Mesothelioma Diagnosis in Marine Corps Veterans


The United States Marine Corps is the smallest segment of the U.S. military. It officially falls under the Department of the Navy within the Defense Department but operates as an individual amphibious and expeditionary fighting force.

The Marines now have 186,000 active service personnel and 38,000 reservists. The USMC was founded in 1775 and has been a vital part of every American armed conflict since. Over the years, many Marines were exposed to asbestos. Today, some of those Marine veterans battle life-threatening asbestos-caused diseases, including mesothelioma.

Asbestos Exposure in Marine Corps Veterans

Though the Marines were a smaller force, these fighting women and men faced similar asbestos exposure hazards as their Navy, Army and Air Force counterparts did. For five decades, asbestos was a prime material used for constructing Marine vessels, aircraft and vehicles. Marine bases had buildings constructed with asbestos-containing materials (ACM). This took place from the late 1930s to the mid-1980s. Finally, information about asbestos exposure health hazards overtook the need for ACM products, and the Marine Corps moved to ban asbestos in their surroundings.

Tragically, by the time the USMC took action for abatement and prevention, many Marine veterans had a long history of asbestos exposure. Some vets experienced higher asbestos amounts and longer exposure duration’s than other Marines. This depended on specific service duties as well as what type of asbestos material they handled. Many veterans had no idea they faced serious health issues as effects from asbestos exposure have an exceptionally long latency period. It takes anywhere from 10 to 50 years for mesothelioma symptoms to appear. And for many marine corps vets, the damage was already done.

High-Risk Asbestos Exposure Areas in the U.S. Marines

The Marine slogan says they go on the land, on the sea and the air. That sums up the broad operating threat range Marines deployed in. However, in each area they depended on asbestos products to serve their safety and comfort. Asbestos was once considered a miracle material for fireproofing, sound suppression and thermal insulation. Asbestos made products strong, lightweight and rust-resistant. It was also easy to work with, cheap and widely available.

Products made with ACM appeared everywhere in a Marine veteran’s working environment. ACMs also made up their eating and sleeping surroundings making it impossible for Marine vets from the asbestos era to avoid exposure.

These were the highest-risk exposure areas for USMC veterans:

  • Vessels: Marine vessels used asbestos for fire resistance, sound deadening and insulation. Landing craft and aircraft carriers extensively used asbestos especially in engine, boiler and propulsion rooms. Galleys and berths also had asbestos protection. Marines often travelled in Navy vessels with the same exposure hazards.
  • Aircraft: The USMC employed hundreds of tactical and transport aircraft. These planes also used asbestos for a lot of reasons including high-friction applications like brakes. Aircraft mechanics had high exposure from burned brake lining dust as well as engine insulation and gaskets.
  • Vehicles: Marine trucks, dozers, armored personnel carriers and jeeps all used asbestos products. The 1950s M60 Patton tank was full of asbestos protection keeping the crews in constant asbestos exposure. Vehicle mechanics also faced high asbestos hazards.
  • Buildings: Marine bases and shipyard repair facilities commonly used ACM construction materials. Roof shingles, floor and ceiling tiles, wallboard and brick mortar were asbestos based. Carpenters, masons, drywallers and insulators all faced toxic asbestos exposure in Marine buildings.

MJN Brief

Many Marine veterans exposed to airborne asbestos fibers eventually developed life-threatening diseases from service-related duties. Marine vets are still diagnosed with mesothelioma years after they retired from active service or had their last on-duty exposure to asbestos particles. Fortunately, the Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes asbestos exposure as a duty-related ailment and compensates veterans who have since developed mesothelioma.

Compensation and Benefits for United States Marine Corps Veterans

United States Marine Corps veterans receive benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Benefits and healthcare compensation are entitlements for Marine Corps who honorably served their country.

However, two main eligibility criteria exist:

  • The veteran applicant had military service resulting in an honorable discharge (dishonorable discharges do not qualify).
  • Your disability was the result of active-duty injury, including latent disease like mesothelioma, which manifests decades after an honorable discharge.

Marine Corps veterans are eligible for the following types of compensation through the VA:

  • Disability Compensation: This is the standard tax-free monetary compensation plan where claimants receive monthly guaranteed income supplements for disabilities resulting from active-duty hazards like asbestos exposure.
  • Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC): DIC is paid to surviving spouses and child dependents of Marine veterans killed by active duty causes. That includes asbestos-related disease deaths.
  • Special Monthly Compensation (SMC): Marine vets with special requirements, such as homecare support, are entitled to additional monthly compensation.
  • Additional Special Circumstances: Additional compensation is available for special circumstances that require extensive medical care.

Marine Veterans Benefit Claim Types

Marine vets often face a variety of disability types.

Some of the claims Marine Corps veterans can file include:

  • Pre-Discharge Claims: Active service personnel within 180 days of discharge may file for already-known disabilities.
  • Pre-Service Claims: Service personnel with pre-existing disabilities prior to entering service may claim when occupational hazards increased or aggravated the condition.
  • In-Service Claims: For disabilities clearly incurred during active service, vets may claim benefits but continue duty.
  • Post-Service Claims: Disabilities that arise after discharge can be claimed provided proof exists they were caused by in-service conditions.
  • Special Claims: Special circumstances occasionally dictate claims being processed on their particular merits.

Other VA Healthcare Benefits for Marine Veterans

The Department of Veteran Affairs helps ensure that Marine Corps veterans and their families get the long-term care and support they need.

Therefore, the VA offers Marine vets extended healthcare benefits such as:

  • Disability Pensions
  • Preventive Healthcare Services
  • Personal Health Programs
  • Education and Training
  • Home Loans
  • Insurance
  • Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment
  • Mental Health Assistance and Counseling
  • Survivors Benefits
  • Burial and Memorial Services

Applying for VA Healthcare Benefits

Every United States Marine veteran remains eligible for compensation and healthcare assistance after their discharge as long as the initial cause was caused during military service. That includes service personnel discharged before pension eligibility and those whose condition worsened during service time. Marine Corps vets can apply for Va benefits through:

  • Online application with the eBenefits portal on the VA website
  • In person at a VA field office
  • Having assistance from an accredited third-party representative
  • Retaining a specialized law firm to file claims

Retaining a Mesothelioma Law Firm

USMC veterans have additional mesothelioma compensation options. Like civilian victims, Marine veterans can file lawsuits against negligent asbestos product manufacturers and suppliers. Civilian lawsuits don’t affect any compensation amounts you receive through the VA, and all Marine vets remain eligible to file VA claims regardless of the types of claims they file privately.

View Author and Sources
  1. Mesothelioma Veterans Center, “Mesothelioma in the Marines”, Retrieved from Accessed on January 2, 2018
  2. Department of Veterans Affairs, War Related Illness and Injury Study Center, “Asbestos Fact Sheet”, Retrieved from Accessed on January 2, 2018
  3. Department of Veterans Affairs, “Compensation – Asbestos”, Retrieved from Accessed on January 2, 2018
  4. Department of Veterans Affairs, “I am a Veteran” Retrieved from Accessed on January 2, 2018
  5. Department of Veterans Affairs, “Exposure to Hazardous Materials – Asbestos” Retrieved from Accessed on January 2, 2018

Last modified: February 2, 2018