MOD Plans to Increase Armed Forces Compensation Scheme
Members of the British Armed Forces who are injured in Iraq or Afghanistan may be eligible for increased compensation payouts under plans announced by the Ministry of Defence last week. Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth brought the changes before Parliament after a review of the armed forces compensation scheme had been carried out by former chief of defence Admiral Lord Boyce. Following intense public pressure to address the plight of injured servicemen and women in the country, the Ministry of Defence has agreed to implement all of the changes recommended by Admiral Lord Boyce, which will no doubt come as a pleasant surprise to all those injured whilst serving their country and to those who have campaigned on their behalf.
The changes to the armed forces compensation scheme include backdated payments to 2005, which will hopefully cover those servicemen and women who have not been adequately compensated for injuries that have caused so much pain and suffering. Although the maximum award of compensation remains capped at £570,000, which is theoretically far lower than that which could be obtained through the civil courts, all other award levels will be increased under the changes. Most notably, members of the armed forces who receive multiple injuries in a single incident can now be compensated for all of these injuries (on a sliding scale of valuation) rather than just the first three, which was the rule formerly in place. This change in particular is likely to benefit bomb blast victims, whose injuries are often extensive and widespread. Injured personnel will continue to receive the full tariff value for each serious injury (up to the maximum award of £570,000).
The changes will also increase the maximum award available for mental illness, which covers a broad range of psychiatric conditions and includes post-traumatic stress. Members of the armed forces who have been diagnosed as suffering from post-traumatic stress may be unable to return to work – not necessarily in their chosen occupation – and so the increased award will be welcomed by those who have made personal injury claims involving psychiatric illness, especially where elements of compensation can be backdated to 2005. Another change that will be implemented by the Ministry of Defence is that of a new expert medical body, which will be created to provide advice on compensation for specific injuries and illness including hearing loss, genital injury and mental health issues.
One of the most important changes to be made to the armed forces compensation scheme is that affecting the Guaranteed Income Payment, which provides a tax-free, index-linked annual cash sum to victims of the most serious injuries. The changes will reflect likely promotions and extended retirement ages, which will not only increase payouts to servicemen and women but will also bring the armed forces compensation scheme in line with civil remedies that assess future loss of earnings.
Furthermore, injured personnel will have a new fast interim payment option available to them so that some level of compensation can be received before the claims process is completed – a move that will help injured members of the armed forces to adjust more quickly to their new conditions. Speaking about the changes, Mr Ainsworth said: “It is vital that our Armed Forces know that if they are injured due to service they will be properly supported by the nation and this includes getting the right compensation”.