The UK’s Armed Forces Compensation Scheme has been paused after Veterans UK was temporarily closed down due to the Covid-19-imposed lockdown.
The scheme, which helps veterans deal with claims for injuries obtained while in the Armed Forces, is wrapped up in Veterans UK, which is part of the Ministry of Defence. The process was paused in early April with payments due to be made at that time still being sent.
At the time Veterans UK said: “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.”
Lawyers for armed forces personnel have raised concerns that the pausing of the scheme has caused uncertainty among veterans.
Bolt Burdon Kemp partner and head of the military claims team Ahmed Al-Nahhas told Army Technology: “The AFCS is an integral part of fulfilling the State’s obligations towards service personnel, which are enshrined on the Armed Forces Covenant. The scheme awards compensation to anyone who has served and has been injured as a result of their service.
“Awards vary depending on the severity of the injury but can include guaranteed income payments for those most severely affected by their injuries. These awards are often a financial lifeline to our injured veterans, some of whom may struggle to find work on Civvy Street because of their injuries.”
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Al-Nahhas added that although Veterans UK has said cases would not be prejudiced if they are received late due to the closure of the offices the delays would add to the uncertainty veterans are experiencing.
Al-Nahhas added: “I am really concerned to hear that because of the current pandemic the MOD have shut down Veterans UK. This means that applications under the scheme won’t be processed for the foreseeable future.
“Whilst it is reassuring that the Ministry of Defence (MOD) have promised that no applications will be prejudiced, e.g. if they are received late because of the office closure, this does not address the delay and uncertainty that this situation will cause to many.”
With applications for the schemes able to be completed online, Al-Nahhas called into question why it was necessary to pause the scheme at all saying: “Applications for the scheme can be made electronically, so there is no reason for this closure. The MOD should have an electronic case management system that allows its civil servants to operate the scheme from home.”
Responding to the criticism a spokesperson for Veterans UK told Army Technology: “We are working hard to support veterans by continuing to deliver our vital welfare services and the circa 470,000 pension and compensation payments we make each month. In these exceptional times, some office-based casework has had to be paused where this cannot be delivered via remote working.”
Veterans UK said that all pension and compensation payments already processed are being sent as usual. All requests for welfare support are also being met on the same day the request is made in as many places as possible.
The organisation has moved to alternatives to face to face visits where it is not essential to maintain as many of its services as possible during the pandemic.
Veterans UK apologised for the inconvenience to individuals affected by the changes and said that services would resume as soon as current restrictions imposed by the government were lifted.