12 May 2022 | Comment | Article by Simon Ellis
Veterans are rightfully pictured as people that should be looked up to and appreciated. Heroes that have selflessly fought to protect their country and others. Why is it then, that the UK Government is looking down on these brave men and women?
War Pension Scheme (WPS) and Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS)
Soldiers that are injured during their time in the military can claim for compensation through Veterans UK – a Government organisation which is part of the Ministry of Defence. Claimants that suffered injuries prior to 6th April 2005 can claim under the War Pension Scheme (WPS) and those who suffered injuries after that date, under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS). 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.
Whilst the schemes are intended to support veterans, they have often been criticised. A commonly cited failing is that the eligibility criteria for an award are seen as being too strict, meaning many injured veterans see their claims rejected even though looked at objectively, they have suffered an injury through service.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)
This is particularly evident in cases where veterans have suffered with noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) from their time in the service. Even in cases where veterans have been medically discharged from service due to NIHL, they are often unsuccessful under the schemes as their hearing loss is not deemed sufficiently severe. It’s the ultimate insult; you are discharged from the armed forces for an injury suffered whilst serving, only to be told by Veterans UK that your injury isn’t sufficiently serious to qualify for a claim.
Through my experience at Hugh James in assisting veterans claim for NIHL, they are far more likely to be successful through a civil claim. Veterans with hearing loss symptoms should seek advice on this route and any additional injuries sustained during service can be considered under a civil claim as well, even where the WPS or AFCS claim has been rejected. We have successfully claimed compensation for many individuals in this position.
Failure to reform the schemes
There have been numerous calls to reform the schemes, with the most recent attempt in March, when MPs won a debate calling for an inquiry into the AFCS and WPS. Disappointingly, however, the defence minister Leo Doherty recently announced that there would be no review of the current system.
In their current state, the schemes are ‘designed’ to be accessible to veterans, yet many have branded the application and appeal stages as long and complicated. The RAF veteran and chief executive of Justice4Troops, Graham House, has seen this struggle first hand, stating that he has been ‘overwhelmed by the scale of it’ having spoken to over 2500 injured veterans, all battling to receive the compensation they deserve. Furthermore, as payments have not kept up with inflation since the scheme began, the amount of compensation veterans are receiving is lower in real terms than it once was.
With the schemes in their current state 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.
It is disappointing that the Government is apparently unwilling to take the steps necessary to ensure our veterans are properly protected. I hope the Government take time to reflect on their refusal to carry out a review of these schemes, which is long overdue.