As a result of a campaign led by The Royal British Legion, all military veterans in the United Kingdom with mesothelioma resulting from their service — regardless of when they were diagnosed with the disease — are now entitled to receive a lump-sum compensation.
In December 2015, the U.K. government announced that newly diagnosed veterans with service-related mesothelioma could choose to receive either a one-time, tax-free payment of £140,000 or a series of smaller payments equal to that amount.
The Royal British Legion, a veterans support organization, welcomed the policy change but continued to argue that it should also be offered to the roughly 60 veterans who did not qualified because they had already been diagnosed with mesothelioma. The government agreed in late February with the Legion’s position, and extended the compensation choice to all veterans ill with the rare and asbestos exposure-related cancer because of their service, regardless of when the cancer was diagnosed.
The new payment scheme also helped to close the gap between the compensation given to veterans and that accessible to civilians living with the disease.
“No amount of money will ever compensate sufferers and their families for a preventable death. However, it is a real breakthrough that the Government will treat all current and future sufferers of mesothelioma exposed to asbestos during their Service under comparable terms as civilians,” Commodore Rhod Palmer, a third-generation Royal Navy sailor who was diagnosed with mesothelioma in April 2015, said in a news release.
“This payment allows patients with mesothelioma to make arrangements to maximise their quality of life during this terminal illness and to support the family that they leave behind,” added Palmer, 62. “The Royal British Legion has campaigned resolutely on behalf of military personnel who developed mesothelioma and I offer my sincere gratitude for its support. Looking to the future, I strongly encourage further funding of research into advancing the treatment of this devastating condition.”
Added Chris Simpkins, director general of The Royal British Legion: “We are gratified that good sense has prevailed and that the Government has extended eligibility to those people who — through no fault of their own — were missing out on the new lump sum compensation payment. The Government has done the right thing and we appreciate the effort that has gone into accommodating the 60 people who were missing out. This has been a hard-fought campaign which began in 2013. To see the campaign finally reach this stage I’m sure will provide a huge sense of relief for dozens of proud Service men and women and their families.”
Legislative work is underway to begin making lump-sum compensation payments in mid-April.
Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer that develops from cells of the mesothelium, the protective lining that covers many of the internal organs of the body. Most people who develop mesothelioma have worked in fields such as mining, where they inhaled or ingested asbestos fibers, or were exposed to airborne asbestos dust and fibers in other ways. This cancer can take decades to develop following exposure, and life expectancy following diagnosis is, on average, one to two years.