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12 March 2024 | Comment | Article by Francesca Bamsey

Female veterans and the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme

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.


As part of our blog series in partnership with the Female Veterans Alliance, we look at the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) and the issues commonly faced by servicewomen.

Among service personnel the AFCS is commonly viewed as a difficult scheme to navigate and there have been widely documented stories of claimants finding the process adversarial, complex, and unfair. The most recent Quinquennial Review was published last year and the recommendations from that report are currently under consideration. The experiences of servicewomen in particular, though, still remain largely under-investigated.

Francesca Bamsey and Hannah Baker, solicitors in our Military team, attended the second FVA workshop in Wrexham, to facilitate the discussion about servicewomen and the law. While the Veterans Strategy is focused primarily on service personnel remaining law-abiding citizens following discharge, at the workshop we heard that the real issues for service women are centred around accessing legal advice and assistance with the AFCS.

What is the AFCS?

The AFCS is a no-fault compensation scheme that compensates service personnel for injuries or illnesses caused by service on, or after, 6 April 2005. Any injuries or illnesses caused by service before this date are considered under the War Pension Scheme instead. In order to receive compensation, a claimant must prove that their injury or illness was caused or made worse by service. They must also show that they meet a set ‘descriptor’, as set out in the legislation. Each descriptor is linked to a Tariff Level of between 1 and 15, with Tariff Level 1 compensating for the most serious injuries, and Tariff Level 15 compensating for the least serious. A Guaranteed Income Payment is also paid for life, for injuries assessed at Tariffs 1 – 11.

What can servicewomen claim for?

One of the key issues we heard at the workshop was that female veterans often weren’t aware that they could make a claim under the AFCS or War Pension schemes. Since the AFCS was implemented in 2005, just 9% of claims have been brought by women and only 6% of veterans with an ongoing War Pension payment were female.

Servicewomen can claim for any injury or illness they believe was caused by their service or made worse by their service if the injury or illness was pre-existing. The most common claims under the AFCS generally are for musculoskeletal (‘MSK’) injuries. However, there are some injuries that may disproportionately affect female service personnel.

Common injuries affecting female personnel

Studies have shown that pelvic MSK injuries are typically noted in female personnel, due to the physical demands of military training including prolonged marching. Traditionally, shorter soldiers were placed at the back of their training divisions when marching, which can lead to overstriding.

A report conducted by the Ministry of Defence in 2016 concluded that female Army entrants were over ten times more at risk of suffering hip or pelvic stress fractures and over five times more likely to suffer thigh overuse injuries than male entrants. Female Army Officer Cadets were over 18 times more likely to suffer hip or pelvic stress fractures and female RAF trainees were a staggering 48 times more likely to suffer pelvic stress fractures.

Sadly, sexual harassment and assault are still significant concerns for women in the military. Military sexual trauma (‘MST’) can have lasting and profound effects on physical and mental health and can lead to mental injuries such as PTSD.

At the workshop, we sadly also heard the experiences of female veterans who had suffered mental injuries following the treatment they had received either while pregnant, on maternity leave, or upon returning to work after childbirth. The challenges of military life, particularly separation from family while on deployment, frequent relocations and exposure to violence while on operations, can also lead to mental injuries. An MoD report concluded that servicewomen are at a greater risk of medical downgrading due to mental disorders than men – particularly for depressive episodes and adjustment disorders.

Impact on reproductive health is also a concern. The lack of ability to maintain energy reserves may impact women more than men, because of the essential role energy plays in supporting and maintaining the female reproductive system. This can reduce hormone levels, which in turn can lead to irregular or missed periods, and lower oestrogen levels can impact bone health. This is an important consideration for women on exercise or deployment, where there may be a lack of adequate nutrition, disrupted eating habits or lack of sleep.

If you need assistance and would like a confidential chat with one of our solicitors, please contact us.

What were the common problems servicewomen found with the scheme?

During the workshop, we heard that servicewomen experienced the following common issues with the scheme:

  • A lack of awareness of the scheme and how it operates
  • A complex application process with policies that can seem arbitrary
  • A lack of impartiality of the advisors at Veterans UK (the organisation that currently runs the scheme)
  • Gaps in records
  • Archaic record keeping, with many records only kept in paper format
  • Inconsistent support from charities
  • Lack of accountability from the MoD
  • A lack of awareness of the time limits to make a claim.

What other common issues did servicewomen have when accessing legal advice?

In addition to these common issues, many of which are reflective of the problems faced by male service personnel, servicewomen also felt that the following issues had prevented them from seeking advice:

  • A lack of guidance and signposting for who to approach for advice. We heard that many servicewomen had simply followed what their husband or partner had suggested which may not have resulted in accessing the best advice for their needs
  • The fear of high legal fees which can be overwhelming to understand
  • Stress placed on the internal resolution of issues while serving
  • Having to recount previous trauma when making enquiries with potential advisors.

Can you make an AFCS claim yourself?

The AFCS is designed so that a lay person can apply by themselves, so it is completely fine to submit a claim yourself. However, the complexity of the schemes means that many personnel choose to obtain legal representation to guide them through the process.

Anyone wishing to make an AFCS claim themselves can do so either by completing a paper form, or by using the online portal on the government AFCS webpage.

It is important to note that if you are claiming under the AFCS, the time limit for making an application is seven years from the earliest of either:

  • the date of the incident that caused the injury or illness
  • the date on which an injury or illness was made worse by service
  • in the case of illness, the date of first seeking medical advice; or
  • the date of discharge.

Once an application is submitted, Veterans UK will usually request a copy of your service records. However, it is possible to request copies of your own records using a Subject Access Request.

What is a Subject Access Request?

A Subject Access Request (SAR) is a request for data that an organisation holds about you. SARs can be made in a variety of ways, including verbally and in writing. Organisations will typically ask for ID to be able to comply with a request for information.

Usually, there is no fee to pay for a SAR and an organisation must provide the information requested within 1 month. If the organisation cannot comply with the one month deadline, they must inform you and tell you why they need more time. The organisation can extend the deadline by two months if the request for information is complex, or they receive multiple requests.

If you are not happy with the response, you can complain firstly to the organisation directly; the Information Commissioner’s Office online webpage has a template that you can use. If you are still not happy with the organisation’s response you can complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

How do I get copies of my service records?

If you wish to obtain copies of your service records, you can. It is possible to apply for your own records, or on behalf of someone else.

You can use the SAR form on the government website to apply for your records. If you are applying on behalf of someone else, you will also need to provide the subject’s written consent.

The form contains details of where the application should be sent, depending on whether you are still serving or not and the branch of the armed forces that you served with.


  1. UK Armed Forces Compensation Scheme Annual Statistics 2023
  2. War Pension Scheme Annual Statistics 2023
  3. Veteran benefits system set for overhaul as some soldiers say claims take 12 years | This is Money
  4. Soldiers ‘laughed at’ and ‘belittled’ by military officials making payouts (telegraph.co.uk)
  5. Risk factors for injuries in female soldiers: a systematic review | BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation | Full Text (biomedcentral.com)
  6. Three female RAF recruits awarded £100,000 payouts for marching injuries | Military | The Guardian

If you need assistance and would like a confidential chat with one of our solicitors, please contact us.

Author bio

Francesca Bamsey

Senior Associate

Francesca Bamsey joined Hugh James in February 2013. Francesca works in the Claimant Litigation Division specialising in industrial injury claims such as hearing loss claims.

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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