Mesothelioma has devastated American veterans from all branches of the Armed Forces, including the Coast Guard. Today, nearly one in every three new mesothelioma patients in the United States is a veteran. Unfortunately, veterans of the Coast Guard and Navy are much more likely to develop mesothelioma than veterans of other branches due to asbestos products being very commonly used onboard ships, boats, and submarines during the 20th century.
Mesothelioma and Asbestos Exposure
Mesothelioma is a devastating and dangerous cancer caused exclusively by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a fibrous material that was used very widely between 1930 and 1980for many purposes, because it is inexpensive, durable, fire-resistant, and importantly to Coast Guard veterans, waterproof. During this time, the dangers of asbestos were not known to the general public, and thousands of Americans were exposed to asbestos fibers.
Asbestos is made up of microscopic fibers that mesh together to create building material, and when exposed to air, those fibers can break loose and float through the air. These fibers cling to skin, hair, and clothing, and they are then inhaled by any person in the immediate vicinity. The presence of these asbestos fibers in human lungs can cause mesothelioma to develop even decades after exposure.
Since finding out about the harms of asbestos, companies that manufactured the material have paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in legal compensation for mesothelioma injuries, as these companies knew of the risks associated with asbestos and continued to manufacture and sell it. While the US government cannot be held liable in the same way, the Department of Veterans Affairs has established many programs and benefits for veterans who were exposed to asbestos during military service and who later developed mesothelioma.
Asbestos on Military Watercraft
From 1930 onward, the US military used asbestos in nearly all newly built ships and other watercraft, as the government did not know that asbestos was harmful. Onboard military vessels, asbestos materials were used as insulation in the walls of ships to protect against onboard fires.
Exposure to Asbestos in the Coast Guard
Asbestos was essentially in every wall and partition on board Coast Guard watercraft between 1930 and 1970. Because ships are poorly ventilated in general, when asbestos fibers were exposed, they generally stayed in the air for longer than they would in different environments. When ships were maintained or repaired, asbestos exposure was frequent and lengthy, and most commonly, veterans who worked in boiler rooms, steam rooms, and engine rooms were exposed to asbestos.
Asbestos was also commonly found in the following settings on board Coast Guard vessels:
- Boiler rooms and steam rooms
- Engine rooms
- Electrical wiring insulation
- Valves and gaskets
- Floor tiles and wall cladding
- Deck coating materials
- Plumbing work and water pipes
Asbestos Exposure in the Coast Guard
Essentially every Coast Guard vessel constructed before the 1980s contained asbestos in some form, but most commonly, asbestos exposure occurred during World War II and in the years immediately following the war. That’s because a large number of Coast Guard ships were constructed in the years leading up to World War II, as they were frequently used to transport military goods and products to battle zones in Europe and the Pacific.
As these ships were heavily used and often fell into disrepair, asbestos fibers were released into the air on board. Following World War II, many of these ships were remodeled and reused for later missions in the Korean War and in the Vietnam War. During those reconstructions, the walls and surfaces on these ships were opened, exposing workers to asbestos.
Types of Coast Guard Vessels with Asbestos
Almost every Coast Guard vessel constructed between 1930 and 1980 contained asbestos products. But more specifically, asbestos products have been found on board the following types of Coast Guard vessels:
- Tug boats
- Utility boats
- Long-range interceptor ships
- Port security boats
Most commonly, Coast Guard asbestos exposures occurred onboard cutter ships, one of the Coast Guard’s most important and most widely used vessel types. While any veteran working on board these ships could have been exposed to asbestos, the most at-risk veterans are those who worked below deck, in spaces with poor ventilation and potentially exposed insulation.
Shockingly, some Coast Guard cutters that were constructed between 1930 and 1980 are still in use today. While the military has undergone extensive remediation efforts to ensure that no asbestos remains onboard these ships, many cutters built in the asbestos era remain in use by the Coast Guard.
Assistance for Coast Guard Veterans with Mesothelioma
The exposure of asbestos to so many American service members is a tragedy that should never have occurred. Thankfully, Coast Guard veterans who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma have multiple avenues of recourse to seek compensation for their injuries. While no amount of money can truly compensate a mesothelioma victim for experiencing a devastating illness, our team of attorneys is ready to assist veterans and their families in pursuing compensation.
VA Benefits and Programs
The Department of Veterans Affairs offers multiple benefits programs to affected veterans and their families. These programs generally will allow for monthly payments to veterans living with mesothelioma to assist with the costs of medical care, lost wages, and family support. VA programs can be accessed with an application, and each program has its own requirements for eligibility.
Legal Compensation from Manufacturers
While veterans cannot sue the Coast Guard, they may be able to seek legal compensation against the manufacturers of asbestos products that were used on board Coast Guard vessels. Because asbestos legal claims are unfortunately common, many asbestos manufacturing companies have organized trust funds for victims that do not require the filing of a lawsuit to access. Otherwise, you may be able to file a lawsuit against one of these companies. A mesothelioma attorney can assist you in weighing these options and determining which sources of compensation you may be entitled to pursue.
Contact a Mesothelioma Attorney Today
Our team of experienced mesothelioma attorneys is ready to assist Coast Guard veterans and their families in pursuing compensation for mesothelioma. If you are a veteran who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos onboard a Coast Guard vessel, you may be entitled to receive funds from the VA and from an asbestos trust fund. The only way to access these funds is to seek them out, and an attorney can assist you in doing so. Contact us today to set up a free consultation on your prospective claim.