Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

The Royal British Legion submission to the Ministry of Defence (6 July 2001)

  Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the MoD's Joint Compensation Review. The Review has been considered very carefully and the logic and detailed thoughts supporting the Legion's view are contained in our main paper, a copy of which is attached. This covering letter is written in the form of an Executive Summary.

  Regretfully we have to say that the Compensation Review proposals, in their current form as a package, are unacceptable unless certain key areas are improved upon. We believe that the Ex-Service community would expect nothing less for ex-Service personnel, and for those who will join the ex-Service community in the future, who they will expect to be as well looked after in the future as in the past.

  The main areas requiring recognition and improvement are:


  The paper completely ignores the status of War Pensioners and War Widows and is seeking to put the ex-Serviceman/woman on the same level as civilians and those injured in criminal activities. This belief is the fundamental flaw in much of what follows in the paper—levels of compensation, no mention of a welfare service, no priority in the NHS for those injuries received as a result of service. The status of individuals as War Pensioners or War Widows is important to society and its impact should not be underestimated.

  Service Personnel are required to serve anywhere in the world at a moments notice irrespective of the local political situation, climate or exposure to disease or civil violence: they are on call for 365 days a year. These factors alone differ from those involved in the emergency services whose responsibilities are usually confined to their own locality. Additionally, service personnel are subject to military law and far harsher penalties for disobedience for minor infringements than their civilian counterpart. Their social situation is also far different in that they are required to move house as often as every two years and periods of long separation from family and friends are the norm: leave remains a privilege and not a right. Ultimately as part of their service, even on peacekeeping duties they can be called upon to sacrifice their lives in situations that arise following Government policy and not just life saving operations. These factors combined give service personnel a very special status which should be reflected in the compensation packages available to them when their health and wellbeing is adversely affected as a result of service to their country.

Lump Sum Principle.

  We believe that it would be fundamentally wrong to pay a lump sum as the compensation for lost earnings as opposed to an income stream. The ex-Service community have experience of this when lump sum payments were made from the South Atlantic Fund, following the Falklands Conflict. Many of these payments were sizeable but sadly a significant number of the recipients quickly, usually as a result of poor advice, lost the funds awarded and had to return to charities for ongoing support. Therefore the proposal in the paper to have a Guaranteed Income Stream (GIS) is welcomed.

Levels of Award

  It is considered that it is fundamentally wrong to put injuries received in war/action on a par with those received in criminal actions. Here again, the status of ex-Servicemen/women is called into question. The levels need to be increased to reflect this. Linkage to the Criminal Injuries Compensation (CIC) scheme will give the wrong signals, especially as it has been largely discredited. We strongly believe that the awards are too low. The Law Commission has called for a doubling of current rates in the compensation arena at the top end and a rise by half at the bottom end of the scales eg total blindness to increase from £105,000 to £220,000. The tariff only recommends £75,000, which shows how low the figures are and seemingly reflects a lack of acceptance of the Status of those who die or are injured in the service of their Country. There also seems to be no index linking.


  The Review appears only to allow for average deterioration. We feel it does not fully take into account that deterioration could be more excessive in some cases. Alternatively, a later review might be a better way of handling this element.

Tax Status of Service Invaliding Pension (SIP) in the proposed Armed Forces Pensions Scheme (AFPS)

  The GIS for those longer serving personnel who are medically discharged (or die—WGIS) could be quite small. The loss of earnings is only worked out to the age of 55. Consideration must be given to the tax status of the SIP in the proposed Scheme (which would offset this factor if tax free for attributable awards) or to factoring in loss of earnings to the pension age of 65 for those worst disabled and who are unable to work.

Scheme Administration

  Consideration should be given to the WPA running the Scheme on behalf of the MoD, especially as the WPA has joined the MoD from the DSS. The WPA has ample experience in this field and we are sure their Medical Staff, who also have considerable experience in this area, could cope with the two differing systems. We would additionally suggest the use of an Independent Body to oversee the Scheme, certainly in its early years. This would give both the Serviceman and Ex-Service community the confidence that the Scheme would work. Certainly any Appeal Mechanism should be independent of the MoD. It is also important that any new scheme is handled efficiently and should reflect the current targets that the WPA have set for death in Service Widows and those medically discharged.


  As mentioned earlier the Review makes no mention of the status of those injured in the future and the spouses of those killed and we emphasise this. It is an issue that leads on naturally to after Service Welfare and Priority Treatment in the NHS for the former for their accepted disabilities. Once a person is a War Pensioner or War Widow, this allows access to the War Pensioners' Welfare Service (WPWS), which is an excellent nation-wide service provided by the WPA. There is no mention of any replication of this service. The MoD possesses no aftercare welfare, other than using the ex-Service charities. The modern welfare state leaves large gaps in its provision and our experience, mirrored by other charities, is that once the local DSS finds out the individual is an Ex-Serviceman/woman, they often back off, generally with the excuse they have no funds, and leave it to the charities to pick up the shortfall.

  This omission must be addressed; even if it were that the WPWS carry on. Secondly, the Priority treatment in the NHS principle must continue.

  All of the points detailed above are fully amplified in the main paper together with additional peripheral areas that will also require attention.

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