The Coast Guard has played its part in the wars that have reached our shores. Coast Guard cutters served as escorts for cargo convoys in World War II and patrolled both coasts, sinking a couple of German submarines in the Pacific and thirteen in the Atlantic. The Coast Guard was an independent division of the nation’s armed forces, dating back to 1790. Today it is under the aegis of the Department of Home Security.
Asbestos on Coast Guard Ships and Boats
Coast Guard veterans who served from World War II through the 1970s were working on ships that were constructed when asbestos insulation and fire retardant materials were used throughout military and commercial vessels. A large Navy ship used tons of asbestos for containing the heat in the engine room, with boilers, and with pipes throughout the ship. Asbestos was a valuable fire retardant used in walls and doors between ship compartments. Coast Guard cutters of the era had the same features but on a smaller scale.
The use of pumps, valves and pipes throughout those patrol craft placed asbestos materials all over the ship in the form of fittings, gaskets, seals, and adhesive materials. Ship engine rooms used asbestos wrapped around heated surfaces to protect crewmen; much of the asbestos sheets or blankets used for this purpose were exposed to wear and damage from other equipment. Over time these coverings would fray and release the microscopic asbestos fibers that could be inhaled by the crew members. Years later when those men and women were Coast Guard veterans some of them began to develop mesothelioma and asbestosis, two diseases whose sole cause is those asbestos fibers.
Coast Guard Veterans with Mesothelioma
Coast Guard veterans are entitled to the same benefits as veterans of other Armed Forces branches, and they have encountered the same difficulties extracting benefits for asbestos related diseases from the military as have the Army, Navy and Marine veterans. For many years the military was unwilling to recognize asbestos caused illness as a service-related disability. When the extent of asbestos related disease among veterans became evident in the 1970s and 1980s the VA was forced to reconsider.
Today a Coast Guard veteran with asbestosis, mesothelioma or asbestos lung cancer is eligible for VA disability and medical treatment if he or she can prove that they were exposed to asbestos while on active duty and that the exposure has a reasonable possibility of being the cause of the disease. At one point the VA took the position that such a finding would require that the veteran had no other exposure to asbestos during his working career, but that rule has been relaxed somewhat.
Coast Guard Veterans’ Legal Rights for Asbestos Exposure
Mesothelioma takes between forty and fifty years to manifest itself after the asbestos exposure has occurred. Coast Guard veterans who served in the 1950s and 1960s may just now be getting sick from their exposure to asbestos while on active duty. Any veteran who has developed mesothelioma cancer or another asbestos related disease can take legal action against the asbestos companies that manufactured those materials found in Coast Guard ships and facilities. Hundreds of thousands of mesothelioma lawsuits have been filed against the asbestos companies and they have paid out billions of dollars in benefits.
Thirty percent of all mesothelioma patients are military veterans. Clearly the exposure was widespread, from World War II through the Vietnam conflict. If you are a Coast Guard veteran who has developed an asbestos related disease you may be eligible for compensation. Contact our offices today and one of our attorneys will review your case with you – thoroughly, in complete confidence, and at no charge.