THE BLOG
25/11/2013 06:50 GMT | Updated 24/01/2014 05:59 GMT

What is Wrong With Armed Forces Compensation? Everything

With some news stories, it's the headline that grabs you, and really, you don't need to read the copy to know what is going to be in it. For instance the story in the Mail on Sunday with the title 'Female RAF recruits get £100,000 compensation each... because they were made to march like men', you know what you are going to get, and you know how it is going to make you feel. Even taking away the usual Daily Mail reporting style and spin, you know that it's so daft and crazy and mad that is has to be true.

It's got all the right ingredients. The MoD, the claims culture, moral and righteous indignation... it has it all, including admission by the MoD that it is all correct. That three women have been given a compensation payment for their injuries sustained when Marching about during their recruit training - when learning to march, and what it means to be a service person.

And then there is the paragraphs comparing their payments with those injured whilst on active service in Iraq or Afghanistan. And this is when the moral indignation kicks in. We suddenly feel that the women seeking compensation are frauds, that they trivialise the process and insult those who have more serious injuries. That their payment is unfair. There are other service personnel who receive much less for more and worse injuries. You are left feeling that they shouldn't have been awarded such a large sum. It's unfair. It's wrong.

And of course it is. People with worse injuries should receive more. But that doesn't mean that these women shouldn't receive a payment for their injury. They were injured as a result of their service after all. Anyone who comes out of the services in a worse physical condition to how they went in deserves a payment. But what this story really shows is not that people with almost trivial conditions are getting paid more than some with far more debilitating injuries, it shows the inquiry of treatment that people leaving the forces face.

It shows the inequity of the system. That some people have to fight for anything and everything they deserve along the way, whereas others get it given to them almost on a plate. Not because they are special, not because they are different to others, but because of liability.

The reason some get things and others don't is because the MoD bases it's payments on liability. If they are to blame, then the individual gets something. But if the question of who is the blame is in doubt - say in the cases of PTSD or mental illness, then the MoD will do all it can to get out of accepting liability, and get out of paying.

It goes even further, under the new Armed Forces Compensation System, the claimant has to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that the reason for the claim is the fault of the military. So in PTSD cases, individuals medical records are scoured by MoD staff where anything that links to any mental health issues that could develop naturally are used as reasons for the PTSD. Anything from the death of a parent through to being an average squaddie and over-using alcohol is used to clutch at straws and turn down a claim. It's painful, it's hurtful, and it's wrong.

It's wrong because it makes a mockery of the concepts of integrity and truth, bywords by which soldiers, sailors and airmen live, as described in the various Core Values documents the services put out. They say they airman should do 'the right thing even though no one is watching them', and that the soldier should put 'service before self'. And they do. Over and over again. Service personnel put the service first, endeavour to do the right thing and are the embodiment of trust; putting their lives in the hands of others on a regular basis. In notable cases some don't, and they are rightly punished for it, but when the service doesn't do it, when the service lets it's people down, nothing happens.

The services says it looks after it's people, but it often it doesn't, and even more often when the personnel leave the forces they get even less support. The MoD talks about caring and supporting it's veterans, but that's a lie. Yes. It's that strong a word. Its a lie. It abdicates it's responsibility to charities to provide care and support, it squirms and wheedles to try to get out of fair and proportionate payments to disabled people.

It doesn't matter about liability. It doesn't matter who is to blame for how a person is physically or mentally when he or she leaves the forces. If someone has worn the uniform of the British Forces, taken that oath of loyalty, embodied the values that the uniforms stand for, then if they are in a worse condition when they come out of the forces than when they went in they should be compensated for it. It shouldn't be about trying to prove liability; it shouldn't be about trying to identify blame, it should be about responsibility and honour and integrity and doing the right thing. The members of the British Forces volunteered to do the right thing, it's time that the forces and the MoD behind it should do the right thing and reform it's compensation scheme and how veterans are treated. Obviously, there need to be some caveats; alcohol, drugs and natural ageing issues aside, but the problem of defining blame and proving liability, which leads to a give or give-not outcome would be overcome.

The sense of disenfranchisement and powerlessness that being on the wrong side of that divide brings leaves the ex-serviceman with a bitter pill to swallow. If you can't prove it was their fault, it must be your fault, and 'you're on your own, chum. It's nothing to do with us, you are out, on your own, and if you are lucky, maybe a charity might drop you a few crumbs.' No career, no job, no future. The system is failing those who really need it most. If your condition has some doubt about it, you need to steel yourself for a fight, and you need to steel yourself well, because the imbalance in the system has got you on the losing side from the outset.

Change is needed, and quickly. Currently, with stories like these about, no one wins. The claimants make some injured personnel look like scroungers after a quick buck, the MoD looks like fools and the system looks like an ass.

One thing would definitely come out of the massive change that is needed, there would be a lot fewer news stories like this one. Because it is not the fact that three women got a compensation payment for injuries sustained whilst marching, it is the fact that they were treated differently to other military personnel that grabs the headlines.