SNP demand fair deal for all forces asbestos victims

Forces veterans already diagnosed with an asbestos related illness get a raw deal in compensation packages, the SNP have said. Navy personnel are worst affected than other military personnel in developing the disease which leaves people with a short time to live, often as little as one year.

Kirsten Oswald, SNP MP for East Renfrewshire has written to the Prime Minister calling for an equal deal for all forces veterans with the condition. The UK Government agreed last year to include veterans in compensation but only those diagnosed after December 16 last year qualify regardless of when they were exposed to asbestos.

It means many who were diagnosed before the cut-off date miss out, despite being exposed to the danger at the same time. Ms Oswald, the SNP Armed Forces and Veterans spokeswoman, welcomed the compensation scheme but said it must be fair to all forces veterans.

In the letter she states:

“We request 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.

We also request that the acquisition of equal treatment for both veterans and their widows/families, be pursued by ministers with all due haste, because people are dying.”

Ms Oswald said she and the veterans and their families want fairness. She went on:

“Today’s letter today is the next step to ensure that those who are due compensation should not have to wait any longer, and is a request that all qualifying veterans be treated equally, regardless of the date of their diagnosis with mesothelioma.

Currently the UK Government will pay anyone diagnosed after April fairly, but anyone already diagnosed doesn’t get this new fair level of compensation backdated and that is what needs to be addressed.”

Those who qualify can either have a traditional War Pension or £140,000 in a lump sum. The Royal British Legion is also calling for the rules, which will come into force in April, to include those already diagnosed. A statement from the organisations said:

“Obviously the Legion welcomes the Government’s announcement, but we are disappointed that the change will only benefit those veterans who apply for compensation after 16 December 2015 and not those veterans already diagnosed with the disease.

The Legion has informed officials of our disappointment and has suggested that those veterans living with mesothelioma today should be included in the changes.”