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MP’s fury at benefits cut for injured war veteran

The Government has been accused of “callous mistreatment” after cutting the benefits of a Northern Ireland soldier who was badly injured in Afghanistan.

Phillip Gillespie lost his right foot when he stepped on a booby trap device while serving with the RIR in Helmand Province two years ago.

Aged 22 he had already reached the rank of corporal and was leading troops through the region when the explosion occurred.

Following the January 2011 incident, Phillip underwent almost two years of treatment and rehabilitation for his extensive injuries which included serious burns.

Two years later the Ballymena man was part of the first disabled crew to complete the Dakar Rally, raising thousands of pounds for the Race2Recovery charity, set up for injured service personnel.

In March Phillip (24) was told he was no longer eligible for disability living allowance under changes to the benefits system.

He was instructed to undergo a medical assessment.

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As he can walk unaided with the use of his prosthetic limb he was told he would no longer be receiving payments. Between March and May he received no benefits until he received money from a new military system of payments. There are no plans to compensate Phillip for the lack of payments over that period.

North Antrim DUP MP Ian Paisley jnr told the House of Commons he was furious with the treatment of Phillip.

“I think it’s a complete outrage that one of our country’s bravest men, who was injured serving us in Afghanistan, was subsequently refused DLA by a bureaucrat who quite obviously could never contemplate what Phillip had to go through,” he said.

“I am obviously pleased he is now covered under the military system, but the fact remains that he should never have had to come and see me over such callous mistreatment.

“The purpose of raising this... was to ensure that this is an isolated incident, and that our war heroes are always honoured and respected with whatever they need after fighting so valiantly for our country away from home.”

Phillip endured several operations and began physiotherapy before getting his prosthetic limb.

A Social Security Agency spokesman said: “We cannot comment on individual cases.

“However, the department has been working with the Service Veterans and Personnel Agency who administer the new Armed Forces Independence Payment to ensure that injured service personnel, who reside in Northern Ireland and who are entitled to this payment, benefit from the scheme.”

Phillip underwent six or seven operations and then began intense physiotherapy before getting measured for prosthetics.

Quotes

“It was a cold winter morning out in Afghan and I was just walking down a sandy path with overgrown trees on it when I put my right foot on to a pressure pad IED, it detonated and the next thing I knew I was on my back. First of all I checked my body for injuries and my left foot was still attached at that time and my right foot was gone. It was quite a horrific sight, to be honest. I had full recollection, I didn't go unconscious at all. When I looked down I saw my foot was gone and just thought it was all over.”

Phillip Gillespie on the moment he was blown up by a Taliban bomb


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