What America Can Learn from the UK's Asbestos Veterans Debacle


200 Veterans Exposed to Asbestos Before 1987 ‘Denied Compensation’ Under Current Rule

Under a current rule in the United Kingdom, 200 veterans who were exposed to asbestos while on active duty are ineligible for governmental compensation. As indignation builds in the United Kingdom, many ministers are now speaking out against the unjust rule.
Even more baffling is that the rule eliminates the possibility of compensation by affected veterans who were exposed prior to 1987. This absurdist loophole denies compensation to veterans who were exposed to asbestos during the absolute height of asbestos use. If these veterans develop mesothelioma, a rare, yet deadly form of cancer, they are ineligible to receive compensation from the Ministry of Defence [MoD].
Further, a new bill making its way through the House of Lords will allow 3,500 civilians who were exposed to asbestos while working for the Ministry of Defence a slice of a £350 million pot. For civilians, it does not matter when they were exposed to asbestos.
But what is upsetting veterans, their families, supporters and incensed Members of Parliament is that the compensation fund is not available to veterans who were exposed before 1987.
According to some Members of Parliament [MP], selecting the 1987 cutoff was entirely arbitrary, based on nothing concrete. Thankfully, many are speaking out against the rule, calling for justice for all service men, women and civilians.
“It’s an outrage that MoD bureaucracy is failing to close this unacceptable loophole. These men and their families are not being given the support from their country that they deserve,” said Thomas Docherty, Labour MP.
For the 200 exposed veterans in the United Kingdom there may be hope yet. An amendment to the bill working its way through the House of Lords would eliminate the arbitrary 1987 cutoff is gaining some necessary governmental support. If the amendment passes, then veterans and civilians alike would be eligible for compensation.
Watching the debacle unfold across the pond sheds some unflattering light on how we treat our veterans. Though many of our servicemen and women were unnecessarily exposed to asbestos while on active duty – especially those stationed those in the Navy or fought in the First Gulf War – the real issue for our veterans is the discrepancy in care and treatment. As a nation, we need to take a long, hard look at whether we are meeting the needs of our veterans universally, and immediately address those areas that are falling short.


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