Written by: Devin Golden

Mesothelioma and Marines

Mesothelioma and Marines are linked due to asbestos exposure. Veterans of the U.S. Marine Corps were exposed to this deadly mineral in tanks, vehicles, barracks and Navy ships. If you're a veteran of the Marine Corps, you can receive compensation for any asbestos diseases like mesothelioma or lung cancer.

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Important Facts About Mesothelioma and the Marines

  • Marines account for fewer than 200,000 active military members, but there are multiple reported cases of marine veterans with mesothelioma.
  • Steve McQueen, a famous actor, died of mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure in the Marine Corps.
  • Asbestos exposure for Marines occurred in ships, aircraft, barracks and air stations.
  • VA claims for mesothelioma can provide Marines and their loved ones more than $3,000 per month.

Marine Veterans Rates of Mesothelioma

United States military veterans have high rates of mesothelioma. Veterans of the Marine Corps served in a lot of locations with asbestos present.

There are fewer active U.S. Marines than Navy or Army members:

  • Approximately 186,000 active Marine Corps members
  • Around 479,000 active Army members
  • More than 300,000 active Navy members

However, Marines were exposed both at sea and on land due to the versatile nature of their assignments. The Boston VA treated three former Marines with mesothelioma from 2011-2016. This was around 5% of the veterans with mesothelioma.

Steve McQueen’s Death From Mesothelioma

Steve McQueen, a famous actor, developed mesothelioma in the late 1970s. McQueen said he was exposed to asbestos during his Marine Corps service from 1947-1950. He was diagnosed in 1979 and died around one year later.

McQueen said in an interview he remembered asbestos around pipes in ship engine rooms. He was tasked with removing the excess asbestos.

Asbestos and Marines: Where Exposure Occurred

Marines had the unique role of serving on ships and in barracks, both places filled with asbestos. The military relied on asbestos through the early and middle parts of the 20th century. The usage surged during and after World War II. It only subsided during the late 1970s.

Asbestos exposure causes mesothelioma and lung cancer. It’s the only cause of mesothelioma and one of a few causes of lung cancer.

Marine Exposure in Ships

Navy ships were built with pounds of asbestos. The mineral is fire-resistant, and it protected ships from catching fire while at sea. Marines transported on Navy ships were exposed from:

  • Boiler rooms
  • Pipes
  • Cables
  • Gaskets
  • Valves
  • Electrical boards
  • Decks
  • Sleeping quarters

Since these ships were built with asbestos, shipyards also contained a high volume of the mineral. Marines who served in shipyards may have encountered asbestos in close proximity, which is how mesothelioma and asbestos lung cancer develop.

Marine Exposure in Aircraft

The fear of fire also applied to military aircraft. Asbestos was used throughout planes to insulate them during travel or combat. Marines serving on attack and fighter jets — or other planes — were likely exposed and at risk of getting cancer later in life.

Marine Exposure in Barracks

Military barracks were notorious for asbestos. The mineral was in ceiling tiles, pipes, insulation, electrical wires, roofing and flooring materials, and more.

On-site military housing also was rampant with asbestos. A report from May 2020 by the Department of Defense Office of the Inspector General revealed that thousands of housing units may include asbestos.

The investigation found that there wasn’t adequate record-keeping of asbestos in some of these units. Therefore, there was no way to monitor the condition of asbestos. In other houses, the military didn’t let occupants know asbestos was present.

Yuma Marine Corps Air Station

The Environmental Protection Agency declared the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma a superfund site in 1990. Asbestos contamination was part of the reason for the agency’s decision.

The agency said, “Chlorinated solvents were detected in a groundwater monitoring well on the station.” By 2001, all visible asbestos-containing materials were removed. Two treatment systems lowered contaminant levels in the station’s soil.

Help for Marine Veterans With Mesothelioma

Former Marines are not left to fight their mesothelioma alone. There are monetary resources and treatment options available to help Marines with this disease.

Treatment for Marines With Mesothelioma

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides free health insurance to most Marines with mesothelioma. This health care includes treatment at VA hospitals.

Three VA hospitals have mesothelioma treatment programs: Boston VA, Los Angeles VA, and Houston VA. These hospitals include highly regarded doctors and surgeons to help you fight this cancer.

Mesothelioma VA Claims for Marines

The VA also offers benefits for marine veterans with mesothelioma. These benefits come from VA claims for mesothelioma.

Monthly compensation for Disability Claims is around $3,146. VA Pension payments are based on income, and often lower, but they can help offset medical bills.

Surviving loved ones can also receive benefits from the VA for their deceased marine veteran’s mesothelioma.

Legal Claims for Marines

Marine veterans with mesothelioma can explore legal claims. These are separate from VA claims, and veterans can receive both types of compensation.

VA claims agent Carl Jewett is a 24-year Navy veteran. He has helped members of every branch file for mesothelioma benefits. We recommend contacting him to start a claim for your mesothelioma compensation. He can also refer you to one of the top law firms representing veterans with mesothelioma. These lawyers specifically work on Marines and mesothelioma cases.

Common Questions About Marine Veterans and Mesothelioma

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How often do Marines develop mesothelioma?

Since mesothelioma is rare, there aren’t many cases of Marines diagnosed with the cancer. However, they do happen. Steve McQueen, a famous actor and marine veteran, died of mesothelioma.

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Where were Marines exposed to asbestos?

Asbestos is a fire-resistant substance, which the military used liberally in ships, aircraft, barracks and elsewhere. Marines were exposed in these settings.

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What benefits are available to Marine Corps veterans with mesothelioma?

The Department of Veterans Affairs provides financial benefits through Disability Compensation claims and Pension claims. Other benefits include money for surviving loved ones, free health care, and access to state-of-the-art treatment.

Sources & Author

    1. Evaluation of the DoD’s Management of Health and Safety Hazards in Government-Owned and Government-Controlled Military Family Housing. Department of Defense Office of Inspector General. Retrieved from:
      https://www.dodig.mil/reports.html/Article/2174435/evaluation-of-the-dods-management-of-health-and-safety-hazards-in-government-ow/. Accessed: 05/13/2020.
    2. Yuma Marine Corps Air Station. United States Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved from: https://cumulis.epa.gov/supercpad/SiteProfiles/index.cfm?fuseaction=second.cleanup&id=0900885. Accessed: 01/30/2021.
    3. Active and reserve U.S. military force personnel numbers by service branch and reserve component in 2019. Statista. Retrieved from: https://www.statista.com/statistics/232330/us-military-force-numbers-by-service-branch-and-reserve-component/. Accessed: 01/30/2021.
    4. What kind of cancer did Steve McQueen have? Armco Asbestos Surveys. Retrieved from: https://www.armco.org.uk/asbestos-survey-news/steve-mcqueen-death/. Accessed: 01/30/2021.
    5. Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma (MPM): Analysis of Military Occupation Related to Asbestos Exposure and Subsequent VA Disability Entitlements in Veterans at the Boston VA (VABHS). AVAHO Updates. Retrieved from: https://www.mdedge.com/fedprac/avaho/article/113975/oncology/malignant-pleural-mesothelioma-mpm-analysis-military?sso=true. Accessed: 02/01/2021.
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About the Writer, Devin Golden

Devin Golden is the content writer for Mesothelioma Guide. He produces mesothelioma-related content on various mediums, including the Mesothelioma Guide website and social media channels. Devin's objective is to translate complex information regarding mesothelioma into informative, easily absorbable content to help patients and their loved ones.