Mesothelioma in the Coast Guard

Quick Summary

Veterans who served in the Coast Guard between 1930 and 1980 are at risk of developing mesothelioma. There are benefits and treatment specialists available just for these veterans.

Coast Guard Veterans With Mesothelioma

There are few cases of Coast Guard veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma each year only because of the relatively small size of this branch of the military. Despite the few cases diagnosed, Coast Guard vets have a high risk of developing mesothelioma due to heavy use of asbestos on military ships.

Benefits available to Coast Guard veterans include:

  • Treatment from a Mesothelioma Specialist in the VA. The VA Healthcare System has 2 of the best mesothelioma surgeons in the world. Most Coast Guard vets with mesothelioma can get free treatment from these specialists.
  • VA Financial Benefits. Mesothelioma has a 100% disability rating according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. This means that Coast Guard vets with mesothelioma are usually eligible for the maximum payout for disability compensation. You may also qualify for other benefits based on your income, number of dependents or need for a caregiver.
  • Asbestos Company Trust Funds. Asbestos companies made and sold asbestos products to the Coast Guard, even though they knew the deadly risks. These companies could be at fault if you developed an asbestos-related disease. To date, over $30 Billion has been set aside in trusts for those who were harmed.

Some veterans wonder why the military would expose servicemembers to a deadly substance like asbestos, but the Coast Guard isn’t responsible for a mesothelioma diagnosis. While every military branch used asbestos, the dangers of the substance were only known to the asbestos companies.

Some of your asbestos exposure may have come from your occupation after the Coast Guard. If this is the case, you can also file a legal claim. This is an important way for mesothelioma sufferers to get justice and compensation.

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Get information on:

  • Treatment Options
  • Mesothelioma Specialists
  • Veterans Benefits

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History of Asbestos Use in the Coast Guard

The military used asbestos in almost all of its vehicles, weapons systems and infrastructure during this time. Asbestos was extremely common on ships, the substance is proven to cause mesothelioma.

Did you know?

Navy and Coast Guard veterans have the highest risk of getting mesothelioma because of their asbestos exposure aboard ships and work in shipyards.

On ships, asbestos could be found in locations such as:

  • Boiler rooms
  • Cables
  • Electrical wiring
  • Engine rooms
  • Flooring and ceiling tiles
  • Gaskets
  • Insulation
  • Piping
  • Sleeping quarters
  • Valves

Anytime that asbestos is disturbed, fibers are released into the air. Anyone nearby risks inhaling the fibers. They could also carry it on their clothes or in their hair to another part of the ship. From there, someone else can inhale the asbestos, even if they were not near the initial site where the material was disturbed.

Mesothelioma can develop anywhere from 15 to 45 years after initial asbestos exposure. Coast Guard veterans with jobs where asbestos was constantly disturbed have the highest rates of developing mesothelioma.

Did you know?

According to the Office of Public Health, Coast Guard vets most at-risk were “those involved in renovation of asbestos-containing structures and/or removal of asbestos materials either before or after 1970.”

The most at-risk jobs in the Coast Guard for asbestos exposure are:

  • Construction and demolition
  • Mechanics that installed and repaired ship components
  • Shipyard workers who built new parts for ships

Those that served in the Coast Guard any time from World War II until the late-1970s have a risk of developing an asbestos-related illness. This includes mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer and other types of asbestos related cancers. The first symptoms usually appear well after they served in the military.

Coast Guard Ships and Asbestos

The military used asbestos in virtually all of its infrastructure until the late-1970s. Coast Guard veterans with the highest risk are those who worked on ships or in shipyards. Asbestos was used to line and insulate all of the ships produced until after the Vietnam War.

Did you know?

The military used asbestos so extensively in ships because the material was cheap and very effective at fireproofing. This protected Coast Guard members and equipment from fire while at sea.

Because many ships had poor ventilation, asbestos fibers that had been disturbed and were airborne often circulated for hours in a small enclosed area such as a boiler room. This put anyone who entered the room at risk for asbestos exposure.

Asbestos was also used in doors, insulation, ceiling and flooring tiles. This made asbestos exposure a risk even in sleeping quarters on ships. As the infrastructure wore down over time, it became easier to disturb the asbestos and to release fibers into the air.

Coast Guardsmen Working in Shipyards

The Coast Guard veterans at the highest risk of developing mesothelioma worked in the shipyards. Shipyard workers were constantly exposed to asbestos as they built, overhauled, and tore down ships. As these Coast Guardsmen worked on ships, large amounts of asbestos would be released into the air.

As the Coast Guard’s fleet of ships aged, the lining of asbestos wore down. This made it easier for asbestos fibers to become airborne, and happened in some cases when ships from World War II were reused in later engagements.

Where Else Was Asbestos Used?

Any ship built for the Coast Guard prior to the late-1970s used asbestos in some capacity. It wasn’t until the late-1970s that the military recognized the dangers of asbestos exposure. Since then, the Coast Guard has removed almost all of the asbestos from its ships.

Prior to the late-1970s, a sailor could be exposed to asbestos at almost any location on the ship. There were some locations that had higher asbestos exposure risk than others.

Ship locations with the highest risk of asbestos exposure include:

  • Boiler rooms
  • Engine rooms
  • Mess halls
  • Sleeping quarters
  • Navigation rooms

Those locations had the most asbestos-containing materials. These include pipes, valves, gaskets, pumps, compressors, condensers and motors. Any time those components were installed, repaired or removed, there was a risk of being exposed to asbestos.

Get a FREE Veterans Packet

Get information on:

  • Treatment Options
  • Mesothelioma Specialists
  • Veterans Benefits

Learn More

Getting Access to VA Benefits

Coast Guard vets with mesothelioma have a multitude of resources to help them. One of the best resources is the VA. Every Coast Guard veteran should take advantage of their VA benefits. You are entitled to these benefits from your dedicated service.

To Get VA Benefits, you must:

  • Provide a detailed asbestos exposure summary to the VA
  • Show that over 50% of your exposure occurred in the Coast Guard
  • Be an honorably discharged veteran

The criteria above might seem like a lot of work. But there are people available to help veterans just like you. Our VA-accredited claims agents have experience creating exposure summaries and helping veterans get their VA benefits as quick as possible. Get connected to a service representative about your VA benefits now.

Author:Mesothelioma Veterans Center

Veterans Support Team

Mesothelioma Veterans Center

The Mesothelioma Veterans Center editorial team consists of experienced veterans, family members and medical professionals. Our work is focused on helping veterans with mesothelioma receive the benefits they need and the compensation they deserve. We love our country and are passionate about serving those who first served us.

Last modified: September 25, 2019

View Sources

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “Compensation - Asbestos Exposure.” Retrieved from: Accessed on September 27th, 2017.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. M21-1, Part IV, Subpart ii, Chapter 1, Section 1. “Developing Claims for Service Connection (SC) Based on Other Exposure Types.”

War Related Illness and Injury Study Center. Office of Public Health. Department of Veterans Affairs. “Exposure to Asbestos: A Resource for Veterans, Service Members and Their Families.” Retrieved from: Accessed on September 27th, 2017.

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