03/05/2013 12:08 BST | Updated 03/07/2013 06:12 BST

Slurs Must Not Stop Injured Military Personnel Claiming Their Due


Confusion and ill-will towards Service personnel who claim payouts when they are injured has led to allegations that the so-called "compensation culture" has reached the Armed Services.

In my experience as a military claims lawyer, injured arms personnel are hesitant about claiming, even if their careers and lives have been badly affected. Instead of being criticised, they should be encouraged to ignore these latest developments and to remember that if tax payers asked them to take a risk, then the MoD needs to compensate them when that risk has materialised - particularly if the injury was caused by negligence.

Attacking a rise in Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) applications and payouts, Patrick Mercer, a former Army colonel and Tory MP for Newark, has said that 11,000 claims have been rejected and that this is an indication that the system is being abused.

Leaving aside the question of where the figure of 11,000 might have come from, it is wrong to infer that a claim being rejected automatically means it was an attempt to abuse the system.

There are all sorts of reasons why somebody might not be eligible for AFCS compensation that are not remotely to do with trying to cheat the scheme. In some cases it's even the case that awarding compensation would rightly leave the MoD open to a claim for negligence.

For example, suppose that you injured your trigger finger off duty. Effective treatment in the next two weeks would have put you back together and allowed you to carry on with a full career - but the MO (Medical Officer) didn't refer you in time. The finger never got better, you couldn't re-trade, and you lost your career.

Was the injury "service-related"? For an AFCS application to succeed, it would have to be. The original injury was not, but the failure to refer the claimant for prompt treatment was. The civil servant dealing with the claim at the SPVA (Service Personnel and Veterans' Agency) probably won't know this or necessarily suspect that there was negligence, and will most likely reject the application.

Of course, if you have the determination to take advice from a lawyer who knows about military compensation claims you can be put on the right track; you could renew your AFCS application and make a civil compensation claim. But after being told by an MP who is supposed to support the Armed Forces that being rejected means you have been caught out trying to "milk the system", are you likely to try?