St Albans campaign to fairly compensate veterans with asbestos-related lung cancer grows
PUBLISHED: 17:29 08 February 2016 | UPDATED: 17:29 08 February 2016
Support has been growing for the campaign to give veterans fair compensation, in-line with civilian counterparts, when they develop fatal asbestos-related lung cancer.
But questions have been raised over the government’s commitment to resolve the disparity as fairly and quickly as possible, with campaigners urging politicians to act swiftly before more sufferers die without receiving fair compensation.
Among those fighting for a fairer deal is a former Wheathampstead man, Fred Minall, 74, who is facing a death sentence 60 years after working with asbestos-ridden material while in the Navy.
There are concerns he will not benefit from a government U-turn on unfair compensation rules, announced just before Christmas.
Until recently, personnel who were exposed to the potentially deadly fibre while in the Armed Forces prior to 1987 and have since been diagnosed with the terminal lung cancer mesothelioma, could not claim compensation comparable to their civilian counterparts.
Fred and the Royal British Legion told politicians it was unfair that compensation rules meant he and other veterans developing mesothelioma from working with asbestos during service could be left £150,000 worse off than their civilian counterparts.
The Government then announced that veterans diagnosed with the lung cancer on or after December 16, 2015, would be given a choice between receiving a traditional war pension, or £140,000 in lump sum compensation.
However, the legion calculates there are around 60 veterans currently in receipt of the war disablement pension who are unable to apply for the new award - including Fred - and that there are three or four veterans in this county at any one time with the incurable disease.
Mark Lancaster, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence, said April 11 was the earliest this change could be initiated.
That in turn has concerned Fred’s supporters, who say time is pressing for the ailing man.
One of them, Peter Harbour, who also hails from this district, has written to St Albans MP Anne Main about his ‘anger’ at Fred experiencing such poor treatment, especially given his fatal condition.
Calling for veterans who were living with mesothelioma in 2015 to be granted equal treatment, he said: “I hope that an ex-gratia payment can be offered to these brave veterans from a suitable source.”
In a letter to Mr Lancaster, Mrs Main said she hoped the issue of fair compensation for Fred and others in his situation “can be worked through as quickly as possible”.
• Despite his poor health, a determined Fred has been working hard to raise awareness of his and fellow veterans’ plight, speaking on radio and television including Forces TV, a news organisation focussing on the British Armed Forces.
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