Coast Guard Veterans & Mesothelioma

Coast Guard members are the first responders of our waterways, on the front lines of protecting America’s shores. Sadly, many in the Coast Guard also experienced asbestos exposure, an invisible health hazard that can lead to mesothelioma and other diseases decades after service.

If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma after Coast Guard service, it’s important to understand how you were exposed and the compensation that may be available to you.

How Are Coast Guard Veterans At Risk for Mesothelioma?

Like Navy veterans and members of the merchant marines, members of the Coast Guard and workers in its shipyards may be at higher risk for mesothelioma. This is because they operated in confined spaces without proper ventilation, allowing higher concentrations of asbestos in the air to possibly be inhaled.

Research shows that asbestos exposure can lead to high rates of lung disease and mesothelioma in the Coast Guard. One study found that more than half of shipyard workers had asbestos-related changes in their lungs. Another found that workers in one Coast Guard shipyard experienced higher rates of death compared to the general population, due to lung cancer and mesothelioma. It concluded these deaths were most likely related to asbestos exposure.

Most At-Risk Coast Guard Jobs

Materials made with asbestos pose the most risk when they’re damaged or disturbed, releasing microscopic fibers into the air that may be inhaled into the lungs. Those who often worked with asbestos wiring, insulation, pipes and other components on Coast Guard ships are at the highest risk, especially those who worked in confined spaces. The most at-risk occupations include:

  • Boilermakers
  • Carpenters
  • Electricians
  • Engine room workers
  • Engineers
  • Hull repairers
  • Insulators
  • Machinists
  • Pipefitters
  • Plumbers
  • Sheet metal workers
  • Shipfitters
  • Steamfitters
  • Vehicle mechanics
  • Welders

Mesothelioma in the Coast Guard isn’t limited to veterans. Workers could have brought home dust on their clothing and shoes, and even in their hair, which may have contributed to secondary asbestos exposure for family members.

Coast Guard Vessels Known for Asbestos Exposure

Before the mid-1980s, asbestos was used in a variety of military vehicles, aircraft and ships. But while other military branches stopped using asbestos in the 1970s and 1980s, the Coast Guard website acknowledges that veterans assigned to Coast Guard cutters constructed before 1991 may have been exposed to asbestos.

Asbestos was also present on other types of ships and boats, including:

  • Cutters
  • Utility boats
  • Icebreakers
  • Interceptors
  • Patrol boats
  • Tenders

Compensation for Mesothelioma Patients

If you served in the Coast Guard, mesothelioma compensation and benefits may be available to you. An experienced attorney can help you confirm if your mesothelioma diagnosis is related to your military service or other possible asbestos exposure and guide you through the processes below.

1. Filing a VA Claim

Coast Guard veterans and their spouses can qualify for benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for any condition directly related to their military service. These benefits may include:

  • Disability payments
  • Free medical care
  • Free or discounted prescription medications
  • Free travel and lodging for medical care

The VA lists mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis as service-related conditions. However, unlike some other conditions, you won’t be able to claim VA benefits for mesothelioma based on diagnosis alone. You will also need to prove you were exposed to asbestos during your service. An attorney can help you complete all the required steps. Once complete, you’ll be eligible to receive compensation.

2. Navigating Asbestos Trust Funds

Many asbestos companies that the Coast Guard contracted with knew of the dangers of their products. When mesothelioma in Coast Guard veterans and other individuals finally began to come to light, the resulting lawsuits caused many of these companies to declare bankruptcy.

As part of the bankruptcy process, these companies created asbestos trust funds with money to be distributed to victims. The exact amount of compensation available depends on the trust. An experienced attorney can submit your claim quickly to help you get the funds needed to cover mesothelioma expenses.

3. Filing a Mesothelioma Lawsuit

Mesothelioma requires aggressive treatment, leading to medical bills that can quickly add up. It’s also a rare disease, so you may need to travel to find a specialist. Even if you qualify for free VA care, the need for you or your family to take time off work can hurt your finances. Mesothelioma lawsuits could help you recover compensation for all of these expenses, as well as for pain and suffering. You’ll need to prove which companies were responsible for your asbestos exposure, so it’s important to hire an attorney experienced in researching Coast Guard mesothelioma cases.

Legal Support for Coast Guard Veterans

After serving your country in the Coast Guard, a mesothelioma diagnosis is a burden you and your family shouldn’t have to bear. At Early, Lucarelli, Sweeney and Meisenkothen, we believe that veterans who were exposed to asbestos during service deserve compensation. We have decades of experience working with all branches of the military, with a full team dedicated to researching your case.

ELSM has won multiple mesothelioma claims for veterans, including $8.9 million for a Coast Guard veteran in Wyoming and $4.4 million for a veteran in Washington. And because we know that time is of the essence, we work quickly, often getting results in as little as 3 to 6 months.

Contact us today so we can get started on your case as soon as possible.


Did U.S. Coast Guard ships use asbestos?

Yes, U.S. Coast Guard ships, particularly cutters, used asbestos in wiring, insulation, pipes, flooring and more until 1991. Asbestos was most commonly used in areas of high moisture or heat, like engine rooms, boiler rooms and pumps.

Which occupations in the Coast Guard are most at-risk for asbestos exposure?

Coast Guard veterans who installed or repaired asbestos materials in enclosed, poorly ventilated spaces risk the highest exposure, and therefore the highest risk of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. This includes boilermakers, electricians, engine room workers, pipefitters, plumbers, steamfitters and welders. Workers in Coast Guard shipyards may also be at risk.

Can U.S. Coast Guard veterans with mesothelioma receive VA benefits?

Yes, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) considers mesothelioma a service-related disease. VA benefits are available to all veterans, as well as their spouses, with proof of diagnosis and proof of asbestos exposure during service.


  1. Krstev, S, Steward, P, et al. Occup Environ Med. Oct 2007;64(10):651-8. doi:10.1136/oem.2006.029652
  2. Lemen, R and Landrigan, P. Int J Environ Res Public Health. August 2021;18(16): 8417. doi:10.3390/ijerph18168417
  3. U.S. Coast Guard, Information for Coast Guard Veterans and Retirees Filing for Veterans Affairs Disability Compensation. Accessed December 4, 2023.

Request a Free Case Evaluation

Request a free case evaluation now if you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma. The evaluation will cost you nothing. Our lawyers will travel to visit you at your convenience or conference call with you over the phone. We understand how difficult a time this is for you and will assist in any way that we can. You can also call us toll-free at 1-800-336-0086 at any time.