Armed forces injury compensation bill since 2005 tops £500m
By Andrew Picken
SOLDIERS badly wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan are being awarded more than £1 million a week in compensation.
Thousands of British service personnel, as well as hundreds of thousands of locals, were seriously injured in the two conflicts.
Some were left in wheelchairs after suffering paralysis or lost limbs, while others had horrific burns to their bodies.
Armed forces chiefs launched a compensation scheme in 2005 and since then a staggering £520 million has been paid out to more than 30,000 injured personnel or bereaved families.
The majority of pay-outs made last year were for fractures or muscle damage, though a total of 20 payments were as a result of amputations.
Dr Hugh Milroy, chief executive of the UK-wide charity Veterans Aid, and a former RAF Wing Commander, last night raised concerns about the compensation scheme.
He said: “I am shocked at the size of that figure, the people we see through our doors have not had this compensation.
“It is compensation for a unique group of soldiers, the seriously wounded, but I have do have concerns about the scale and actually the sustainability of the compensation culture we have created here.
“I worry is the money being dished out going to last? In ten years’ time, when the memory of these wars fade who will be looking after these people?
“We need to move to a place where it is more of a hand up than a hand out. I wonder how much of this is down to the politicisation of the [compensation] issue or increased litigation.
“I just hope the politicians haven’t thrown money at it because they were getting flak and were worried about votes.
“But who is actually thinking these things through, who is taking the lead and joining up the financial dots here.”
The MoD has previously come under fire for the delays in paying out compensation, with one charity last year claiming waiting times for claimants had increased from 82 days in 2010 to 219 days in 2014.
Among those given six-figure pay-outs under the compensation scheme in the past was Sergeant Rick Clements, from Lancashire, who lost both legs after he stepped on an improvised explosive device while on patrol in Afghanistan in 2010.
Separate figures released by the MoD, under freedom of information laws, show that for every 1,000 personnel deployed to Iraq and or Afghanistan, 1.6% were assessed as having mental health issues in 2008/09.
But the rate of those hit by mental traumas had jumped to 3.1% last year.
Charities and medical experts have long warned it can often take years to show symptoms of mental illness after tours of duty.
The SNP’s defence spokesman Brendan O’Hara, said: “The duty of care to our service personnel, veterans and their families must be a key priority.
“These figures represent individuals — and raise concerns about the way the MoD may not be living up to that.”
An MoD spokeswoman said: “Our armed forces do a challenging and sometimes dangerous job and it is vital that those injured or bereaved by service receive the compensation they deserve.
“The Government is absolutely committed to the mental health of our armed forces and has long recognised that Service life can cause stress.
“As such, the MOD has introduced several anti-stigma campaigns to encourage serving personnel who need help to come forward to access the wide range of support that is available.”
This article first appeared in today’s print editiion of The Sunday Post