In World War II, the men of the Merchant Marine suffered the highest casualty rate of any service and were denied veterans benefits until 1988. To receive Veterans benefits, two qualifying service periods are established, covering the period between December 7, 1941 and August 14, 1945, and the period between August 15, 1945 and December 31, 1946. (REF 4/5)
Establish service, and dates of service.
It's necessary to establish the type and dates of service. The service must be ocean-going service. Materials that can establish the dates and character of service include voyage discharge certificates, mission order, Seaman's Identification Books, pay vouchers or any other documentation. A full list of the materials might be exhaustive, but a number are identified on the reverse of the Form DD 218, the form to request a formal military discharge. (REF 1/2)
Formal Discharge Necessary
A formal discharge on a DD Form 214 is required to obtain veterans benefits. Qualifying Merchant Mariners can receive a discharge by downloading and complete Form DD 218, available at www.usmm.org/formdd2168.html. Mail the completed DD Form 218 to the appropriate military records center. (REF 2)
For Merchant Marine personnel, the address is USCG-National Maritime Center (NMC-421) ATTN: WWII 100 Forbes Drive Martinsburg, WV 25404
Not all Merchant Mariners were administratively attached to the Merchant Marine. Some were government employees serving with the U.S. Army Transport Service (USATS) and the U.S. Naval Transportation Service (USNTS). The Address for those mariners show served with USATS is:
U.S. Army Transport Service Veteran Status: Commander, Army Reserve Component ARPERSCOM-PSV-V 9700 Page Ave. St. Louis, MO 63132-5200
For the USNTS, the address is:
U.S. Naval Transportation Service (USNT) Veteran Status: Commander U. S. Navy Personnel Command (PERS-312) Millington, TN 38054-5045
If your qualifying service includes time in ocean-going service between December 7, 1941 and August 14, 1945, you will not be charged a fee. If your qualifying service did not begin until August 15, 1945 and occurred before December 31, 1946, you will be charged a $30 fee, to be sent with the application.
Apply for Verterans benefits.
After the Department of Veterans Affairs evaluates the Merchant Mariner's DD 214, the mariner may be eligible for some or all of the following benefits:
Disability compensation for "disabilities incurred or aggravated" by his service, dependency and indemnity compensation if the veteran dies as a result of service-connected disabilities are available. A disability pension for the veteran or surviving spouse or children, is also available. Medical care, dental treatment for service-connected injuries at VA facilities are included. Home loan guarantees provided by the VA, as well as burial benefits including a headstone are also provided. (REF 3)