More compensation for troops wounded in action

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Indy Politics

The Government acknowledged yesterday that seriously injured soldiers were receiving insufficient compensation and announced plans to increase payments to those wounded in the line of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The reforms come after an embarrassing series of revelations involving cases in which terribly injured servicemen had received "insulting" payouts.

Yesterday, the Defence Secretary Des Browne announced reforms to the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) which will mean service personnel will now be eligible for payouts for all injuries rather than simply the three most serious. The maximum lump sum payout remains at £285,000 – well below that available in civilian schemes – but will now go for consultation.

The Royal British Legion, which has been among several organisations campaigning for a more "compassionate" compensation scheme, welcomed the move but said more needed to be done.

Sue Freeth, director of welfare, said the changes only affected those with the most serious, multiple injuries. Someone with a single, debilitating brain injury would still only receive £115,000.

"We are encouraged and glad that they are listening. We are very enthusiastic that they have made this first step and hope there will be a proper public consultation which we can be involved in," she added.

It was the case of Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson, 23, who was serving with the 7th Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery when he was hit by a landmine in Helmand last September, which brought the matter to the fore. Despite losing both legs and suffering 37 wounds, including a brain injury, he was only awarded £152,150 for his first three injuries. Ministry of Defence sources have now confirmed that he will receive the full £285,000 lump sum.

Mr Browne rejected claims that the new scheme should have been brought in earlier, adding: "I think we have responded in a generous manner."

While thanking the Defence Secretary for the changes, Lance Bombardier Parkinson's mother, Diane Dernie, said the upper ceiling still fell short of what she would need to care for her son for the rest of his life.

"I think timing, public pressure, these are the things that have forced this change, not any feeling of responsibility," she said.

"They are simply figures on a balance sheet. They do not have any role, any function, and the MoD wants to dispose of them as cheaply as possible."

Talking of the "devastated, shattered, ruined lives" of families of the wounded, Mrs Dernie, from Doncaster, said she would continue her campaign with the backing of her son.

"Financial security and some kind of dignified life for these boys is still a long way off," she said. "We don't expect huge compensation in sums such as you see bandied about. But we do expect the care for the rest of these boys' lives to be taken into consideration."

Under the new proposals, all injuries that fall into the four highest bands, including loss of both eyes, loss of both legs and profound deafness, will be paid in full. However, injuries below those tariffs, such as losing a kidney or a severe knee injury, will still be subject to the old rules where only the three most serious are considered. In addition to the lump-sum compensation, the most severely injured troops receive a tax-free index-linked annual payment to make up for loss of earnings.

An MoD spokesman stressed that although those injured since April 2005 will be given additional cash, the new scheme will not be strictly retrospective in law.