Veterans UK is closed for business. N.B. This is not an April Fool’s joke.
Veterans UK is part of the Ministry of Defence. They administer the Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS), the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) and War Pensions. As reminder, 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. Countless numbers of our men and women are tragically killed and injured in combat operations and in training accidents every year and for many, the AFCS scheme is their only route to ‘compensation’ for their injuries and losses.
These are the very same servicemen and women who today, and every day, are on the front line in the Middle East, on our Oceans and, back home, ensuring that critical supplies get to our NHS hospitals and who are vital in helping to create new temporary hospitals, like the Nightingale in London’s docklands. No one would disagree that our brave troops and doctors and medical staff are the essential workers of this time. Interestingly I have read that a group of MPs has urged the government to introduce a similar AFCS-type scheme for injured NHS staff. Again, few would disagree.
Anyway, after tiring of the length of time it has taken them to send me a decision on several AFCS claims for guys with serious, disabling PTSD, I emailed Veterans UK customer services to ask if they were still in operation. Their helpline has been switched off and I didn’t have much hope of a reply. They had recently announced that all appeals to the War Pensions and Armed Forces Tribunal have been cancelled along with all medical examinations for the War Pension scheme. Curiously their website says that medical examinations for AFCS are also cancelled, which is strange because to my knowledge, they don’t arrange those for AFCS claims. Perhaps they will take that bit down once they realise their error.
A bonus, so to speak, of the cancellation of all of these external activities would presumably mean more time for their civil servants to progress new and existing claims? Wrong.
‘Unfortunately, due to our staff not being able to attend the office, we are currently unable to process casework, including requests for new claims, reviews, reassessments and appeals until our staff are able to return.
Please visit our website to keep up to date with the latest progress regarding Veterans UK’s plan regarding COVID-19.
Please accept our sincerest apologies.’
Lawyers, like myself, are key workers because we are considered to be ‘essential to the running of the justice system’. Okay, some might disagree and you’re entitled to express your opinion. Most are working remotely and Twitter is awash with images of us in our PJ’s conducting video case management conferences with judges in all corners of the land. We have PCs, mobile phones, video conferencing and easy and secure access to our usual office based, relatively inexpensive, case management systems. At Alma Law we use Leap legal software and it’s great.
But Veterans UK, who incidentally are based in Blackpool, can’t function at all? What? Surely their staff are also key workers and if not, why can’t their case workers work remotely? Surely in the 21st century the MoD uses a case management system? Its astonishing.
In a previous blog (here) I remarked that Veterans UK don’t want you to use a lawyer like me and pay for legal advice because, more often than not, you will receive professional advice which will probably result in you overturning an onerous decision. If you are reading this and you’re either serving or a veteran, or you represent our injured troops and veterans, I would certainly be interested to hear your views on the sudden shutdown of these schemes and the grinding to a halt of access to justice for thousands.
This is going to create a huge backlog and will only serve to worsen the distrust of a system, which is as yet unfettered by scrutiny.
MD Alma Law
1st April 2020
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