Mesothelioma and Marine Corps Veterans

In the mid-20th century, the U.S. Marine Corps was faced with an unsuspecting threat while in the line of duty. The Marines heavily relied on the deadly mineral asbestos without knowing it could cause deadly diseases like mesothelioma. Today, Marines with mesothelioma can file for veterans benefits and take legal action to get justice and compensation.

Written and Fact-Checked by: Mesothelioma Hope Team

Asbestos Exposure in Marine Corps Veterans

Asbestos was widely used by all branches of the United States military — including the Marine Corps — from the 1930s until the early 1980s for purposes of insulation, fireproofing, and heat resistance.

Asbestos-containing products were often used to make Marine bases, vessels, aircraft, and vehicles more durable and resistant from enemy attack.

Asbestos-containing products were used to make Marine:

  • Aircraft
  • Bases and barracks
  • Ships
  • Vehicles

At the time, those serving in the Marine Corps did not know that asbestos use was linked to life-threatening health problems. The manufacturers of asbestos-containing products knew the risks but hid the facts to keep making money.

When the Marine Corps finally began phasing out asbestos in the mid-1970s through the early 1980s, the damage had already been done.

Today, Marine Corps veterans are at risk of mesothelioma, a deadly cancer, if they were exposed to asbestos decades ago. Mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases usually do not develop until 20 to 50 years after someone was first exposed.

Thankfully, veterans with mesothelioma can take action to access life-extending medical treatments and financial compensation.

For example, Marine veterans with mesothelioma can file a claim with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Through a VA claim, Marines may be able to receive top mesothelioma treatments from experienced doctors, as well as cash payouts for their illness.

Marines should also explore their legal options after a diagnosis, such as filing a mesothelioma lawsuit or an asbestos trust fund claim.

These legal options can help veterans receive financial compensation after a diagnosis — and no branch of the military or government will be sued.

High-Risk Asbestos Exposure Areas in the U.S. Marines

While anyone who served in the Marine Corps when asbestos was still in use could have been exposed, some were in more danger than others.

Below, see what locations and jobs put Marine Corps veterans at the highest risk of asbestos exposure.

Navy Ships

The Marine Corps falls under the U.S. Department of the Navy, and Marines were often assigned to U.S. Navy ships for missions.

Marine Corps veterans who served on these Navy vessels had a higher risk of asbestos exposure since the Navy used more asbestos than any other military branch.

Asbestos-containing products could be throughout Navy ships for fire resistance, insulation, and soundproofing.

Those at the highest risk of exposure were stationed in:

  • Boiler rooms
  • Propulsion rooms
  • Engine rooms
  • Galleys

Those that worked below deck, where poor ventilation made it easy to breathe in the asbestos fibers, also had a high risk of exposure. Even mess halls and sleeping quarters put people at risk since they were so cramped.

Marine Corps and Coast Guard ships were also built with many asbestos materials before the health risks were widely known.

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Other than serving on the Navy ships themselves, Marines were often assigned to work in Navy shipyards. Marines assigned to build and repair ships in a shipyard would have been exposed to many asbestos-containing products.

Those with a high risk of exposure worked with:

  • Fireproofing materials
  • Gaskets
  • Paint
  • Insulation

Even Marines who did not directly work on the ships — but still served in the shipyards — could have been exposed since the work often sent asbestos fibers flying into the air. Anyone who inhaled these microscopic fibers could be at risk of mesothelioma later in life.

Marine Corps Bases and Barracks

Asbestos was frequently used to make military bases more sturdy, soundproof, and fire-resistant. Since the material was so versatile, it was used in dozens of construction and building products.

Asbestos-containing products used on Marine Corps bases included:

  • Adhesives
  • Cement
  • Floor and pipe coverings
  • Roofing materials
  • Valves

The following bases used asbestos in their building materials:

  • Camp H.M. Smith, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Aiea, Hawaii
  • Henderson Hall, Arlington, Virginia
  • Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C.
  • Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, Havelock, North Carolina
  • Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Iwakuni, Japan
  • Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Miramar, California
  • Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Yuma, Arizona
  • Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Twentynine Palms, California
  • Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Jacksonville, North Carolina
  • Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Oceanside, California
  • Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley Butler, Okinawa
  • Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii
  • Marine Corps Base Quantico, Quantico, Virginia
  • Marine Corps Detachment, Guantanamo Naval Base, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
  • Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, Beaufort, South Carolina
  • Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, San Diego, California
  • Mountain Warfare Training Center, Bridgeport, California

Any Marine Corps veterans stationed at these bases — or those who helped to build them — may have been exposed to asbestos.

