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Coast Guard Veterans and Mesothelioma

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Jennifer Lucarelli Lawyer and Legal Advisor


Coast Guard Cutters and aircraft contained high amounts of asbestos in the past. This put service members at risk. About 1,800 veterans die each year from asbestos diseases like mesothelioma. Veterans harmed by asbestos may have options, including VA benefits and legal action. A mesothelioma lawyer can help.


01. Coast Guard Veterans Benefits & Compensation

Benefits for Coast Guard Veterans With Mesothelioma

U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) veterans with mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases may qualify for VA benefits. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers financial compensation and healthcare benefits. Veterans exposed to asbestos during their service can access these benefits by filing a VA claim.

VA disability compensation payments start at about $3,600 monthly for Coast Guard veterans with mesothelioma or lung cancer. Compensation may increase according to a number of factors.

Benefits for Family Members of Coast Guard Veterans

Spouses and loved ones of Coast Guard veterans may also qualify for VA compensation. Family members may file for:

Financial compensation can help family members with lost wages and cover the cost of treatment or funerals.

Other compensation options for Coast Guard veterans and their loved ones are:

An experienced mesothelioma lawyer can help veterans determine their compensation options.

Some examples of compensation Coast Guard veterans have received include:

  • A 63-year-old Coast Guard veteran and engineer received more than $8.8 million.
  • A 60-year-old Coast Guard veteran received more than $4.36 million.
  • A 72-year-old Coast Guard veteran and mechanic received more than $1.9 million.
  • A 72-year-old Coast Guard veteran received more than $930,000.
  • A 90-year-old Coast Guard veteran received nearly $710,000.

Other Benefits for Coast Guard Veterans

Coast Guard veterans may also be eligible for health care benefits through the VA. At VA treatment centers, veterans can receive low-cost mesothelioma care. At some hospitals, veterans may receive treatment from top mesothelioma doctors.

Coast Guard veterans may also receive mesothelioma treatment from private hospitals. Some Coast Guard veterans may be eligible to receive care from non-VA treatment centers through the Veterans Community Care Program (VCCP). This program enables veterans to receive care in their local area paid for by the VA.

In addition to health care, Coast Guard veterans have access to VA:

  • Career advising
  • Home loans
  • Insurance
02. Coast Guard Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos Exposure in the Coast Guard

Coast Guard veterans may have experienced asbestos exposure from military bases, Coast Guard ships, shipyards and aircraft. Asbestos was used by military branches as an additive for fireproofing and durability.

The Coast Guard has a total of 38 bases in 16 different states. Veterans who were stationed at these bases may have been exposed to asbestos in offices, barracks and shipyards. Family members may have been exposed in family housing.

Asbestos Products Used by the Coast Guard

Some Coast Guard workers were more likely to come into contact with asbestos products than others.

Coast Guard occupations most at risk for asbestos exposure include:

The Coast Guard is smaller than the U.S. Navy. However, Coast Guard veterans experienced exposure at a similar rate to Navy veterans.

Asbestos Exposure on Ships and Shipyards

Coast Guard members on ships and those who oversaw shipyard operations may have been exposed to asbestos.

On ships, asbestos insulation could be found in:

  • Boiler rooms
  • Engine rooms
  • High-heat areas on the lower deck
  • Pump rooms

Asbestos was also found in sleeping quarters, mess halls and other areas onboard.

The confined spaces on ships often led to highly concentrated airborne asbestos fibers. When these fibers were disturbed, they could travel through the ship and expose service members and staff.

Navy and Coast Guard veterans who served in World War II were at a high risk of asbestos exposure. At this time, ship production and asbestos use were both at their peak.

The military stopped using asbestos products in shipbuilding in the 1970s. However, Coast Guard members continued to be exposed while repairing and demolishing older ships.

Asbestos on Coast Guard Cutters

U.S. Coast Guard Cutters (USCGC) are commissioned Coast Guard vessels with an assigned crew.

