In 2014 the Government enacted the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme (“the scheme”) allowing victims of mesothelioma, an asbestos related disease to apply for a one off compensation payment where their asbestos exposure came as a result of their employment but the culpable employer is no longer in business and there is no known insurer to pursue for compensation. The scheme basically acts to afford compensation to employee mesothelioma victims where there is no other opportunity to obtain compensation. The scheme is not open to applications for mesothelioma compensation to veterans.
Mesothelioma is a fatal asbestos related disease affecting the lungs and the peritoneum. The disease is one which manifests many years after the exposure to asbestos occurred and in most cases there is an average 40 year latency period between exposure and symptoms of mesothelioma occurring.
The latency period in mesothelioma in most cases leaves veterans at a disadvantage. This is because veterans are automatically barred from pursuing claims against the Crown for exposure to asbestos prior to 1987 meaning that in the majority of cases, veterans cannot obtain any compensation from the Crown for mesothelioma. This causes an immediate disparity between the treatment of civilian mesothelioma sufferers and veteran mesothelioma sufferers.
The disparity in the treatment of veterans occurs not only with regard asbestos related diseases but in many aspects of the lives of Armed Forces Personnel. To tackle this problem the Government in 2011 signed the Armed Forces Covenant. The Covenant is the nation’s recognition of its moral obligation to Armed Forces veterans and their families and establishes how veterans should be treated. The Royal British Legion (“RBL”) was the key force in having this Covenant enacted stating that the Armed Forces and their families “deserve our respect and support, and fair treatment”. One of the key principles underlying the Covenant is that of “No Disadvantage”. This principle commits the Government to removing, where possible, disadvantage experienced as a result of Service in the Armed Forces.
The RBL are of the opinion that the Covenant is not being honoured by the Government as veterans are barred from pursuing mesothelioma claims against the Crown where exposure to asbestos occurred prior to 1987 and are also barred from applying for compensation under the terms of the scheme. This leaves veterans with no choice but to apply for a War Pensions payment only in relation to their mesothelioma, though this in most cases leaves veterans greatly under-compensated in comparison to civilians.
The disadvantage being suffered by veterans is unfair and is not in line with the spirit of the Covenant.
Peter Olszewski of Boyes Turner Solicitors is currently working with the RBL to assist in the campaign to achieve no unfair disadvantage to veterans.