Change in Mesothelioma Regime to Benefit Veterans
A week before Christmas 2015, the Minister for Defence Personnel and Veterans Mark Lancaster MP announced a government U-turn in the compensation policy for ex-service personnel suffering from the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. The improvements to be implemented in the benefits regime, which resulted from campaigning by The Royal British Legion and victims groups, will bring government awards for veterans more in line with those for civilians.1 The changes will be implemented as of April 11, 2016 and allow former members of the armed services diagnosed with mesothelioma on or after December 16, 2015 to receive a lump sum of £140,000 instead of smaller weekly or monthly payments dispensed under the War Pensions Scheme.2
While welcoming the move which could benefit thousands,3 the Royal British Legion pointed out that some of the injured will continue to be disadvantaged saying:
we remain disappointed that around 60 veterans who are currently in receipt of a War Disablement Pension for Mesothelioma will be unable to apply for the new lump sum compensation award. Whilst we are pleased that the Minister has indicated that he will review special arrangements for these individuals, we urge him to do so quickly under the terms of the Armed Forces Covenant and in light of the limited life expectancies and extreme suffering of these veterans.
MPs David Mackintosh and Madeline Moon called on the Government to ensure that all affected veterans were treated equitably while General Lord David Richards, former Chief of the Defence Staff, condemned the discriminatory practice as a mean-minded anomaly contrary to the ethos of the Armed Forces Covenant. Lord Alton, who has campaigned assiduously on mesothelioma issues in the House of Lords, was highly critical: To recognize an injustice and to say you will put it right in the future represents progress but to then say you wont apply the same criteria to those who are already dying of this disease defies logic and common decency.
Attempting to clarify the likelihood of the new scheme being opened to veterans whose diagnoses were received prior to the December 16 cut-off date, enquiries were made with the Ministry of Defence (MOD). On January 4, 2016, an MOD spokesperson replied:
Whether to extend the lump sum to current claimants is a complex issue and has been discussed across Government; but we are committed to supporting veterans and are considering what more can be done for this group.
Under the Armed Forces Covenant, the government promised to ensure that the Armed Forces face no disadvantage as a result of their Service. Considering the severity of mesothelioma, the short life expectancy of those affected, and the relatively small sums involved, there can be no excuse for the failure to treat all veterans equitably.
January 13, 2016
(This article first appeared in Issue 99 of the British Asbestos Newsletter.)
1 Royal British Legion Press Release. Legion helps secure pay outs for thousands of veterans with asbestos-related cancer. December 17, 2015.
Also see: Early day Motion 701 The Armed Forces Covenant and Royal Navy Personnel with Mesothelioma. November 16, 2015.
2 MoD Press Release. More flexible compensation for veterans with cancer caused by asbestos. December 16, 2015.
3 According to a background paper by the Royal British Legion, more than 2,500 naval veterans could die from mesothelioma between 2013 and 2047.