Marine Veterans and Mesothelioma

Quick Summary

United States Marines who served between the 1930s and early 1980s may have been exposed to asbestos. Asbestos is the only known cause of the deadly cancer mesothelioma and was widely used in Marine Corps ships, vehicles, and bases. Thankfully, Marines who develop mesothelioma as a result of their military service can access treatments and compensation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

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Marine Corps Veterans With Mesothelioma

The U.S. Marine Corps is a small, elite branch of the military that is trained to fight battles in the sea, on the ground, and in the sky. Starting in the early 1930s, the Marine Corps (and all other U.S. military branches) relied on asbestos-based products for decades to help achieve victory.

Mesothelioma and Marine Corps Veterans Video Thumbnail

Video Summary: U.S. Marine Corps veterans are at risk of mesothelioma due to service-related asbestos exposure, but VA benefits and other resources are available to help.

Those who served in the United States Marine Corps from the 1930s to the early 1980s may have been exposed to asbestos. Asbestos is a fiber-like mineral known to cause mesothelioma and other cancers.

Asbestos was widely used in Marine Corps ships, vehicles, and bases to make these assets durable, insulated, and heat resistant. Unfortunately, inhaling stray asbestos fibers can lead to mesothelioma later in life.

Mesothelioma is a particularly aggressive form of cancer that can affect the lining of the lungs, heart, testicles, or abdomen. It can take 10-50 years for symptoms of mesothelioma to appear, and unfortunately, there is no cure.

Thankfully, If you're a Marine Corps veteran who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma as a result of your military service, there are ways to get help.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers many benefits to veterans with mesothelioma, like medical treatments, monthly compensation, financial assistance for loved ones, and much more.

You served your country honorably, and the VA is here to support you in return.

Marine Corps veterans may also qualify for private compensation from a mesothelioma claim. Filing a claim won’t affect your ability to get VA benefits, and you won’t be taking legal action against the military.

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma and served in the U.S. Marine Corps, reach out to the Mesothelioma Veterans Center today. We are dedicated to helping you get VA benefits, life-changing treatment, and financial aid.

Asbestos is a highly durable mineral made up of tiny fibers that resists heat, corrosion, and sound. Initially, the U.S. government thought that asbestos-based products, like construction materials, were safe since manufacturers hid the facts.

Asbestos could be found in Marine Corps: ​​​​

  • Aircraft
  • Barracks and other buildings
  • Cars and trucks
  • Ships
  • Weapons

However, asbestos is now known to cause a life-threatening cancer called mesothelioma and other deadly illnesses. Marine Corps veterans whose Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) were in construction often have the highest risk of developing mesothelioma, but any veteran exposed to asbestos is at risk.

The VA offers financial and medical benefits to veterans with mesothelioma. Private compensation may also be available for Marines with mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases.

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VA-Accredited Attorney Eric Hall (Major USAFR) can help you file for free.

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History of Asbestos Exposure in the Marines

Since asbestos use was so widespread between the 1930s and early 1980s, Marines may have been exposed in several ways. See how the Marine Corps relied on asbestos below.


Dozens of Marine Corps bases and barracks used asbestos. The barracks were often lined with asbestos insulation to fireproof them. This was typical of the military before the dangers of asbestos were known. Asbestos-containing materials like pipes and gaskets also were used to build Marine bases, barracks, and other buildings.

Notable Marine Corps bases that used asbestos included Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, Camp Pendleton in California, and Naval Station Newport in Rhode Island.

Asbestos products could be found in the following locations:

  • Ceiling tiles
  • Doors
  • Floor tiles
  • Heating systems
  • Insulation
  • Piping
  • Roofing materials

As the materials wore down over time or were removed during maintenance, it was easier for asbestos exposure to occur.

Marines with the highest risk of asbestos exposure were the ones that built or repaired barracks. These Marines had to handle materials made from asbestos, and as these products were disturbed, asbestos fibers were released into the air.


Marine corps veterans who served aboard U.S. Navy vessels also have a higher risk of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses than those who didn’t, as virtually every ship was built with asbestos between the 1930s and early 1980s.

Marines working on Navy ships could have been exposed to asbestos at every turn.

Asbestos exposure was a risk whenever someone worked on:

  • Bulkheads
  • Boilers
  • Cables
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Deck flooring
  • Engines
  • Gaskets
  • Insulation
  • Pipes
  • Valves

When asbestos on Navy ships was disturbed, it could remain airborne for hours and anyone aboard could easily inhale it. The risk was particularly high in boiler rooms and engine rooms, which had extremely poor ventilation.

A diagram explaining where asbestos was used aboard U.S. military ships. The engine room, boiler room, and pump room had a very high risk of exposure.

Asbestos could also be carried to other areas of the ship on someone’s skin, hair, or clothing after initial exposure.


Throughout most of the 20th century, Marine corps working in shipyards were also at high risk for asbestos exposure.

Before the 1980s, ship parts like incinerators and boilers were lined with asbestos insulation to protect them from fires and excessive heat. As Marines installed, repaired, or replaced these components, asbestos fibers were released and possibly inhaled.

Did you know?

Actor and U.S. Marine Corps veteran Steve McQueen believed he developed mesothelioma from removing asbestos insulation in a Navy shipyard.

The military’s largest shipyards were in California, New York, Washington, Virginia, and Oregon. Asbestos-containing products were still being used in Navy ships until the early 1980s.

Call (877) 450-8973 to get help if you or a loved one developed mesothelioma after serving in the U.S. Marine Corps.


