Veterans dying from asbestos-related cancer win battle for compensation
Scores of veterans dying from asbestos-related cancer caused by their time in the military are to receive a lump sum in compensation, following an Independent campaign to overturn rules that left them worse off than civilians.
Around 60 veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma many years after being exposed to asbestos during their time in service will benefit from the move, announced by the veterans minister Mark Lancaster. Some may only have months to live.
MPs, generals and the servicemen themselves have paid tribute to The Independent’s campaign.
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Fred Minall, 74, from Northampton, who served as a mechanical engineer in the Royal Navy between 1957 and 1965 and was diagnosed with mesothelioma last year, said: “This news is marvellous and I could not have wished for better.”
The announcement is a victory for the Royal British Legion and others whose concerns over the unfair treatment of veterans – who had been denied the six-figure compensation given to civilians with the same condition – were revealed by this newspaper late last year.
Former service personnel suffering illness or injury caused before 1987 cannot sue the Ministry of Defence for compensation, under current laws. This puts them in a worse position than civilian sufferers, who can sue the employers that exposed them to asbestos, or apply for government compensation.
Mounting pressure on the issue forced the Prime Minister to pledge personally to look into the matter in November last year. The following month the MoD made a major U-turn and decided to allow dying veterans who would previously only have qualified for a weekly pension to opt for a large lump sum. This would ensure their families would benefit from significant payouts before they died.
This was good news for some 2,500 naval veterans who are expected to die from mesothelioma in the future, from exposure caused decades ago when asbestos was commonly used to insulate pipes in the boiler rooms of ships.
But for reasons which remain unclear, the policy change only applied to those diagnosed on or after 16 December 2015. This ruled out veterans such as Rhod Palmer and Fred Minall, who spoke out about the issue last year.
Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of terminal cancer which can take decades to become apparent. Most sufferers have a life expectancy of only one to two years after they are diagnosed.Read the full story here
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