U.S. Navy, Yeoman (YN), was first established in 1835 but roots back to the original "Capitan's Clerk" rating from 1794. Yeoman is one of the initial Chief Petty Officer ratings. Yeomen were enlisted sailors who served as administrative assistants providing support services to officers and crew members on the ship. They handled clerical and administrative tasks onboard, and their responsibilities included:

  • organizing various files
  • managing the office
  • handling calls
  • receiving office visits
  • administrating office personnel
  • maintaining records
  • keeping official publications
  • assisting in legal proceedings

There is a saying that jokingly states that a ship can't depart without the proper paperwork being filed. But it's true and underlines the importance of a yeoman's clerical and administrative work. Yeomen often worked closely with the Executive or Commanding Officer on tasks requiring knowledge of Navy Regulations and other instructions. They handled classified documents and were responsible for maintaining proper controls and accountability. YN with experience overtook the personnelman (PN) duties for added flexibility when help was needed in the command's administration.

Working in the ship's offices on vessels made until the late -1970s meant being in poorly ventilated spaces for long hours - factors that heightened the risk of asbestos exposure. But the duties of a YN included not just office work; they stood many watches onboard that could further expose them to asbestos:

  • duty master-at-arms
  • work center supervisor
  • damage control petty officer
  • member of the fire control team

All Veterans Who Served on Navy Ships Built Before 1980 Risked Asbestos Exposure Unknowingly

The Navy mandated the use of asbestos in all ships between the 1930s and the 1980s, significantly contributing to the high demand for asbestos. With asbestos being sought after and because of the low costs, the manufacturers who sold asbestos products neglected its health risks. Navy members would inhale dangerous levels of asbestos fibers whenever the material was disturbed by the ship's maintenance, repair, renovation, or removal work. Some Navy jobs posed a higher risk of asbestos exposure:

Unaware of the health risks of asbestos, Navy personnel usually handled the material without protective gear, making it more likely to inhale the dangerous fibers. Many veterans are suffering now from diseases connected to their service, so it is vital to seek professional help and tell the doctor about your military service when experiencing:

Asbestos-related diseases are complex; doctors can easily misread the symptoms and misdiagnose them for other respiratory conditions like COPD or asthma. It is essential to tell your doctor about past asbestos exposure to receive a proper diagnosis and treatment. Given that asbestos illnesses produce symptoms only after many years, it is best to schedule regular lung checkups and an appointment with a pulmonologist experienced in caring for patients with lung diseases caused by prolonged asbestos exposure. Ask for a second or even a third doctor's opinion outside the VA to receive an exact diagnosis and the most advanced treatments.

Supporting Veterans to Claim the Rightful Compensation

Veterans diagnosed with cancerous asbestos diseases are eligible to file for claims. As medical care and treatments can burden the veteran's family budget with high costs and drain the resources financially and emotionally, the process of going through the paperwork can be daunting.

In most cases, filling out government forms can be an added distress, and filing for claims past the statute of limitations is unwanted. Since filing a claim is complex, you should contact an attorney immediately after receiving a cancer diagnosis. We can help by connecting you with specialized attorneys with the skill and experience to get you lawful compensation.

If you have a cancer diagnosis please contact us

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