Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland military veterans uniquely financially disadvantaged: Royal British Legion

Military veterans in Northern Ireland are uniquely disadvantaged in sacrificing compensation payments for injury to pay for social care, the British Legion has said. (stock photo)
Military veterans in Northern Ireland are uniquely disadvantaged in sacrificing compensation payments for injury to pay for social care, the British Legion has said. (stock photo)

By Michael McHugh

Military veterans in Northern Ireland are uniquely disadvantaged in sacrificing compensation payments for injury to pay for social care, the British Legion has said.

More than 4,000 Northern Irish veterans of conflicts including Afghanistan or Iraq receive compensation or similar income for life after being hurt during service, official evidence showed.

Health trusts take a significant proportion of it towards the cost of care.

The British Legion said: "This is despite the fact that both forms of compensation are awarded as recompense for the pain, suffering and loss of amenity experienced by injured service personnel and veterans, and not as a means of covering any care costs that might arise from the individual's service."

Trusts are only expected to routinely disregard the first £10 per week of a veteran's pension in financial assessments for social care support, the rest can otherwise unfairly be considered "normal income", the charity said.

It added: "Currently, veterans in NI are uniquely and routinely asked to sacrifice compensation payments received for injury as a direct result of service to pay for their social care support."

Severe trauma injuries requiring amputation and other catastrophic disablement represent a peril of war and those who suffer are able to access Ministry of Defence compensation.

Those with conditions sustained on or before April 2005 are eligible to claim under the war pension scheme, while those with conditions sustained on or after that can claim under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS), written evidence before a parliamentary inquiry said. The war pension scheme awarded eligible veterans a war disablement pension, which provides regular payments for life based on the percentage of whole body injury.

The AFCS awards all recipients a lump sum and provides a non-taxable payment for life, known as a guaranteed income payment, to the most severely injured.

The British Legion said civilian injury compensation payments could be fully disregarded from social care means tests, by placing the compensation into a personal injury trust.

Due to the regular payment method of Armed Forces compensation, rather than payment as a single lump sum, trust protection is not available to veterans injured in service.

The charity added: "Veterans are therefore not only being disadvantaged in comparison to their English, Scottish and Welsh-residing counterparts, but are also facing unequal treatment in comparison to the civilian population."

In 2017, financial assessments for social care in England, Scotland and Wales were amended to remove what the British Legion termed the "anomaly" in the charging guidelines.

It said: "We now call on those responsible for making decisions on policy to ensure that veterans living in NI are not left behind and that health and care trust charging guidelines are similarly amended.

"The Legion believes that this anomaly must be rectified as a matter of urgency."

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