Victims of asbestos exposure are being made to suffer a second time due to a loophole in a government rule over awarding mesothelioma compensation.

As many as 60 elderly victims will fail to receive the urgently needed lump sum payment now allowed to former Armed Services veterans following a recent policy change to mesothelioma claims at the Ministry of Defence (MoD). In some cases, the men may pass away in less than six months knowing their wives and close family will be left with a financially uncertain future.

Prime Minister David Cameron is being directly called upon to intervene by fellow MPs, medical experts and even former senior figures at the Admiralty to ensure that dozens of service victims will receive compensation before losing their life to the incurable cancer of the lung linings. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) recently estimated that more than 2,500 Royal Navy veterans are expected to die from mesothelioma over the next thirty years.

Veterans caught out

In December 2015, the MoD announced they would finally change their rules. From 11th April 2016, veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos while on military service will be allowed the choice of a lump sum payment or a regular, smaller pension.

However, the change to the rules does not apply to those veterans who were diagnosed on or after 16 December 2015.

Previously, Armed Services veterans were caught out by MoD rules, which questioned the eligibility of some former services personnel from applying for compensation, particularly ex-service men and women who were exposed to asbestos before 1987. The rules of the DMPS state that only victims diagnosed after the 25 July 2012 cut-off date would be eligible to make a claim.

Veterans would, instead, be provided with a War Disablement Pension during their lifetime as opposed to a “lump sum” payment awarded to civilians. The pension is around fifth or even less of the average civil compensation for mesothelioma. In most cases, elderly victims are diagnosed with mesothelioma at an advanced stage of cancer spread and rarely live beyond four to 12 months.

Calls to change the MoD rules have been increasingly more vocal

Former LibDem MP for Liverpool Edge Hill, Lord Alton said: “Their exclusion defies logic and fairness.” Lord Alton took an active part in parliamentary debates and voicing his concern for sufferers during readings of the Mesothelioma Bill prior to the launch of The Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme (DMPS) in July 2014.

Lord Alton’s response is also reflected by Cancer Research UK who have previously said that, “Limiting mesothelioma claims to asbestos exposure after 1987 would be absurd and unfair. Mesothelioma almost never develops less than 25 years after asbestos exposure, and the risk is still increasing 60 years later.”

Calls to change the MoD rules have been increasingly more vocal since the launch of DMPS. Now Cancer Research UK have joined with the British Lung Foundation and a former Naval Chief of Staff to lend their support to a 74-year-old Royal Navy veteran with the terminal disease who has handed in a letter to Downing Street demanding urgent action.

Veterans deserve to be given ‘special’ status

The letter requests that “all qualifying veterans be treated equally, regardless of the date of their diagnosis with mesothelioma, as is morally required under the armed forces covenant”. The Prime Minister is also called upon to ensure that veterans, their widows and families are not only treated as equally as other victims of asbestos exposure but also urgently, as life expectancy is short.

Former Naval Chief of Staff, Lord West, who raised the issue during a reading of the Armed Forces Bill in the House of Lords also told the press that the group of 60 veterans deserve to be given ‘special’ status, and relieve their suffering and distress in the little time left to them.

The MoD have said that they “hope to provide a positive update over the coming weeks.” It is to be hoped that the veterans who may have suffered needlessly as a result of the rule changes will finally be able to see compensation fairly paid.