Mesothelioma and Coast Guard Veterans

U.S. Coast Guard veterans who served between the 1930s and the 1990s may have been exposed to asbestos, a dangerous mineral linked to cancers like mesothelioma. Thankfully, veterans with mesothelioma or related diseases can seek justice and compensation through VA claims and lawsuits against the manufacturers of asbestos-containing products.

Written and Fact-Checked by: Mesothelioma Hope Team

Asbestos Exposure in Coast Guard Veterans

Asbestos is the common name given to a group of six different naturally-occurring minerals that can be easily woven to create highly durable, heat-resistant products. These properties made asbestos-containing products valuable assets to all United States military branches for decades, including the Coast Guard.

Asbestos could be found in Coast Guard:

  • Airplanes
  • Bases
  • Ships
  • Vehicles

Unfortunately, any Coast Guard members who came in contact with asbestos were put in grave danger.

As asbestos-containing materials break down or become worn, they begin to release microscopic fibers into the air. If breathed in, asbestos fibers can irritate the linings of the lungs, abdominal cavity, heart, and testicles.

Asbestos Exposure Causes Deadly Diseases

Over 20 to 50 years, irritation from asbestos fibers can cause victims to develop deadly health problems like asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other cancers, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Although the Coast Guard and other military branches undertook major asbestos removal programs in the 1980s and 1990s, it could not reverse the fact that thousands — if not millions — of people had been exposed during active duty.

Today, the following Coast Guard veterans may be at risk of mesothelioma:

  • Anyone who renovated or demolished older Coast Guard assets before the mid-1990s
  • Those who served on Coast Guard cutters (vessels commissioned by this military branch) constructed before 1990
  • Those who worked in the Coast Guard shipyards before 1990

Sadly, mesothelioma and Coast Guard veterans are forever linked — but those affected can take action to receive medical treatments and financial compensation.

First off, they can file a claim for benefits with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). VA benefits can help veterans with mesothelioma access medical care and compensation if their disease is linked to service-related asbestos use.

Additionally, those affected can work with a mesothelioma lawyer to potentially receive compensation by filing either a mesothelioma legal claim or an asbestos trust fund claim.

No legal action will be taken against the U.S. Coast Guard, military, or government. Instead, these legal claims seek compensation from the manufacturers of asbestos-containing products, who knew the health risks of their goods but sold them anyway.

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How Were Coast Guard Veterans Put at Risk?

Some Coast Guard veterans have a higher risk of developing mesothelioma than others — particularly if they regularly worked with asbestos-containing products.

Coast Guard members who were exposed to asbestos frequently or over a long period of time are more likely to face health problems like mesothelioma.

Coast Guard roles with the highest risk of asbestos exposure included:

  • Boilermakers
  • Construction workers
  • Electricians
  • Engine specialists
  • Hull technicians
  • Insulators
  • Machinists
  • Mechanics
  • Plumbers
  • Shipyard workers
  • Steamfitters
  • Welders

Regardless of occupation, veterans who worked at a site that is known or suspected to have used asbestos in any capacity have been put at risk for developing mesothelioma and have the right to explore their options for compensation.

Coast Guard Ships and Asbestos Risk

Because asbestos was so easily available and so flame-retardant, it was widely used onboard Coast Guard vessels in an effort to reduce the risk of a fire at sea.

It was almost impossible to find a place on a cutter untouched by asbestos, which could be found nearly everywhere below deck.

Below deck, asbestos could be found in:

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

Since Coast Guard cutters often had poor ventilation below decks, those who worked there had a high risk of exposure as the fibers remained in the air. Even Coast Guard inspectors may have been exposed as they investigated vessels that used asbestos-containing materials.

Asbestos was also a component in many different shipboard products:

  • Adhesives
  • Brakes
  • Cement
  • Electrical wiring
  • Fireproofing materials
  • Floor tiles
  • Gaskets
  • Insulation
  • Lagging
  • Valves

Often, multiple asbestos-containing products could be found in a single ship.

Shipyards also put Coast Guardsmen at risk of exposure, as this is where asbestos materials were directly installed and removed from ships.

A major site of asbestos exposure was the Curtis Bay Coast Guard shipyard, the branch’s only shipbuilding facility and a major repair hub.

A 2007 study following those who worked in the yard between 1950 and 1964 found that there was a significant risk of workers developing mesothelioma and other cancers, most likely due to asbestos exposure.

Finally, it’s important to note that Coast Guard vessels were not the only ones that used asbestos materials. All vessels made by the other military branches — especially Navy ships — heavily relied on asbestos until the health risks became apparent.

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VA Benefits for Coast Guard Veterans

Coast Guard veterans can file for VA benefits anytime they have a disability or illness that is the direct result of an injury, disease, or event that occurred during their military service.

Veterans with mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos during their military service are qualified to receive these benefits, even if the cancer does not develop until decades after they served.

VA benefits can help Coast Guard veterans in a number of ways depending on individual circumstances. For example, they may qualify for life-extending medical treatment from top mesothelioma specialists, financial compensation, or both.

Family members may also be eligible to receive compensation on a veteran’s behalf.

Types of VA Benefits

There are five main types of VA disability benefits available to Coast Guard veterans and their families, according to the VA.