Records show Coast Guard members who served on USCGCs before 1991 may have experienced asbestos exposure. Asbestos materials on USCGCs included thermal insulation and floor tiles.

USCGC crew members may have experienced exposure during maintenance work. Examples include removing floor tiles or thermal insulation. Before the 1970s, maintenance was often done without protective equipment.

Coast Guard Ships Built Before 1991

Coast Guard ships built prior to 1991 may have contained asbestos. Some of these ships included the following classes:

  • Cutters, such as the CGC Hamilton (WHEC 715)
  • Icebreakers, such as the CGC Polar Star (WAGB 10)
  • Patrol Boats, such as the CGC Diligence (WPC 616/WMEC 616)

Source: United States Coast Guard

03. Coast Guard Veterans’ Mesothelioma Risk

Mesothelioma Risk Among Coast Guard Veterans

Coast Guard veterans who came into contact with asbestos are at risk of developing mesothelioma. After asbestos exposure, it may take 50 years or more for mesothelioma to develop. Due to the long latency period, veterans continue to be diagnosed with mesothelioma.

According to a study of more than 4,000 civilian Coast Guard shipyard workers, shipyard workers were five times more likely to have died of mesothelioma than the general population. The study documented the mortality of workers employed at a shipyard from 1950 to 1965. The study concluded in 2001.

The Coast Guard shipyard worker group also had higher rates of death from emphysema, respiratory cancer and lung cancer. The study authors concluded asbestos exposure played a role in these deaths.

04. Mesothelioma Treatment for Veterans

Mesothelioma Treatment for Coast Guard Veterans

Coast Guard veterans with an asbestos-related disease have treatment options. Veterans can go to VA hospitals. They can also go to local facilities through the VA’s Community Care Network (CCN).

The CCN gives veterans the option to get treated closer to home. This option lets veterans with mesothelioma go to a mesothelioma specialist in their area.

05. Preventing Asbestos Exposure

Protecting Coast Guard Members From Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos may still be present on some Coast Guard vessels and bases. To protect service members, the Coast Guard and other agencies have developed regulations and laws to limit asbestos exposure.

In the 1980s, the Coast Guard implemented the Occupational Medical Surveillance & Evaluation Program (OMSEP). The program includes monitoring Coast Guard personnel for occupational asbestos exposures and exposures to other hazardous chemicals.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also monitors the Coast Guard to protect personnel. OSHA provides guidelines related to levels of asbestos and other contaminants in ships, shipyards and bases across the country.

OSHA regulations do the following:

  • Require medical surveillance for employees exposed to certain levels of asbestos
  • Require specific training for employees who may encounter asbestos
  • Set safety standards for employees who work with asbestos

These programs aim to protect Coast Guard service members and diagnose asbestos-related illnesses early. Early diagnosis of mesothelioma and lung cancer may help service members and veterans improve life expectancy and quality of life.

Coast Guard veterans diagnosed with an asbestos disease should contact a mesothelioma law firm to discuss their potential compensation options.

06. Common Questions

Common Questions About Coast Guard Veterans and Mesothelioma

How many U.S. Coast Guard Cutters used asbestos?

Many United States Coast Guard Cutters may have used asbestos. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, as many as 292 cutters built before 1991 may have had asbestos in insulation and floor tiles. Veterans who served aboard any of these vessels may have been at risk of asbestos exposure and illness.

Can you sue the Coast Guard for asbestos exposure?

Coast Guard veterans may have limited legal options with the U.S. Coast Guard. However, they may be able to file mesothelioma lawsuits against the companies that produced asbestos products that were supplied to the Coast Guard. Also, veterans may be eligible for VA claims. An experienced asbestos law firm can explain the options and help with filing VA claims.

Do Coast Guard veterans qualify for VA benefits?

Coast Guard veterans and family members may qualify for VA benefits. Coast Guard veterans affected by asbestos may want to talk to a mesothelioma lawyer. These experienced lawyers can explain eligibility and help file VA claims.