Mesothelioma and Marine Veterans

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Jennifer Lucarelli Legal Advisor and Contributor

U.S. Marine Corps veterans risked asbestos exposure during their service. Ships, aircraft, vehicles and military bases often contained asbestos products. As a result, Marine veterans are at risk of developing mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer. Marine veterans with an asbestos disease may be eligible for compensation.

01. Benefits & Compensation Options

Benefits for Marine Corps Veterans With Mesothelioma

The U.S. Marine Corps is an elite military branch trained to serve at sea, in the sky and on the ground. All of these Marine operations relied on asbestos materials until 1980. Marine Corps veterans exposed to asbestos during their service who later develop an asbestos disease may be eligible for benefits. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers compensation, healthcare and other benefits. Marine veterans with mesothelioma may also be eligible for compensation through legal options.

Compensation Options for Asbestos-Exposed Marine Veterans

Eligible Marine veterans may have several compensation options, such as filing a VA claim, mesothelioma lawsuit or an asbestos trust fund claim. Each type of compensation has its own eligibility requirements.

Marine Corps veterans with an asbestos-related diagnosis may be able to file a claim with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Payouts of VA claims for veterans with mesothelioma start at about $3,100 each month.

In addition to filing a VA claim, Marine veterans or their surviving loved ones may be eligible to file a legal asbestos claim. Marine veterans may be able to pursue a mesothelioma lawsuit against the asbestos company or companies responsible for their wrongful exposure.

Marine veterans may also be eligible to file an asbestos trust fund claim. Veterans file these claims against bankrupt asbestos companies that set aside funds to provide victims with compensation.

Marine veterans and their family members should talk to an experienced mesothelioma lawyer about their claim options. A dedicated mesothelioma law firm can help veterans understand their eligibility and filing options. They can also provide help throughout the entire process.

Compensation awarded through legal claims or from the VA can help veterans and their loved ones cover medical bills, lost income and other expenses.

Benefits for Marine Families

Surviving spouses or dependents may also be eligible for VA benefits and compensation. For instance, loved ones may be able to file a VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) claim. A VA DIC claim can provide family members with tax-exempt monetary awards based on their individual circumstances.

Other Benefits for Marine Veterans

Marine veterans may also be eligible for other benefits through the VA. Job training, education programs, home loan assistance, life insurance and healthcare are some of the benefits available.

The VA health system offers more than 1,200 treatment centers across the country. Because mesothelioma and lung cancer are given a 100% disability rating, veterans may receive treatment for no cost or minimal copays.

Veterans may also seek health care from local providers outside of the VA through the Veterans Community Care Program (VCCP). Eligible veterans may seek additional benefits through the VCCP. For instance, the VCCP offers a program for family members of Marine veterans that lived or served at the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. Some water sources at the base were contaminated with toxic chemicals from August 1953 to December 1987. It’s estimated that as many as one million individuals on the base were exposed to the water. Many have developed health conditions related to the contaminated water. Nearly 40 conditions, including various types of cancers, have been linked to Camp Lejeune water.

Veterans may be able to seek health care through the VCCP or other programs. Individuals diagnosed with a condition related to the contaminated water may also be entitled to compensation. They should speak with a lawyer experienced with Camp Lejeune cases to learn about their claim options.

An accredited VA agent can also help Marines learn about all of their benefits options and navigate the process.

02. Asbestos Exposure in Marine Veterans

Asbestos Exposure in the Marine Corps

Marines faced frequent asbestos exposure through their duties. Marine veterans served on land, at sea and in the air, all of which posed exposure risks. The Marine Corps and other branches of the military used asbestos products through at least 1980. As a result, many veterans were exposed to asbestos and continue to develop asbestos-related diseases.

The Marine Corps is a department within the U.S. Navy. As such, the Marine Corps and the Navy are considered sister services.

Research indicates those who worked on Navy ships or in naval shipyards were among the most at risk for asbestos exposure. Because of the Marine Corps’ close ties with the Navy, many Marine veterans faced exposure while serving aboard Navy vessels. Merchant Marines, an auxiliary branch of the Navy, also used asbestos on their ships and faced similar risks.

Marine Corps veterans and service members also faced other exposure risks. Aircraft, vehicles, equipment and barracks all frequently contained asbestos products.

