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Asbestos Booklet – Armed Forces

Men and women with asbestosis or pleural thickening who were exposed to asbestos when serving in the armed forces

Men and women with an asbestos-related disease whose only exposure to asbestos dust took place when they served in one of the Armed Forces are precluded from bringing a civil claim for damages unless they were exposed to asbestos dust after 15 May 1987. In place of this right, ex-servicemen and women may be entitled to a War Disablement Pension and other benefits. These are administered by the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency (SPVA).

It should be stressed that the prohibition on civil claims only applies to service personnel and not to civilian employees who worked for the Armed Forces. Civilians are entitled to make a claim for damages against the Ministry of Defence.

The branch of the Armed Forces which has been most affected by asbestos diseases is the Royal Navy. It is the policy of the SPVA not to require proof of exposure to asbestos in the case of men and women who served in the Royal Navy in a sea going capacity between 1939 and 1971. Ex-servicemen and women in this category only have to prove that they served at sea in this period and that they have an asbestos-related disease which meets the SPVA’s criteria to receive a War Disablement Pension.

Benefits paid by the SPVA roughly mirror welfare benefits. For example, War Disablement Benefit has a similar framework to Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit. The rates of its benefits are, however, somewhat higher than the corresponding welfare benefits.

Also, if an ex-serviceman/woman who was awarded War Disablement Benefit for an asbestos condition is found to have died from this disease and leaves a widow/widower, she/he is entitled to a War Widow’s/Widower’s Pension. This contrasts with Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit, to which entitlement ends on the death of the person with an asbestos disease, even if he/she leaves a widow/widower.

If someone was exposed to asbestos dust both as a serviceman/woman and as a civilian outside the Armed Forces he/she can pursue a civil claim for damages against the defendant/s in question. If the claim were successful, he/she would still be entitled to a War Disablement Pension but the amount of this would be reduced to take account of the award of damages.

Application forms

These are available from:
The Service Personnel and Veterans Agency
Thornton Cleveleys

Telephone: 0800 1692277

Forms can also be downloaded from the SPVA website at

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