Asbestos Exposure in the Coast Guard
The U.S. Armed Forces used asbestos for most of the 20th century. Members of the Coast Guard were mainly exposed to asbestos in their naval vessels, which were built with asbestos-containing materials. As many as 1,800 veterans succumb to asbestos-related illnesses annually. These include asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.
Members of the Coast Guard who have been diagnosed with asbestos-related illnesses are entitled to receive VA benefits and may have legal options to recover additional compensation. The experienced mesothelioma attorneys at The Lanier Law Firm can help Coast Guard veterans explore their options.
Sources of U.S. Coast Guard Asbestos Exposure
The waterproofing and insulating qualities of asbestos made it ideal for multiple applications in shipbuilding and maintenance, resulting in its use for the following applications:
Asbestos Exposure at Sea and Abroad
Asbestos Exposure at Home
The USCG built and repaired ships at the Coast Guard Shipyard at Curtis Bay in Baltimore, Maryland. Established in 1899, it grew from a 36-acre lease by the Revenue Cutter Service to the USCG’s only shipyard. It spans 113 acres today and is known by Coastguardsmen as simply “the yard.”
By World War II, the shipyard had developed fully functional boat, gas engine and machine shops, in addition to a 40-ton marine engine railway and buoys. Substantial amounts of asbestos were used in the construction of ships from 1940 to 1975. During the war period, the Coast Guard built two of the largest-ever cutters: the MENDOTA and the PONTCHARTRAIN.
Civilians Exposed in Coast Guard Shipyards
Civilian employees play a significant role in the USCG’s operations. During World War II, the Coast Guard employed 3,100 civilian workers in the Curtis Bay shipyard. The USCG has continued to employ civilian workers. A study of more than 4,702 civilian workers employed from 1950 through 1964 revealed an increased mortality rate from lung cancer, mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses.
Are Coast Guard personnel still at risk of asbestos exposure?
The Hidden Dangers of Asbestos
You May Be Entitled to Compensation
Coast Guard Veterans
VA Health Care
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or other cancerous conditions related to asbestos exposure, your health care may be free.
The VA determines your degree of disability based on medical records or through a VA-administered health examination. Your degree of disability is known as a disability rating and is expressed as a percentage. The higher the percentage, the more significant the disability and the higher your monthly payout.
Veterans who receive a pension can also receive Aid and Attendance or Housebound benefits. These are allowances for veterans who need assistance due to disabilities that prevent them from performing daily tasks and self-care.
Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB)
The FEHB program is available to Coast Guard civilian employees, retirees and their families. Surviving family members may also use the program after the death of the employee. Eligible family members include a spouse, children until the age of 26 and disabled children beyond the age of 26 who are unable to provide self-support.
Social Security Disability
Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI, provides monthly tax-free payments to qualified individuals with disabilities that are expected to last more than a year or result in death. To qualify, you must have paid enough into the Social Security system through payroll or self-employment taxes, and you must be able to prove your disability to Social Security.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
SSI is a monthly tax-free payment from Social Security. If you are over 65 or disabled, and if you have limited income and resources, you may qualify for SSI. You can receive SSI even if you have never paid into the Social Security system. You can apply for SSI or SSDI through the Social Security Administration’s website or in person at your local Social Security office.
Can I sue the USCG for my asbestos exposure?
If you were exposed to asbestos in the course of active duty while serving in the Coast Guard, you cannot sue the military, the VA or the U.S. government, according to the Feres Doctrine.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
If you were exposed in the shipyard located in Curtis Bay, any lawsuit would be subject to Maryland’s laws, including the statute of limitations, which is three years after you discover your injury, which is usually the date of your diagnosis. If you were exposed in another jurisdiction, the statute of limitations may vary.
Family members can also file a wrongful death lawsuit against the Coast Guard and sue for burial expenses in addition to the damages mentioned above. The above list is not an exhaustive list of the damages available. Punitive damages are not available in federal tort cases.