The five major types of VA disability benefits are:

  • Disability Compensation: This tax-free financial benefit is paid to a veteran for an illness or injury sustained during their service, even if the disability occurs after their service has ended. The amount is adjusted based on the individual circumstances of the case and the degree of disability.
  • Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC): DIC is tax-free compensation paid to the surviving family of a service member or veteran, usually a spouse, child, or parent. This type of benefit is available if a service member dies during the course of their duty or from injuries sustained while on duty in the past.
  • Special Monthly Compensation (SMC): This tax-free benefit is paid to veterans, their spouses (current or surviving), or their parents in addition to regular disability compensation. Special monthly compensation is available when there is a specific disability like the loss of a limb or when the disability leaves the veteran in need of attendance or help from another person.
  • Additional Special Circumstances: These are more specific forms of disability compensation that a veteran may be eligible for based on their individual needs. Clothing allowances, automobile allowances, adaptive equipment, and individual unemployability are all forms of special circumstances compensation.
  • VA Health Care: Through this program, veterans can seek medical treatment through the VA’s own medical system. If a veteran were injured or became ill due to an event that occurred during active service, all or part of their health care costs may be covered. This is helpful for mesothelioma veterans since the VA Health Care System includes doctors who specialize in treating this rare cancer.
Mesothelioma Veterans May Receive Maximum Compensation

Mesothelioma is a serious illness with a 100% disability rating from the VA, which means affected veterans would receive the maximum disability compensation once a claim is verified.

Eligibility for other types of compensation would be determined on an individual basis based on the needs and circumstances of the affected veteran.

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Other VA Benefits for Coast Guard Veterans

When it is time to file a VA claim it’s important to explore all of the possible available benefits. Having served their country, Coast Guard veterans deserve to know all of the many ways their country can now help them.

Coast Guard veterans may also be eligible for:

  • Burial and memorial services
  • Disability pensions
  • Education and training
  • Home loans
  • Insurance
  • Survivors benefits
  • Mental health counseling
  • Personal health programs
  • Preventive health care services
  • Vocational rehabilitation and employment

The nature of the injury or illness, the degree of disability experienced, and the number of family members or dependents are all considerations that the VA will look at when making decisions about benefits eligibility.

Filing a Mesothelioma VA Claim for Coast Guard Veterans

After a mesothelioma diagnosis, it’s important to file a VA claim as soon as possible. Mesothelioma is a very aggressive form of cancer that can spread quickly throughout the body, so receiving compensation and treatment as soon as possible can be very helpful.

VA claims can be filed:

  • By mail
  • By working with a VA Claims Agent
  • In-person
  • Online
  • With the help of a mesothelioma lawyer

When so much rests on speed and accuracy, working with professionals can make all the difference.

A mesothelioma lawyer can help veterans to collect the necessary information to file a successful claim and connect veterans to a VA-accredited Claims Agent.

Legal Help for Coast Guard Veterans with Mesothelioma

If you are looking to file for VA benefits, the amount of paperwork and information gathering required to file a successful claim can feel overwhelming — especially after a shocking mesothelioma diagnosis.

Thankfully, working with a mesothelioma law firm relieves this burden, allowing you to focus on your health and their families.

Mesothelioma lawyers have access to sources of information that can help you determine when, where, and how you might have been exposed to asbestos.

This information includes:

  • Information about when and where asbestos-containing products were made and used
  • Which manufacturers made these products and if they are still in business
  • Time limits when filing a VA claim, an asbestos trust fund claim, or a mesothelioma lawsuit

If you decide to take legal action, your VA benefits will not be impacted. Your claim won’t be filed with the U.S. military, government, or the Coast Guard. You will be holding the manufacturers responsible for your illness accountable.

You never realized that asbestos could cause you to get sick — and you deserve compensation to help yourself and your family. By filing VA and legal claims, you can take the power back from those who harmed you.

Get a free case review now to learn more about the types of compensation and benefits you may qualify for.

Mesothelioma Hope was founded by a team of passionate health advocates to educate people about this aggressive form of cancer. Mesothelioma affects thousands of people each year. Our team works tirelessly to give hope to those impacted by mesothelioma. Learn more about operating principles and our Editorial Guidelines.

15 References
  1. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, “Asbestos Fact Sheet” Retrieved from Accessed on January 2, 2018

  2. Department of Veterans Affairs, “Compensation – Asbestos”, Retrieved from Accessed on January 2, 2018

  3. Department of Veterans Affairs, “Exposure to Hazardous Materials – Asbestos” Retrieved from Accessed on January 2, 2018

  4. Department of Veterans Affairs, “I am a Veteran” Retrieved from Accessed on January 2, 2018

  5. Department of Veterans Affairs (n.d.). Veterans Affairs. Retrieved March 20, 2020, from

  6. Department of Veterans Affairs, “Veterans Disability and Healthcare Benefits”, Retrieved from Accessed on January 2, 2018

  7. Department of Veterans Affairs, War Related Illness and Injury Study Center, “Asbestos Fact Sheet”, Retrieved from Accessed on January 2, 2018

  8. Information for Coast Guard Veterans and Retirees Filing for Veterans Affairs Disability Compensation Due to Asbestos- and Lead-Related Health Effects. (n.d.). United States Coast Guard. Retrieved March 20, 2020, from

  9. Krstev, S., Stewart, P., Rusiecki, J., & Blair, A. (2007). Mortality among shipyard Coast Guard workers: a retrospective cohort study. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 64(10), 651–658. doi: 10.1136/oem.2006.029652

  10. Mesothelioma. (2019, January 15). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved March 20, 2020, from

  11., “Asbestos Illness Related to Military Service” Retrieved from Accessed on January 2, 2018

  12. Rusiecki, J., Thomas, C. D., & Blair, A. (2009). Mortality Among United States Coast Guard Marine Inspectors: A Follow Up. Military Medicine, 174(8), 843–851. doi: 10.7205/milmed-d-02-3307

  13. Toxic Substances Portal – Asbestos. (n.d.). Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry. Retrieved March 20, 2020, from

  14. U.S. Coast Guard Yard. (n.d.). United States Coast Guard. Retrieved March 20, 2020, from

  15. U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. “Mortality Among Shipyard Coast Guard Workers: A Retrospective Cohort Study”, Retrieved from Accessed on January 2, 2018

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