Tanks and other motor transport vehicles used by the Marines contained asbestos. In the 1960s, the Marines used the M60 Patton tank, which contained asbestos insulation for fireproofing. Gunners operating the tank also wore gloves lined with asbestos to protect them from burns.

Transport vehicles, all-terrain vehicles, and amphibious assault vehicles all had similar asbestos risks. As the insulation in these vehicles wore down, the asbestos exposure risk increased.

Marines working as mechanics on aircraft or transport vehicles also had a high risk of asbestos exposure. These Marines often came in contact with seals, gaskets, brake pads, and clutches made with asbestos.

Secondary Asbestos Exposure and the Marine Corps

U.S. Marines standing together at attention

Marine Corps veterans are not the only ones who may be at risk of developing mesothelioma today. If their family members lived on a Marine Corps base where asbestos materials were used, they may have been exposed indirectly.

If asbestos fibers were disturbed as a Marine worked, they could get stuck on uniforms, hair, or skin. Family members who hugged their loved ones or handled these uniforms could have unknowingly been exposed to asbestos fibers.

Marines and Modern-Day Asbestos Risks

According to the VA, while it is very rare, some active-duty Marine corps may be exposed to asbestos while overseas in Iraq or nearby countries. Older buildings in this region that used asbestos in their construction can become damaged and release asbestos into the air.

Get a Veterans Packet to learn more about the risks of asbestos exposure.

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VA Benefits and Compensation for Marine Corps Veterans

There are many VA benefits and private forms of compensation available that can ease the burden of living with mesothelioma. Learn how to access these benefits below.

  • VA Health Care

    U.S. Marines with mesothelioma can access free or low-cost mesothelioma treatment if they have VA health care. Some of the world’s top surgeons, including Dr. Robert Cameron, treat veterans from all over the country.

    In addition, veterans may be eligible for a health registry evaluation — a free medical screening for possible long-term health problems related to asbestos and other hazards. This is available through the VA, but veterans do not need to be enrolled in VA health care to take part.

  • VA Financial Benefits

    The VA has multiple benefits to help pay for the cost of living. These benefits are meant to compensate veterans if they cannot work. Disability benefits and pensions can also allow Marines with mesothelioma to focus on their health without worrying about paying the bills.

  • Asbestos Trust Funds

    When it was revealed that asbestos was dangerous, manufacturers faced a huge number of lawsuits, and many filed for bankruptcy. Bankrupt manufacturers were court-ordered to set up trust funds to pay victims.

    More than $30 billion is currently available through asbestos trust funds.

  • Mesothelioma Lawsuits

    Lawsuits or legal claims are another way Marines with mesothelioma can pursue compensation, especially if they had occupational asbestos exposure after their military service.

    No legal action is taken against the U.S. military or former employers through a mesothelioma lawsuit.

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Access Mesothelioma VA Benefits and Compensation

VA benefits are one of the best resources available to U.S. Marine Corps veterans with mesothelioma. The VA offers disability compensation, health care, aid and attendance benefits, and more.

These benefits can help cover the cost of living while you receive treatment and are in recovery.

All you need to claim your benefits are:

  • Medical records that state your disability or illness (i.e., mesothelioma)
  • Service records that list your job or specialty
  • A doctor’s statement that there is a connection between your contact with asbestos during military service and your mesothelioma

Veterans’ dependents and survivors may be eligible for benefits as well.

If you’re ready to get your VA benefits, our VA-accredited claims agents can help you every step of the way. Get help with filing for mesothelioma VA benefits now.

U.S. Marine Veterans and Mesothelioma FAQs

Why are Marine Corps veterans in danger of mesothelioma?

U.S. Marine Corps veterans are at a high risk of mesothelioma if they served before the early 1980s. This is because the U.S. Marine Corps used asbestos in bases, barracks, vehicles, and ships up until this time.

It typically takes 10-50 years after asbestos exposure before symptoms of mesothelioma appear, which is why veterans are only now just getting sick.

The deadly risks of asbestos exposure were hidden by makers of asbestos-based products, who put profits ahead of human life.

Is asbestos still used by the U.S. Marine Corps?

The Marines do not use asbestos in any new buildings, ships, or other assets. However, older military structures may still contain asbestos even today.

Though steps were taken to remove most of the asbestos found on older military bases and ships, it was simply impossible to remove it all as too much had been used.

How can Marine Corps veterans get help after being diagnosed with mesothelioma?

U.S. Marine Corps veterans can get help after a mesothelioma diagnosis by filing for VA benefits. Key mesothelioma VA benefits include monthly financial payouts and free or low-cost mesothelioma treatments.

Marines can also file private claims to get additional compensation. For example, they can pursue payouts through asbestos trust fund claims and lawsuits.

These claims can bring in life-changing money and won't affect a veteran's ability to file for VA benefits. Get started now by calling (877) 450-8973.

Veterans Support Team
Eric P.W. Hall (Major USAFR) PhotoReviewed by:Eric P.W. Hall (Major USAFR)

VA-Accredited Attorney

  • Fact-Checked
  • Legal Editor

Eric P.W. Hall (Major USAFR) is an attorney, a former Sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, and a legal advisor at the Mesothelioma Veterans Center. Today, Eric continues to serve as a Major in the United States Air Force Reserve (USAFR), where he is Deputy Staff Judge Advocate, upholding his dedication to his country and fellow veterans. Eric considers it his duty to help his veteran family and strives to help them navigate the VA and receive the benefits they bravely earned.

Christopher Dryfoos PhotoWritten by:

Contributing Author

Christopher Dryfoos is a journalist and member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). As the grandson of the U.S. Navy’s first forensic pathologist, he aims to help veterans with mesothelioma access needed care.

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