A supported Armed Forces community
Evidence over the past decade has consistently highlighted the relationship between our Armed Forces community and the social security system. The Armed Services Advice Project (ASAP) funded by Poppyscotland and delivered by Citizens Advice Scotland has just published its 10-year anniversary report. This highlighted that the biggest issue they have supported clients with the most have been welfare / social security benefits. This builds on earlier evidence from Poppyscotland’s 2014 Household Survey found that 1 in 4 members of the Armed Forces community in Scotland received a means tested benefit or tax credit.
Injured Service personnel and bereaved spouses access compensation via several compensation schemes administered by the Ministry of Defence. These include: War Disablement Pensions (WDP); Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS); Service Invaliding Pensions (SIPS); Service Attributable Pensions (SAPS); and War Widow(er) Pensions.
Yet War Disablement Pensions are considered as income for some means tested benefits, with only the first £10 per week being disregarded in some instances. Veterans with War Disablement Pensions are accordingly financially disadvantaged compared to their civilian peers, for whom comparable civilian compensation is fully disregarded, as well as their AFCS peers, for whom full exemptions are also offered.
The ten-year UK Veterans Strategy consultation, conducted collaboratively by the UK and Scottish Governments, found that awareness about the support and benefits available to the ex-Service community in Scotland could be improved. The Scottish Social Security system is still evolving. To date, eleven social security benefits have been devolved with the regulations and guidance surrounding them still being developed. However, in the provisions published to date, there has been no explicit mention of our Armed Forces community and the interaction between military compensation and state benefits.
The Scottish and UK Governments should collaborate to ensure that those in receipt of military compensation for injuries sustained in Service are not financially disadvantaged when accessing and receiving benefits. Furthermore, the Scottish Government should do likewise within the devolved social security context. This includes committing to working with local government to ensure that all military compensation is fully exempted from financial assessments for social security benefits.
Over the course of the next Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Government should:
Fully exempt military compensation from financial assessments for social security benefits.
John Fuller is an RAF veteran from Kirkaldy who is in receipt of Employment Support Allowance(ESA) and a War Pension of £56.94 per week for injuries sustained in Service. When he was first awarded his War Pension, he also received a backdated payment of £3,000. However, he only received £600 of this because of unfair benefit rules that deem all but the first £10 per week of this military compensation to be normal income. He was not compensated for the pain, suffering and additional costs he incurred because of his condition.