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4 August 2023 | Comment | Article by Simon Ellis

The Armed Forces Compensation Scheme: 5 years on

Written by Hannah Baker, Associate in the Military team.

The Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) is a no-fault liability compensation scheme that allows serving and ex-military personnel to claim compensation for injuries or illnesses that are caused by their service. Dependants can also claim following the death of a loved one, as a result of their service (whether caused by combat or not).

The AFCS has largely replaced the War Pension Scheme, which applies to injuries or illnesses suffered as a result of service before 6 April 2005.

Every 5 years, the AFCS is reviewed to make sure that it is still delivering its overall aim: to ensure that no personnel are disadvantaged as a result of their service. The scheme also strives to be fair, understandable, and transparent, to be contemporary and reflect modern life, to provide financial security to personnel and their families, to encourage personnel to work where they are able to do so, and to be sustainable so that the scheme may continue.

The most recent Quinquennial Review (QQR) has recently been published and makes a number of recommendations to ensure the scheme remains fit for purpose and continues to deliver its primary aims.

The 2022/23 QQR concludes that the AFCS is continuing to work well in respect of claims made for acute injuries that have little, or no lasting effects. However, for claimants who suffer complex injuries with long-term effects, the AFCS is less effective – even detrimental in some cases.

Concerns raised by respondents to the review (who included stakeholders, caseworkers, charities, and claimants) included that: there was a lack of empathy from the MOD; the system was inefficient; there were inconsistencies within the scheme; there was a lack of accountability from the MOD, and that the scheme was not flexible enough to allow decision-makers to consider developments in medicine and technology.

A particular focus of the review also included claims for mental disorders, which is used as an umbrella term by the AFCS for various injuries including PTSD, depression, and anxiety. At the moment, a claimant may only submit a claim for a mental disorder if they have a diagnosis from a Consultant grade psychiatrist or psychologist. Coupled with the time-limits for making a claim and the current pressures on the NHS, this can make a claim for mental disorders challenging and time-consuming. It can also leave claimants feeling rejected which can, in turn, cause further harm to mental health. The QRR also found that a disproportionate number of interim awards were made for mental disorders, despite one of the core aims of the AFCS being to make full and final awards as soon as possible, in order to provide financial security for claimants and their families.

To get advice on whether you may be entitled to claim, contact our specialist military team today.

A total of 67 recommendations were made by the QQR, including that:

  • time-limits for making a claim should be abolished;
  • claimants with mental disorders should be able to rely on a report from their treating physician, regardless of whether they are a Consultant level or not;
  • the scope of the Medical Advisor should be limited to ensure they do not advise the caseworker on the appropriate tariff level;
  • lump sum tariff payments should be automatically uprated to reflect inflation and the cost of living at the time of the award;
  • the current system to review an award (e.g. in the case of deterioration) should be simplified;
  • GIP payments should be assessed separately and based on the overall impact of the claimant’s injury;
  • the Synopses of Causation should be regularly updated to ensure they reflect advances in medicine;
  • the definition of “functional limitation” in respect of a mental disorder is not limited to the claimant’s employment, but also takes into account their day-to-day life;
  • interim awards should be reviewed after 12 months (instead of 24), with a final decision to be made within a maximum of 24 months; and
  • the bar on claims for slips, trips and falls should be removed.

As these are only recommendations, it remains to be seen whether the recommendations will be implemented by the MOD. At Hugh James, we welcome the QQR and are pleased to see that personnel are the central focus of the review. The recommendations are clearly intended to make the process quicker, fairer, and more transparent for claimants and their families.

We represent claimants in both AFCS and War Pension Scheme claims. Claimants are able to submit their own claim for free, or in some cases seek assistance from a charity organisation. However, many claimants still chose to instruct us to represent them due to the complexity of the schemes and our experience in representing veterans and serving personnel. For further information, please visit our Military Legal services page or use the contact details below.

Author bio

Simon Ellis is a Partner with Hugh James and has worked with the firm for more than 25 years, having trained and qualified here. Simon heads up the Military Department, advising and assisting current and former military personnel with various health conditions and injuries. He specialises in claims such as hearing loss, non-freezing cold injuries, compartment syndrome and military injury cases. He is often asked to advise on more unusual claims in the military context.

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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