Doing the right thing by our veterans

The bravery, loyalty and professionalism of our former service men and women deserves our full care and support.

Too many of our ex-service personnel contracted asbestos-related cancer, mesothelioma, during their service – as have those who worked in shipyards and other industries that made use of asbestos.

There are few things more difficult to deal with for sufferers and their families than the kind of grief that diagnosis of a condition like asbestos-related mesothelioma brings. No amount of compensation can change the reality of diagnosis with this preventable terminal illness.

But, for too long, our veterans were not entitled to fair compensation – compensation which could improve the quality of life of those diagnosed with mesothelioma, and support their families too.

This week the UK Government finally agreed to do the right thing, by closing the loophole that saw our veterans losing out. This comes after the tireless efforts of organisations like Royal British Legion and individual veterans, who I’ve had the privilege of working alongside since being elected last May.

The UK Government talks up their support our armed forces, but these fine words are no use at all if they don’t translate into fair and equal treatment for serving and ex-service personnel. This week’s concession by the UK Government was welcome, if a long time coming.

In 2014 the UK Government set up a scheme to pay lump sum compensation to civilian victims of mesothelioma. This represented progress, but the scheme left military veterans diagnosed with this dreadful illness with less compensation than their civilian counterparts.

In December last year, I was very pleased when the UK Government took note, and announced that any veteran newly diagnosed with mesothelioma would be compensated fairly, in line with their civilian counterparts – including the option of a £140,000 lump-sum payment.

This was a big step in the right direction. However, the change in policy left out a small group of veterans who had received their diagnosis before December 2015. They were not covered and would miss out on the fair compensation they had been fighting for. Eventually, this week, UK Government caved. The loophole was closed.

Under the terms of the Armed Forces Covenant, the UK Government has a duty to our service personnel to treat them fairly. It’s good to see that they have finally listened and have righted this wrong – doing the right thing by our veterans. It is the very least they deserve.