On 16 December 2015, the MOD changed the rules to allow veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma on or after that date to have the choice between a one-off, tax-free lump sum or regular, smaller payments. The department has now extended the eligibility for the lump sums to those diagnosed before that date.
The War Pensions Scheme is open to veterans diagnosed with diffuse mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos during their military service prior to 6 April 2005. Currently, it provides a War Disablement Pension and supplementary allowances, and a War Widow(er)’s Pension for an eligible partner, which is paid for life.
Mesothelioma is a cancer mainly caused by exposure to asbestos some 40 years or more before diagnosis and there is a short life expectancy afterwards. As such, the MOD places great importance on offering the right support to those affected by this disease.
The changes to the scheme give it similar features to one for civilians, which provides lump sums, underlining the government’s commitment to the Armed Forces Covenant. The Covenant is a promise from the nation ensuring that those who serve and have served are treated fairly.
Minister for Defence Personnel and Veterans, Mark Lancaster, said:
It is right that we do more to support veterans affected by this condition – it’s part of our commitment to our Armed Forces. This change will give them more choice and control.
The Royal British Legion asked the MOD to consider offering lump sums to correct the disadvantage faced by some veterans when compared to their civilian counterparts.
Chris Simpkins, director-general of the Royal British Legion, said:
The Government has done the right thing and we appreciate the effort that has gone into accommodating the 60 people who were missing out.
We are grateful to the MOD for taking our campaign seriously and, in doing so, providing a fair result to all those who contracted this terrible terminal cancer in the service of their country.
Legislative provisions will be made to enable lump sums to be paid from 11 April 2016. Those choosing a lump sum whose claim is accepted prior to this date will receive the current allowances in the interim, until the lump sum is paid. The MOD’s Veterans Welfare Service will contact all existing claimants to explain the new option and will help them understand the choices available.