MoD increases payouts for injured troops

Maximum compensation for soldiers wounded in Afghanistan rises to £1.5m
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The Independent Online

Troops injured in Afghanistan and Iraq will receive increased compensation of up to £1.5m, under reforms announced by the Ministry of Defence yesterday.

The measures are part of a package on military welfare, with a further announcement due today on additional funding for the rehabilitation of wounded personnel. General Sir David Richards, the head of the Army, is expected to say that soldiers will receive enhanced specialist individual care to help them return to civilian life. At the same time those suitable for staying in the forces would also get more attention devoted to their careers.

The Government initiatives were unveiled in the wake of a critical National Audit Office report stating that treatment facilities for troops injured in Afghanistan are close to reaching capacity.

The Defence Secretary, Bob Ainsworth, said he fully accepted the recommendations of the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS).

The review has concluded that payments for some severe injuries, such as second or third degree burns, would rise by 68 per cent to £280,000, while those deemed to have less serious wounds, such as fractures or the loss of a single toe, will see the amount go up by four per cent to £1,800. Troops who received multiple injuries in a single attack will receive compensation for all injuries. In the past, payment was limited to three wounds.

However, the maximum tax-free lump sum of £570,000 will remain the same, and backdating of payments would only go to personnel who have been compensated under the scheme since it started in 2005, replacing the old war pensions. There have been calls for the backdating to be extended to 2001, to take in those injured at the start of the Afghan war and the Iraq invasion.

The review was brought forward after the Government challenged increased compensation paid to two servicemen, Corporal Anthony Duncan and Royal Marine Matthew McWilliams, when they developed complications after treatment to injuries.

Other changes proposed by the review, chaired by the Admiral the Lord Boyce, the former Chief of Defence Staff, include the raising of the guaranteed lifetime income for lost earnings and the raising of payments to widows and widowers.

Lieutenant-Colonel David Richmond was the highest-ranking soldier to be injured in Afghanistan when, as commanding officer of the 5th Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Scotland, he was shot in the leg in Helmand two years ago. He said: "I have a compensation claim which is going through the system now and the final sum is yet to be decided. I have received the finest treatment possible both at military facilities at Selly Oak and Headley Court and also a NHS hospital, the Northern General, at Sheffield.

"But there was obviously a feeling that the compensation scheme needed to be looked at and that is what has been done. As well as medical care, people do need financial support and the review has, I think, looked at that quite thoroughly."

Mr Ainsworth said the measures would ensure that forces had "fair and just" compensation. "It's vital that our Armed Forces know that if they are injured due to service they will be properly supported by the nation," he said.

Liam Fox, the shadow Defence Secretary, said: "There is much to be welcomed in the Government's statement today but we will, of course, need to examine the detail about its implementation before we are able to make a proper statement."