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14 March 2024 | Comment | Article by Alena Zavarin

Understanding the Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS) from Female Veterans perspective

Female Veterans Alliance

Our military partner, Female Veterans Alliance, has released a report, Female Veterans: The forgotten and invisible servicewomen of our Armed Forces, containing commentary and recommendations from a female veteran’s workshop held last year.

The report offers valuable insight into the multifaceted challenges faced by female veterans.

We’ve identified key concerns voiced by the female veteran community and are publishing a series of blogs to provide advice and guidance.

The workshop was sponsored by Hugh James, as is the report.


Recent findings from the Female Veteran Alliance report shed light on the diverse financial challenges encountered by women post-military service.

As a female veteran, it’s essential to recognise the intricate financial landscape you may encounter post-military service. The challenges span from navigating pension complexities to grappling with tax issues and the broader spectrum of financial management. These narratives underscore the pressing necessity for tailored support systems aimed at addressing the unique financial hurdles faced by women who have served their countries. In this blog, we’ll explore the vital aspects of the Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS) to provide clarity and empowerment for female veterans seeking to secure their financial future.

A World-Class Pension Scheme…

When you first enter service, you become eligible for one of the most generous pensions available in the UK. The AFPS covers all members of the armed forces, automatically enrolling them upon entry. Unlike other public schemes, AFPS members pay 0% in contributions each month. The scheme is funded directly from the public purse.

The pension is also guaranteed by the Government, making it especially valuable in our uncertain times. It has an in-built ill-health benefits provision, meaning you could get your pension paid early if you had to leave service early due to ill health or injury. Your dependants are well provided for. And if that’s not enough, being a member of AFPS makes you eligible for the Early Departure Payment (EDP) – a scheme meant to retain personnel in service at least until the age of 40, and acknowledge the fact that, unlike civilians, military personnel are not likely to have a full career until the age of 60.

If you’d like further, bespoke financial advice, please get in touch with our Independent Financial Adviser team.

Caveats to be aware of

However, anyone who had to deal with AFPS will quickly tell you that it’s not all roses. There are a few important caveats to be aware of. First things first, you need to serve for a minimum of 2 qualifying years to be eligible to receive benefits (even though you are enrolled from the very beginning). This is important, because if you leave the service before your 2 years are over, you will have to arrange a transfer of benefits into a scheme of your choice.

Another danger lies in the scheme description of dependants. You need to be very careful here – AFPS recognises spouses and civil partners as your dependants. No automatic provision is made for cohabiting. It may be possible to argue your case, but decisions are made on case-by-case basis. AFPS will not pay to your ex if you are divorced, but it will if you are merely separated. Finally, children will only receive the benefits if they are under 18 (or under 23 and in full-time training or education).

Finally, one of the biggest challenges lies in the administration of the scheme. AFPS is a huge organisation, and it can be difficult to get a reply. If you plan for the pension to commence when you leave the service, you need to contact the scheme nine months in advance, otherwise you are at risk of being left without income. Once you start dealing with AFPS, you are soon likely to discover that you need to be a member of the Forces Pension Society. This membership-based organisation is the official adviser for the scheme, and you will need to pay the annual fee of £43 to get access to their resources.

The McCloud Judgment

Another thing to wrap your head around is the McCloud Judgement. In essence, the McCloud Judgment addresses the age-based discrimination that occurred during pension reforms. It aims to rectify the unequal treatment of younger members by ensuring they receive the same pension benefits as their older counterparts.

It will apply to you if you were serving BOTH on or before 31/03/2012 AND on or after 1/04/2015. If you were, you will have a decision to make when you decide to leave service. You will need to choose between the pension benefits offered by your legacy (AFPS75 or AFPS05) scheme or the newer (AFPS15) scheme for the seven year ‘remedy period’ (1 Apr 15 – 31 Mar 22 or your retirement date if earlier). The good news is that the MOD is fixing a lot of damage themselves. The rollback to legacy schemes has started automatically, and they are sending out necessary information to everyone who needs to make an informed remedy choice. In short, if you were affected, you will hear from MOD directly and will have a chance to make things right.

Know when and who to ask for help

It may seem daunting, but you don’t need to go it alone. Seeking professional advice from a company with experience in assisting current and ex-service personnel can be immensely beneficial. You will get to work with someone who understands your needs, who has dealt with clients in similar circumstances, and who really knows the intricate details of the complex AFPS structure. Moreover, experienced companies have established networks within the veteran community. They can facilitate connecting female veterans with resources and organisations.

We are uniquely placed to provide financial advice to female veterans. Our advisors work alongside our military team and can draw from their wealth of legal knowledge. You can also choose to work with a female adviser to ensure you can feel comfortable discussing even the most delicate subjects. Finally, our financial advisors are actively involved in the social life of the veteran society to ensure they remain connected to their clients.

If you’d like further, bespoke financial advice, please get in touch with our Independent Financial Adviser team.

Author bio

Alena Zavarin

Independent Financial Planner

Alena Zavarin is a Chartered Financial Planner who joined Hugh James in May 2023. Alena is experienced in all major areas of personal finance, including investments, pensions, estate planning, and protection strategies. Her proficiency extends to working with vulnerable clients and those in long-term care settings.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.


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