Asbestos Exposure on Ships and Shipyards

Marine veterans frequently served aboard naval ships and in shipyards. From the 1930s until the late 1970s, Navy ships contained many asbestos components.

Asbestos was used throughout naval ships for fireproofing and durability, including in:

  • Boiler rooms
  • Hot water pipe coverings
  • Insulation
  • Gaskets
  • Valves
  • Steam pipe coverings

While aboard ships, Marines completed maintenance tasks in the same capacity as any Navy service members. During the completion of these tasks, asbestos products may have been disturbed. This could release microscopic asbestos fibers into the air and cause exposure.

Marine Corps Veteran & Actor Steve McQueen’s Asbestos Exposure

Well-known actor Steve McQueen served in the Marine Corps from 1947 until 1950. During his service, McQueen worked on ships. His duties included removing asbestos insulation. This asbestos exposure contributed to his pleural mesothelioma diagnosis in 1979.

Asbestos Exposure on Aircraft and Air Stations

Marine Corps service members may have also served in aviation units. Like naval vessels, military aircraft often were constructed with various asbestos components. Air stations also frequently contained asbestos products.

On aircraft, asbestos could be found in various materials and equipment, including:

  • Heat shields
  • Insulation
  • Engines
  • Brake pads

Marine veterans who served on or maintained aircraft faced the risk of asbestos exposure.

Air stations and bases also frequently had asbestos risks. Reports indicate Marine Corps Station Miramar in San Diego contained asbestos in the barracks. Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona also contained asbestos. Yuma Air Station was previously used by the Air Force but became a Marine Corps base in 1962.

Yuma Air Station had many hazards and became an asbestos Superfund site in 1990. A Superfund site is a contaminated location that requires cleanup. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) oversees the cleanup of Superfund sites. Asbestos removal was completed in 1999 and other cleanup efforts of the site continue.

Other Asbestos Exposure Risks for Marines

Marine Corps service members and veterans faced other asbestos exposure risks. Asbestos could be found in barracks and sleeping quarters, other buildings on base, vehicles and equipment.

One potential source of exposure was the M60 Patton tank. This vehicle was introduced in 1959 and contained various asbestos components, such as the brake pads. Tank crews also often had to wear asbestos mittens or asbestos blankets to protect themselves from heat.

Reports also indicate asbestos on various Marine Corps bases.

U.S. Marine Corps Bases That Had Asbestos

  • Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, NC
  • Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow in Barstow, CA
  • Marines Corps Base Camp Pendleton in Camp Pendleton, CA
  • Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island in Parris Island, SC

Active-Duty Marines May Still Be at Risk of Asbestos Exposure

A 2020 evaluation from the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General reported military housing in the United States and other countries may still contain asbestos materials. As a result, service members on active duty face a continued exposure risk.

03. Marine Veterans’ Mesothelioma Risk

Mesothelioma Risk Among Marine Corps Veterans

The heavy use of asbestos in the Marine Corps puts veterans at high risk of mesothelioma, asbestosis and other asbestos-related illnesses. Due to the long latency period of asbestos diseases, Marine veterans continue to be diagnosed.

Actor Steve McQueen served in the Marine Corps from 1947 to 1950. During this time, he was exposed to asbestos. In 1979, McQueen was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. He passed away the following year.

Marine veterans who may have been exposed to asbestos should talk to their doctor. They can help monitor for potential signs and symptoms of asbestos disease.

04. Preventing Asbestos Exposure

Protecting Marines From Asbestos Exposure

Marine veterans and current service members face the risk of developing asbestos-related diseases. Although the Marine Corps stopped using asbestos by 1980, old asbestos materials may remain and endanger service members.

The Marine Corps and other U.S. military branches have enacted programs and regulations to help protect Marines from the dangers of asbestos.

  • The Asbestos Medical Surveillance Program (AMSP) run by the Navy maintains records of veterans who faced asbestos exposure. Through the program, veterans can seek health monitoring for asbestos-related diseases.
  • The Marine Corps Asbestos Safety Program was created to eliminate asbestos exposure among service members. The program focuses on substituting asbestos for other materials. The program also provides training and personal protective equipment for any personnel working with asbestos.
  • The Marine Corps Environmental Compliance and Protection Program helps enforce compliance through asbestos regulations from the EPA and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).

These measures and better awareness of the risk of asbestos materials can help prevent future asbestos exposure among Marines.