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Asbestos was used to create friction-reducing products and heat-resistant fabrics in Marine vehicles.

Asbestos-containing products used in Marine vehicles included:

  • Brake pads
  • Transmission plates
  • Automobile clutches

Marine mechanics had the greatest risk for exposure from these vehicles, as they had to install new asbestos-based parts and replace ones that were old and deteriorating. This work directly exposed Marine mechanics on a daily basis.

VA Benefits for Marine Corps Veterans

Once the U.S. military became aware of the dangers of asbestos, they took action to help those already exposed.

VA offers benefits for all veterans and compensation for veterans who were injured or developed illnesses related to their jobs while they were on active duty.

Veterans can get treatment and compensation for themselves as well as their loved ones by applying for these VA benefits.

In order to receive mesothelioma VA benefits, there are two qualifications:

  1. It must be shown that the veteran was exposed to asbestos while they served
  2. The veteran must not have received a dishonorable discharge

Veterans can learn more about what benefits they may qualify for — and how to receive them — by working with a Veterans Service Officer (VSO).

Types of VA Benefits

There are several types of VA benefits that Marine Corps veterans may receive if they developed mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease.

These VA benefits include:

  • VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (VA DIC): This compensation is payable to spouses, children, parents, and other family members of active-duty military or veterans who passed away due to service-connected disabilities
  • Disability Compensation: This monthly compensation is awarded to veterans who became disabled during (or because of) their military service. Mesothelioma is considered a disability by the VA.
  • Special Monthly Compensation (SMC): SMC is monthly aid intended for veterans along with their spouses, parents, and children. SMC payments can vary depending on a veteran’s health care needs (such as if they require full-time care from a nurse) and other factors.
  • VA Health Care: Veterans can receive mesothelioma treatments, as well as professional medical advice, physical therapy, and other health care services, through the veterans health care system.
  • Additional Special Circumstances: Additional compensation may be provided in special circumstances connected to a service-related disability, such as issues with driving, hospital time, inability to work, and more.

Veterans can learn more about these benefits by speaking with an accredited agent.

Other VA Benefits for Marine Veterans

To file a claim and receive benefits, the VA requires medical records that state your disability, service records that list your job or specialty, and a statement from your doctor connecting your contact with asbestos in the military and your mesothelioma diagnosis.

The VA also requires veterans to receive any kind of discharge other than dishonorable in order to get benefits.

Other benefits for which a veteran may be eligible include:

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

Non-compensation benefits are only based on if a veteran was not dishonorably discharged, rather than a mesothelioma diagnosis. This means the veteran can receive some of these benefits even if they weren’t exposed to asbestos while they served.

Filing for VA Benefits

Marine Corps veterans can apply for VA benefits in a few different ways.

Veterans can apply for benefits:

  • By mail
  • By working with a VSO
  • In-person at a VA field office
  • Online
  • With the help of a VA-accredited mesothelioma lawyer

Veterans are encouraged to apply for VA benefits as soon as they have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, as the cancer can spread rapidly through the body.

In particular, Marine Corps veterans may benefit from contacting a mesothelioma lawyer who can help them gather the right information to file a claim and connect them with a VA-accredited claims agent or VSO.

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Legal Help for Marine Corps Veterans with Mesothelioma

Marine Corps veterans should seek out legal help from a mesothelioma attorney when looking to file VA claims. A mesothelioma lawyer can help veterans identify when, where, and how they were exposed to asbestos, and help pass this information on to VSOs.

Lawyers have many resources to help a veteran’s case, including:

  • Databases of information about when and where asbestos-containing products were used
  • Which manufacturers made these products and if they are still in business
  • Information on time limits when filing a VA claim or a lawsuit

If a Marine Corps veteran chooses to take legal action, the military will not be sued. Additionally, veterans’ VA benefits will not be impacted.

Instead, legal action allows veterans to hold responsible the manufacturers that caused their illness. Veterans can also receive compensation for their illnesses, which can help protect their families.

If you would like to learn more about compensation for Marine Corps veterans, start your free case review today.

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.

5 References
  1. Department of Veteran Affairs. (2019, September 27). Veterans Asbestos Exposure. VA.

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

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

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

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

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