As a nation with an incredible amount of pride and respect for its veterans, one would assume that taking care of their health would be of the utmost importance. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is making it more difficult than ever for thousands of British veterans who will develop terminal cancer due to asbestos exposure during their service to receive adequate compensation.
MoD Laws and Compensation
According to current MoD laws, the organisation is not bound to pay compensation for injuries or accidents suffered before 1987. This rules out veterans that have developed mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure years ago, when it was widely used before its ban. Many military members were exposed to asbestos while working in the boiler rooms of ships, where it was widely used to insulate pipes follow the Second World War.
Once diagnosed with mesothelioma, a form of cancer, patients typically have a life expectancy of only one or two years. This is especially troubling, as researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) estimate that more than 2,500 Royal Navy veterans will die from mesothelioma in the next decade.
Civilians with this fatal disease are entitled to a six-figure lump sum under a Government compensation scheme, while former service members are not allowed to take a lump sum. Although they may be eligible for a war disablement pension, this is only a fraction of what civilians receive. In fact, this pension typically amounts to a few tens of thousands – providing they survive a year after the diagnosis.
This unequal treatment is a serious breach of the Armed Forces covenant, which was created to ensure that veterans are not disadvantaged because of their service. The Royal British Legion is calling for the Government to right this wrong and extend an offer to veterans to receive a lump sum. This could equate to an additional £149,000 in a year for treatment for naval veterans.
While organisations such as The Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity, The Royal Navy Association, and the Royal Marines Widows’ Association are calling for fairer treatment, non-military groups have also been campaigning for the cause. In an official statement, and MoD spokesperson stated that the organisation is “considering whether any further flexibility can be provided”.