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.