The Legion are trying to raise awareness and MP support for this campaign across the whole Armed Forces family of serving and retired men and women. This is a copy of a letter received from Head Office annd we would urge you to read it and pass it on to any former or serving members of the Armed Forces.
Re. Mesothelioma Campaign Push
As you are aware, the Legion’s latest campaign concerns compensation arrangements for veterans diagnosed with Mesothelioma, which is a form of asbestos-related cancer. I write today as the Legion’s campaigns team urgently needs your support to help raise the profile of this important issue.
For those unfamiliar with Mesothelioma, it is a particularly aggressive form of cancer that attacks the pleura of the lungs. The disease can take decades to materialise but, once diagnosed, most sufferers will live for only one to two years at most. Tragically, it is not uncommon for some sufferers to have just months to live.
Given the disease’s association with asbestos, Mesothelioma usually affects individuals who have worked in carpentry or construction but it has also afflicted a large number of veterans, particularly naval personnel who worked as engineers in the boiler rooms of ships. Sadly, over 2,500 naval veterans are projected to die from Mesothelioma before 2047.
In 2014, the Government set up a scheme to pay lump sum compensation to civilians who have contracted Mesothelioma and are unable to trace a liable employer or insurance company. The creation of this scheme exposed the fact that, because life expectancy is so short, unmarried or widowed military veterans stand to receive considerably less compensation than their civilian counterparts – as much as £150,000 in some instances. This is because Service personnel and veterans are unable to sue for injuries and illnesses sustained before 1987, meaning that the only avenue of redress open to the vast majority of veterans diagnosed with Mesothelioma is the War Pension Scheme, which cannot award large lump sum payments to veterans diagnosed with ‘long tail’, terminal illnesses.
The Legion is presently calling on the Government to find a fairer way of compensating these veterans. We are clear that current arrangements amount to a clear breach of the Armed Forces Covenant principle of ‘no disadvantage due to Service’, and as such must be addressed at the earliest opportunity. More particularly, we believe that veterans diagnosed with Mesothelioma should be able to choose whether they receive a traditional War Disablement Pension (which can prove generous if the veteran has a surviving spouse to pass their award onto), or a lump sum compensation payment that is that is broadly comparable to those awarded under the Government’s new scheme.
To date, the vast majority of the Legion’s campaigning on this issue has been conducted behind the scenes. We have, however, started to raise the public profile of our campaign over the past couple of weeks, notably achieving front page coverage in the Independent and featuring on BBC radio. We would be grateful if you could aid us in this push by raising awareness of our campaign among local members and volunteers, and by writing to your MP about this issue. Our campaign is currently reaching a critical stage, so any support that you can mobilise would be really helpful.
The easiest way to contact your MP is through the campaign pages of the Legion’s website, where you simply need to enter your name and address details for an automatically generated letter to be sent directly to your MP’s email inbox. You can access this facility by clicking here. Alternatively, a template letter is attached to this email, should you wish to write to your MP by post.
The Legion is delighted to have the support of Seafarers UK, The Forces Pension Society, The Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity, The Royal Navy and Royal Marines Widows’ Association, Poppyscotland, Legion Scotland, The Royal Naval Engineers' Benevolent Society, and The Royal Naval Association. With your support too, we’re confident that we can secure a better deal for veterans diagnosed with Mesothelioma.
Thank you for your time, and please do not hesitate to contact me should you require any further information.
Public Affairs and Campaigns Manager
As you will be aware, one of the Legion’s priority campaign's has been around compensation awards for veterans diagnosed with Mesothelioma.
It is with much pleasure that I write to inform you that the Government announced yesterday that legislation will be amended in April 2016 to enable all veterans diagnosed with Mesothelioma as a result of Service the choice between receiving a traditional War Pension or £140,000 in tax-free lump sum compensation, regardless of age at diagnosis. The average civilian compensation award under the Government’s Diffuse Mesothelioma Scheme is around £122,000.
Whilst the law won’t be amended until April, the Ministry of Defence has indicated that payments will be backdated to the date of the Government’s announcement, which was at yesterday’s meeting of the Central Advisory Committee. From 16 December, all veterans diagnosed with Mesothelioma who submit a claim to Veterans UK will receive a traditional War Pension as normal for the period up until April 2016. After that date, should the claimant decide they would prefer to receive a lump sum payment, Veterans UK will arrange for this to happen, with the value of any War Pension already received being deducted from the final lump sum award. We understand that independent advice will be offered to all veteran Mesothelioma claimants to help them decide which payment option is right for them, given that War Pensions include survivor's benefits.
The Legion has long maintained that veterans should be compensated fairly for their suffering, and we commend the Government for taking steps to address this important issue. Whilst we welcome yesterday’s announcement, we do 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. This is on account of successive governments’ longstanding opposition to retrospection. The Legion has informed officials of our disappointment and has suggested that this particular group of veterans should be considered worthy of ‘special’ status within the terms of the Armed Forces Covenant, in light of both their limited life expectancy and the severity of their pain and suffering. We are pleased that the Government has indicated that it will review special arrangements for this small group of veterans, and we will continue to monitor developments closely.
The Legion estimates that the Government’s recent announcement will benefit veterans diagnosed with Mesothelioma by tens of millions of pounds over the lifetime of this issue, which is a sizeable sum in the present financial climate.
The Legion’s campaigns team would like to thank all of our members who championed this campaign locally or wrote to their MP about this important issue. We simply couldn’t have done this without you.
With best wishes for the New Year,