Five Common Problems Veterans Face Who Have Worked on Navy Ships

Life on a ship or a submarine presents a harsh environment for everyone aboard. Officers serving on navy ships and submarines face challenging conditions throughout their time onboard. The ceilings are much lower, the floor and ladder welds are constantly moving, getting a good night’s sleep is challenging, and the work is always going on. So it’s no wonder that anxiety and stress levels aboard ship are so high.

Considering all that, it’s not hard to see how veterans who served on board could sustain disabling injuries while in service. Today we look at some of the most common problems veterans who worked on navy ships face. Keep scrolling if you wish to learn more.

Common problems faced by veterans aboard a ship

1. Asbestos Exposure

Military service before the 1980s exposed veterans to harmful levels of asbestos after serving on the ships. Asbestos is a toxic mineral that puts you at high risk for deadly respiratory health problems, including cancers like mesothelioma, asbestosis, and pleural plaques. During the better part of the 20th century, you could find asbestos on almost every ship in the United States Navy, which makes it the service branch with the highest exposure rate.

For 40 years or more, whether it was the mechanics, marines, or pipefitters, every role aboard the ship was exposed to asbestos at some point. However, some roles had higher exposure than others, such as below-deck sailors and engineers, and were at a higher risk of exposure than those who worked above deck.

The confined work environment and poor ventilation also worsened the exposure, as simply breathing in the air within the room meant inhaling asbestos dust. You can check out the asbestos navy ships list to know where the exposure was considered the highest. Here is a summary of the crucial information:

  • There was as much as a thousand tons of asbestos in every aircraft carrier built before the 1980s.
  • The Auxiliary Ships were outfitted with large quantities of asbestos for navy personnel protection during combat.
  • The entire interior of battleships used to be coated in asbestos to protect against fire hazards.
  • Cruisers also carried large amounts of asbestos to protect against fire hazards.
  • The entirety of the Frigates was brimming with asbestos, from insulation to machinery.
  • Other navy ships include minesweepers, destroyers, submarines, corvettes, and other naval vessels built before the 1980s.

2. Injuries due to slips, trips, and falls

Many of the injuries that navy veterans get on the job result from accidental trips and falls. A veteran’s sense of balance may be compromised by a ship’s frequent rolling and swaying. And after going through life in such a hazardous environment, it is easy for veterans and ship crew to slip, fall, and sustain injuries on different parts of their body, from head injuries to ankle injuries.

Hence, many veterans who serve on naval ships have injuries to their ankles and lower limbs because of slips, trips, and falls. Falling also poses a risk of severe head injuries, including traumatic brain injuries, for marine veterans.

3. Sleep disorders

Sleep deprivation is common among veterans who served on naval vessels. Every veteran who has served on a navy ship knows how challenging it is to get enough rest. Life aboard ships is chaotic, to say the least. There is always something to do, and pressure among the CIC folks is not to be taken lightly.

The constantly moving floor, noise, and other nuisances of life on deck make it hard to get a good night’s rest. A lack of sleep leads to fatigue among veterans, impairing judgment, ability to focus, and reaction time. It makes it harder to think clearly and respond quickly. In addition, those who don’t get enough shut-eye are more likely to be overweight, eat poorly, and fall short of fitness benchmarks.

The chronic difficulty in falling and staying asleep can also snowball into more significant health problems such as insomnia and sleep apnea.

4. Mental health issues

Veterans who served aboard navy ships also had a disproportionately high rate of psychological disorders. Navy veterans suffer great stress and pressure, especially the CIC folks (sailors and marines). As a result of being exposed to high-stress work conditions and increased pressure during shifts, veterans are at increased risk for developing anxiety and other mental health issues.

Members of the military who served together aboard a ship or submarine tend to form strong bonds with one another. However, transitioning back to civilian life may be difficult for many military members. As a result, depression is frequent among veterans of all branches and MOSs, including those who served on ships.

Unfortunately, it’s also not unheard of for a navy veteran to get post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in the military.

5. Noise-induced ear trauma

Noise-induced hearing trauma is one of the most common disorders associated with military service. Service members are often subjected to loud environments, and navy marines are no exception. And the noise levels on ships and other military branches often surpass the limits of even the most robust hearing protection.

Veterans on board navy ships are constantly exposed to loud sounds. Veterans in engineering spaces are at an increased risk of developing a hearing impairment down the road due to constant exposure to loud noise. Tinnitus and other hearing issues are a real possibility for veterans who have jobs below deck due to the loud noises and constant vibrations.

Veterans with hearing trauma experience tingling, buzzing, and high-pitch whistling within the ear in the presence of no external sounds. Furthermore, traumatic brain injuries are also associated with tinnitus among veterans.

Final thoughts

Working and living onboard a ship means adjusting to a completely different lifestyle. The extensive working hours, cramped spaces, confined living quarters, and a lack of freedom of movement, especially on submarines, makes life on sea extremely difficult for veterans and crew. And not to mention the risk posed by various occupational hazards. 

Deck life is riddled with challenges that can cause injuries to marines and sailors. If you are veteran suffering symptoms from asbestos or noise exposure or any of the above-discussed problems, you may be eligible for VA Disability.

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