The physical and arduous nature of military service means injuries to personnel can be common. Those suffering injury have the right to bring a claim in one of two ways. A civil claim can usually be brought through the courts, although knowledge of this right isn’t always widespread in military circles. Alternatively a claim can be brought under one of two statutory no fault schemes.
If serving personnel or veterans want to bring a claim through the schemes then depending on the date of their injury, they will either bring a claim for compensation under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) or the War Pension Scheme (WPS).
These schemes have been in place for decades (although these are also not always publicised very well) and are run by ‘Veterans UK’, which is a division of the Ministry of Defence (MoD). Both schemes are no-fault, meaning there is no need for the claimant to prove that someone was responsible for an injury, removing one of the barriers that normally must be overcome in a civil claim. Claimants that suffered injuries prior to 6th April 2005 can claim under the WPS and those who suffered injuries after that date, under the AFCS.
A new survey, organised by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Veterans, has found that 76.4% of veterans and serving personnel would rate their experience claiming compensation for illness or injury caused by service as poor, or very poor. This is compared to just 6.4% who rate their experience with one of the schemes as good, or very good.
The survey, which was carried out anonymously, received over 1,000 responses following its launch on 1 November 2022. This was a cross party initiative with MPs from Labour, Lib Dems and the Conservatives all involved.
When the survey closed on 1 February 2023, it was found that 84.5% of respondents rated the consideration given to their mental and physical health during the process as poor, or very poor. When completing the survey, one individual said that it felt like the process was set up to cause deliberate harm to veterans. Indeed, more than one veteran said that the process drove them to consider or attempt suicide.
The results of the survey have rightly led to calls from the cross-party group of MPs for the MoD to act on these findings and to launch an independent enquiry into the process of claiming compensation.
Both these schemes are designed so that the applications can be completed without legal representation or advice. However, with the way the schemes currently operate often appearing unapproachable to veterans, many feel they have little choice but to request the assistance of legal advisers.
Through our experience in the Military Team at Hugh James, those who do obtain our help often have a greater chance of completing the application form in accordance with the qualifying criteria, to achieve a more appropriate outcome.
We hope that the results of this survey will lead to reform of these schemes, decreased wait times, fewer incorrectly rejected applications and a less stressful experience for all veterans and serving personnel who apply. Those who are injured whilst serving their country deserve nothing less.