Asbestos related cancer and the military

Compensation rules for veterans who develop Mesothelioma from working with asbestos during Service have been changed, thanks to your support.

Thank you

Following the Legion's campaign, we're pleased to inform you that from now on, all veterans diagnosed with Mesothelioma as a result of Service will have the choice between receiving a traditional War Pension or £140,000 in lump sum compensation, regardless of age at diagnosis.

We are grateful to the MOD for taking our campaign seriously and, in doing so, providing a fair result to all those who contracted this terrible terminal cancer in the service of their country. By taking the time to contact MPs about this issue, our supporters played a hugely important role in persuading the Government to compensate veterans fairly for their suffering. Thank you to everyone who gave their support; the new changes really will make a difference for the families of thousands of veterans diagnosed with Mesothelioma.

Originally the Government’s announcement only benefited those veterans who applied for compensation after 16 December 2015 and not those veterans already diagnosed with the disease. The Legion expressed its disappointment to officials that those veterans living with Mesothelioma today (around 60) weren't included in the changes. Following a review, we're pleased to announce that the Government has extended eligibility to all veterans

What is Mesothelioma?

Pleural Mesothelioma is a particularly aggressive form of terminal cancer that affects the ‘pleura’ of the lungs, and which is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos. The cancer can take decades to materialise but, once diagnosed, most sufferers will have a life expectancy of only one to two years. More information about Mesothelioma can be found on the NHS Choices website.

How veterans Were losing ouT

In 2014, the Government set up the Diffuse Mesothelioma Scheme to pay lump sum compensation to civilians who had contracted Mesothelioma but are unable to trace their employer or insurance company. The introduction of the scheme exposed the fact that, because life expectancy is so short, unmarried or widowed veterans stood to receive far less compensation than their civilian counterparts. This is because veterans are unable to sue the Government for injuries or illnesses sustained before 1987 and could instead, only apply for a War Disablement Pension. This scheme can't award large lump sum payments to those recently diagnosed with terminal illnesses.

“Dad told me he remembers lagging the pipes on board ship with asbestos and then hanging their hammocks off those pipes” Wendy, daughter of naval veteran, 64, who died of Mesothelioma in 2004

As a result, whilst civilian sufferers could access six-figure sums in compensation under the Government's Diffuse Mesothelioma Scheme, a veteran of the same age could expect to receive as little as £32,000 if they have no spouse or partner to pass their compensation award onto after they die. In reality, many veterans received even less than this amount.

If you would like to know more about the Legion’s campaign or have your own Mesothelioma story to tell, please get in touch via publicaffairs@britishlegion.org.uk.

Claim for compensation

The MOD’s Veterans Welfare Service will contact all existing claimants to explain the new compensation option and help them understand the choices available to them. Veterans with mesothelioma who are yet to make a claim should contact Veterans UK on 0808 1914 218 or visit their website.

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