Our ex-service men and women are being let down by the official compensation system - Stephanie Peacock

As a country, we are all incredibly proud of our ex-service men and women. They have performed the ultimate public service and, if this has caused them to have any kind of serious injury or illness, the least they deserve is to be fairly compensated – allowing them to move on with their lives with the necessary support.

At the moment, however, far too many veterans are facing extreme hardship trying to navigate the official compensation system and are being denied the payments they deserve.

There are two major programmes through which veterans can apply for compensation – the ‘Armed Forces Compensation Scheme’, and its predecessor ‘War Pensions’. Both of these are managed by Veterans UK, who operate under the Ministry of Defence.

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However, unlike many other compensation schemes, Veterans UK is responsible not only for awarding any payments to veterans, but also for assessing the worthiness of their claims. This unique set up allows Veterans UK complete control over how much money they award – essentially giving them the ability to mark their own homework.

A soldier in the army. PIC: PixabayA soldier in the army. PIC: Pixabay
A soldier in the army. PIC: Pixabay

Anecdotally, veterans have been complaining about this set up for years.

When I served as Shadow Minister for Veterans from 2021 to 2022, many ex-service men and women wrote to me about the difficulties they had faced in the system. They told me the process was agonisingly long and that rejection levels were high.

Rather than Veterans UK having to provide clear evidence that a claimant’s injury or illness is not related to service in order to reject them, the burden of proof is placed on those making the claim instead.

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This means that veterans themselves are tasked with having to build a case to prove the extent of their illness or injury - all whilst dealing with medical advisors prone to losing their records, ignoring their submissions and mixing up claims.

Stephanie Peacock is the Labour MP for Barnsley East.Stephanie Peacock is the Labour MP for Barnsley East.
Stephanie Peacock is the Labour MP for Barnsley East.

Some of those who wrote to me were officially medically discharged by the forces, but still somehow ended up unable to prove their worthiness for a scheme supposedly designed for injured and unwell ex-forces personnel.

Dealing with lifelong illness or injury is already hard enough.

But under the stress of the Veterans UK process, many veterans say their mental health, physical health and finances deteriorated even further – leaving them feeling let down by the country they have risked their life to serve.

This is simply not good enough.

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Through the All Party Parliamentary Group for Veterans - we launched a cross-party survey on the issue.

Over 1,000 veterans and personnel responded to the survey, and the results were damning. They showed that the vast majority of veterans have had negative experiences with the system, and do not think it is fit for purpose.

I’m delighted that, as a result of our survey, we have been able to secure an announcement from the Ministry of Defence that they will conduct an independent review into veterans’ welfare systems.

This is a long time coming and marks a clear turning point. However, if this review is to create the real reform that is so desperately needed, the investigation must be thorough, and explicitly address the repeated problems veterans have been facing.

Stephanie Peacock is the Labour MP for Barnsley East.

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