Staffing pressures and government cuts cause delays in compensation claims for UK veterans.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has admitted that armed forces veterans are facing serious delays in claiming compensation as a result of rising case numbers and fewer staff to process claims.
Official figures from the MoD reveal that there were 36,000 new compensation claims for those injured, disabled or bereaved through service in 2013 – 14, a rise of 16% on the previous year. Some veterans say they have to wait months for compensation.
The government has claimed that redundancies in the armed forces, as well as a “rising claiming culture”, have resulted in the increase.
The delays in the claims process have caused anger among veterans, who cannot pursue a claim until they have left the armed forces, and some of whom then have to wait for more than a year for a claim to be processed once it has been submitted.
Alex Ford, a former sergeant in the Royal Air Force, told BBC Breakfast of the “mental anguish” he suffered as a result of not knowing the timescale of making a claim. He stated that the delay in his case had been “like a form of torture,” adding that “you don’t know when the case is going to be resolved and you’re left wondering about the postman each day.”
In an interview for BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Labour MP and member of the defence select committee, Madeline Moon, said: “We ask people to put their lives and futures on the line. The work that they do is tough.
"We are asking people to undertake strenuous, difficult training day after day. It's a tough life. You are going to take a toll with both your body and potentially your mind.
"It's only right if you set up a compensation scheme that people have the right to make a claim against it."
When questioned about the "rising claiming culture" which the government says is partly responsible for the increase, Moon described the excuse as “offensive.”
David Robinson, serious injury solicitor and military claims specialist at Thompsons Solicitors, commented: “It is clear that the government and MoD have a duty of care when it comes to our armed forces, which extends beyond their time in service.
“The Armed Forces Compensation Scheme is designed to be a no-fault scheme, meaning those who are injured or suffer illness can claim an annual award.
“The way the claims process is currently being managed is poor, with veterans evidently feeling out of the loop and unsure of how their claims are progressing, at a time that is often already challenging for them and their loved ones.
“This is yet another example of government cut-backs creating more problems than they are resolving. The reduction in the number of staff dealing with claims is having a detrimental effect on the efficiency of the process and, more importantly, is resulting in added pressures for veterans.
“The government needs to urgently address priorities and it should apologise for blaming the veterans themselves. In several studies successive governments including this one have concluded that compensation culture is a myth so it's pathetically shabby for the MOD to use it against those who have given up their health for their country.”
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