Veterans UK has updated its website. It promises to be far more user friendly. We do however take issue with the pronouncement that they provide ‘Free help with compensation claims for injury in the armed forces – no courts or legal help needed’. Don’t be hoodwinked guys.
Veterans UK administer both the Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS) and the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS). The AFCS is a no-fault scheme, likened to an occupational illness policy, which makes monetary awards to servicemen and women who suffer injuries and illness as a consequence of their military service. There should be no requirement for an applicant to prove negligence or a breach of duty. You need only prove that the injury or illness was, on the balance of probabilities, ‘caused by service’. Seem straightforward? It isn’t.
The scheme is operated by Veterans UK, part of the Ministry of Defence. Yes, any ‘help’ they give you is free, much like the help you get from the DWP to claim welfare benefits is also free. But, certainly Veterans UK are not impartial. It is Veterans UK who decides whether you are eligible and if you are, how much you should receive. They cannot advise you upon the merits or otherwise of their decision because it is they who are making the award. They process your claim and they write the cheque.
To whom do you turn to for advice if your application is rejected or, the award made to you is, wrong? Veterans UK says to ask the service charities for help. In my experience as a former soldier and from 20 years of working in private legal practice and as a volunteer in the military charity sector, the availability of such advice is extremely hit and miss. The truth is, Veterans UK don’t want you to use a lawyer because, more often than not, you will receive professional advice which will probably result in you overturning their decision.
The choice is yours:
- Go it alone and hope for the best – many do and presumably they are happy with the outcome
- Try to use one of the thousands of service charities in the UK – the Royal Marines Association has an excellent advocate who works for their injured guys; or
- Instruct or at least get some advice from a solicitor who has expertise in military claims and AFCS. Yes, there may be a fee to pay for that professional service; a fee which you should agree upfront and which will probably become payable from your lump sum award only should you win, but you wouldn’t dream of buying a house without using a lawyer so, for something so important as your health and your future, what’s the difference? Incidentally, avoid contacting a Claims Management Company (CMC). They are just middle men seeking a fast buck
Civil (Court) Claims
You can bring a civil claim and an application for an AFCS award concurrently and we will almost always advise you to do so. The majority of military claimant’s approach us at a very late stage after being told that they cannot claim for their injuries nor can they make a claim, until they have been discharged. Indeed, many service personnel are still unaware they can bring a claim at all. You can and should be encouraged to do so, after all, you are just as entitled to claim as all other employees and, without some accountability, your accident and injuries will likely be repeated, and we can ill afford to keep injuring our brave men and women, needlessly. The value of a civil claim for a career ending injury in the armed forces will almost always outstrip a stand-alone AFCS claim.
Military service is a rigorous occupation and training is designed to be tough enough to prepare our men and women to battle an enemy, but not to such a degree that they are exposed to perilous levels of danger. The MOD has a duty, like all conscientious employers, to provide a safe system of work, safe equipment, safe training and well-trained fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines. Any military personnel; Navy, Army, RAF, Royal Marines and Reserve Forces, who have sustained injury during their service as a result of negligence can bring a personal injury claim for their injuries and financial losses. Even the most moderate of injuries can put your career and all that you have trained so hard for in jeopardy.
Types of military claims that we specialise in:
- Training – home and abroad including Salisbury Plain, Sennybridge, Otterburn, Dartmoor, the Middle East, Canada, Belize, Kenya
- Friendly fire and negligent discharges
- Inadequate/faulty equipment and machinery – weapons, vehicles, clothing…
- Sports injuries – mountaineering, sub-aqua, skiing, rugby…
- Climatic injuries such as Non-Freezing and Freezing Cold Injuries
- Hearing loss – especially re-exposure to dangerous levels of noise, despite medical down-grading
- Road traffic accidents
- Harmful medication and exposure to dangerous substances
- Bullying & harassment
- Psychological injuries such as PTSD
- Medical errors
You still have to prove your case and Veterans UK and the MOD does not simply roll over and settle.
Good luck guys!
Update 16th March 2020: The Veterans UK webpage has since been revised and the misleading words ‘…no courts or legal help needed’ have been taken down.
MD Alma Law
Grant served for 10 years with 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery where he was trained as an Arctic and Jungle Warfare specialist; military skiing instructor; artillery surveyor; parachutist; combat driver; combat medic; diver and Platoon Weapons Instructor. He is an authority in military claims