Mesothelioma in the Coast Guard

Quick Summary

Veterans who served in the U.S. Coast Guard from the 1930s to the early 1980s are at risk of developing asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma. Due to the heavy use of asbestos on military ships, many service members were routinely exposed to the deadly mineral. Financial and health care benefits are available to eligible Coast Guard veterans with mesothelioma.

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Mesothelioma and U.S. Coast Guard Veterans

Men and women who served in the United States Coast Guard any time between World War II until the early 1980s may be at risk of developing mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer, or another asbestos-related disease.

It takes 20-50 years for this cancer to develop after initial asbestos exposure, meaning its first symptoms usually appear well after the veteran served in the military.

If you served in the Coast Guard and were diagnosed with mesothelioma, you can pursue financial and medical benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). You may also qualify for legal compensation to help pay for treatment and provide support for your family.

Contact our team today to learn more about accessing veterans benefits.

Resources for Coast Guard Veterans With Mesothelioma

  • VA Financial Benefits

    The VA offers benefits designed to relieve the financial burden of living with mesothelioma for victims and their loved ones. VA officers and accredited lawyers can help you file your VA claim.

    Some eligibility requirements for VA benefits include:

    • Being an honorably discharged veteran
    • Providing a detailed report of your asbestos exposure
    • Showing that over 50% of your exposure occurred during active duty in the Coast Guard

    Mesothelioma has a 100% disability rating according to the VA. This means that former Coast Guard service members with mesothelioma are usually eligible for the maximum payout for disability compensation.

    Other VA benefits for mesothelioma may be available based on income, number of dependents, or caregiver needs.

    • VA Health Care Benefits

      The VA Healthcare System has two of the best mesothelioma surgeons in the world, Dr. Robert Cameron and Dr. Avi Lebenthal. Many Coast Guard veterans with mesothelioma can get free treatment from these specialists.

      • Legal Compensation

        Manufacturers made and sold asbestos-containing products to the U.S. Coast Guard, even though they knew of the deadly risks. These companies could be held financially responsible if you developed an asbestos-related disease after being exposed to their products.

        You may be eligible to receive compensation from an asbestos trust fund or a mesothelioma lawsuit. Both legal options may allow you and your family to access the financial help and justice you deserve.

        Asbestos legal claims are not filed against the U.S. Coast Guard.

        Asbestos legal claims are filed against the manufacturers responsible for your cancer. Because of these companies’ negligence, they were forced to set up asbestos trust funds to help pay victims for the harm they caused. These funds have over $30 Billion, and you may qualify to receive a portion of this money.

      History of Asbestos Use in the Coast Guard

      Because asbestos is so versatile, it was used in almost all Coast Guard vehicles, weapons systems, and infrastructure. In fact, each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces used asbestos extensively.

      On Coast Guard bases and vehicles, asbestos was commonly found in:

      • Boiler rooms
      • Cables
      • Electrical wiring
      • Engine rooms
      • Ceiling and floor tiles
      • Gaskets
      • Insulation
      • Mess halls
      • Piping
      • Valves

      For much of the 20th century, the military had no reason to suspect that asbestos was dangerous. Only the manufacturers of asbestos-containing products knew of these dangers, but they hid the truth until the late 1970s after facing numerous lawsuits.

      The Coast Guard has since removed almost all of the asbestos from its ships and other assets — but not before hundreds of service members were already exposed.

      Coast Guard Jobs With High Asbestos Exposure Risk

      Coast Guardsmen who worked directly with asbestos on a consistent basis have the highest rates of asbestos exposure and, in turn, mesothelioma.

      Below, learn more about dangerous jobs in the Coast Guard.

      Shipyard Workers

      Coast Guard veterans with the highest risk of asbestos exposure typically worked in the shipyards. These workers were constantly exposed to asbestos as they built, overhauled, and tore down ships.

      Because asbestos was used in so many different areas of the ships, it was nearly impossible for any shipyard worker to avoid exposure. Mechanics who installed and repaired ship components were also at risk.

      coast guard cutter in a shipyard
      Photo By: USCG

      Construction and Demolition Workers

      Coast Guardsmen used dozens of asbestos-containing products during the construction, renovation, or demolition of buildings. Common asbestos products found in Coast Guard buildings were piping, floor or ceiling tiles, and insulation.

      “Exceptional exposures [to asbestos] may have occurred during certain maintenance procedures (e.g. tearing up entire floor surfaces of asbestos-containing floor tiles and torching or sanding surfaces painted with lead-containing paint) without the use of personal protective equipment.”

      – United States Coast Guard official website

      When asbestos-containing products are disturbed, toxic particles are released into the air and can cling to hair and clothing. Workers and those nearby can inhale or ingest the asbestos fibers unknowingly, putting them at risk of deadly illnesses down the road.

      U.S. Coast Guard Ships and Asbestos

      Because asbestos is so effective at fireproofing, it was widely used to protect U.S. Coast Guard members and equipment from fires while at sea. However, any time Coast Guardsmen installed, repaired, or removed ship components, they faced potential asbestos exposure.

      Did you know

      Asbestos was used to line and insulate nearly all Coast Guard vessels produced until after the Vietnam War.

      Because military ships typically had poor ventilation, asbestos fibers that were disturbed and became airborne could circulate for hours in small, enclosed areas, such as boiler rooms and engine rooms. Anyone who entered these spaces may have come into contact with asbestos.

      As time went on, the asbestos-containing products in Coast Guard ships deteriorated, releasing asbestos fibers into the air. This was common when ships from World War II were reused in later missions.

      black and white photo of coast guard ship
      Photo By: USCG

      List of Coast Guard Cutters With Asbestos

      U.S. Coast Guard cutters constructed before 1991 are known to have had asbestos materials. In turn, veterans assigned to cutters made before this time may be at risk of developing mesothelioma.

      Get a list of cutters known to have contained asbestos.

      Secondhand Asbestos Exposure Risks in the Coast Guard

      Because the bases and vehicles used by the U.S. Coast Guard relied heavily on asbestos materials, families who lived on or near a military base may have been exposed as properties were repaired, built, or destroyed.

      Additionally, when asbestos fibers clung to service members’ uniforms or hair, the fibers could be inhaled by family members through physical contact or as the uniforms were laundered.

      Get Help Filing Your VA Claim

      Filing for VA benefits or legal compensation without help can be difficult because you may not remember how or where you were exposed to asbestos.

      Our VA-accredited claims agents are available to help make the process easier. We have decades of experience creating asbestos exposure summaries and helping veterans get their VA benefits as quickly as possible.

      Reach out to a member of our team now.

      Veterans Support Team
      Eric P.W. Hall (Capt RIANG) PhotoReviewed by:Eric P.W. Hall (Capt RIANG)

      VA-Accredited Attorney

      • Fact-Checked
      • Editor

      Eric P.W. Hall (Capt RIANG) 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 Captain in the Rhode Island Air National Guard 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 so 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.

      View 3 Sources
      1. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “Compensation - Asbestos Exposure.” Retrieved from: https://www.benefits.va.gov/COMPENSATION/claims-postservice-exposures-asbestos.asp. Accessed on September 27th, 2017.
      2. 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.”
      3. 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: https://www.warrelatedillness.va.gov/education/factsheets/asbestos-exposure.pdf. Accessed on September 27th, 2017.
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