'Why do I get a smaller pension pot than other veterans?'
British retirees are entitled to a state pension, but some get a bigger payout than others. Why? Because of where they live. Remembrance Day reminds Simon read of this inequity
David Cameron kept a sombre expression on his face last Sunday as he laid his tribute wreath on the Cenotaph in London's Whitehall.
The ceremony, which also involved other political leaders and royalty, was a moving one, as it is every year. During the traditional, two-minute silence, only the distant sounds of traffic and the faint rustling of leaves in the breeze could be heard, giving all time to reflect on the sacrifices so many made so that we today can enjoy the freedoms we have.
Those sacrifices should never be forgotten. But for some old soldiers Mr Cameron's sombre remembrance seems a little hollow. To put it simply they feel penalised by the country to which they gave their all in their youth.
Vic Williams is typical. He joined the Royal Navy and stayed with the aircraft carrier HMS Formidable as an able seaman throughout the war and until 1946. He saw action all over the world including in Sicily, Malta and the Pacific and has the medals to prove it.
After fighting for his country, Vic returned to the printing business where he met his wife. They were married in 1954 and had a daughter in 1955 after which the family chose to emigrate to Canada.
Vic worked hard all his life and bought a house in Mississauga. Long retired and now widowed, Vic, 92, still lives in the same house. However he has been living with a frozen pension since he left Britain.
Ironically, had Vic retired just across the border in the US he would now receive the full state pension of £110.15 per week, nearly three times as much as he gets. That's because people who retire to certain countries – mainly Commonwealth ones – have their pensions frozen at the rate when they left the country.
Vic feels that the British Government have overlooked his commitment to his country by "freezing" his minimum pension just because he chose to retire in Canada and not America, France or Spain where pension payouts rise each year. He's made a video addressed to the Prime MInister which you can find here: bit.ly/1d1mQ3t. It's worth watching to see Vic's emotional appeal.
This is what he told the PM: "Mr Cameron, I am a veteran. I had the honour of fighting for my country in World War II. I saw action and lost friends. I fought for my country because I believed it was the right thing to do.
"After the war, I worked in Britain, and made my compulsory National Insurance contributions like everyone else. I emigrated to Canada, a Commonwealth country, because Canada shares a common heritage with Britain.
"I have been retired for 26 years, and my British pension is frozen at exactly the amount that I first received in 1987 and will stay that way until I die. If I had gone to live in the US my pension would be fully indexed to today's values. If I had gone to Germany or Italy, my pension would be fully indexed.
"Mr Cameron, that is not fair or right. Those are not the values Britain still believes in. They are not the values you believe in. You seem to be a decent and honourable man. Why is my pension frozen in a Commonwealth country? A Canadian pensioner who moves to Britain has their pension indexed, why doesn't Britain follow suit?
"Britain is the only country that does not treat all its pensioners equally. That is not right. We do not deserve to be treated so badly by the country we fought for. I ask you, Prime Minister, on behalf of my fellow veterans (most of us who are left are now in our 90s), please, use your influence and authority to fix this problem.
"It is the decent and right thing to do. It is those values that Britain is known for. They are the values my friends and I fought to preserve. Please don't abandon us any longer."
Sheila Telford, chairman of the International Consortium of British Pensioners, said: "Vic's case is typical of more than half a million British pensioners forced to live abroad on what are, in real terms, diminishing incomes.
"Many veterans answered the call to fight for their country in its time of need and continued to pay National Insurance contributions, expecting to receive an indexed pension in return. Now, many of them who live abroad, mostly in Commonwealth countries, receive only a fraction of the pension they should.
"The Government must now unfreeze those pensions that are arbitrarily frozen at a cost of just 0.7 per cent of the pensions budget, finally giving frozen pensioners the incomes they have paid for in the same way as everyone else."
Clive Walford, chairman of Pension-Parity in Indonesia, said: "Veterans now in their late 80s and 90s receive less than half of what other pensioners in the same age group receive in the UK and in some other countries like Israel, Germany and the USA.
"These disadvantaged, veteran pensioners fought for freedom for all in Britain, but hypocritical British politicians, for more than 50 years, have denied them the freedom of choice of where they might retire."
The battle for pension parity continues. You can follow the disadvantaged pensioners' campaign at pensionjustice.org
The state pension is guaranteed to rise each year, giving pensioners a small increase every 12 months.
Of the 12 million people who receive the state pension, 1.2 million live abroad.
It is among the latter group that the huge inequality and unfairness has developed.
Those who have retired to the EU or more than 20 other countries – including the United States and Mauritius – see their state pension increased each year.
But anyone who has moved to countries such as Australia, Canada and 100 more places has their pension frozen at the rate it was paid when they leave the UK.
The unfair rule means that 650,000 pensioners living abroad enjoy an increase in their retirement every year while 565,000 have to cope with what they were paid when they moved abroad.
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