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Injured soldiers compensation boost

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 10 February 2010

Soldiers injured fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq will receive increased payouts following an overhaul of the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme announced today.

British soldiers during a training exercise

In some cases one-off awards for individual injuries will be increased by more than 50 per cent, while the rule limiting compensation to the first three injuries suffered in a single incident has been axed.

The guaranteed lifetime income paid to the most seriously injured service men and women who are unable to carry on working will also be raised to reflect likely promotions, and extended retirement ages.

The increases will be backdated to cover all personnel who have been compensated under the scheme since its inception in 2005 when it replaced the old war pensions. Estimates suggest up-rating previous claims could cost the Ministry of Defence (MoD) £150m, as Channel 4 News revealed last summer.  

Announcing the changes, Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth said that he believed that they would ensure that the forces had a compensation scheme that was "fair and just".

He said: "They must have confidence that when they are injured due to their service, that they and their family will be fully cared for, right through their initial treatment to their long-term convalescence.

"And they must have confidence that we will provide them with a fair and just compensation scheme as part of that support."

The compensation scheme was attacked in 2007 after it emerged Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson, who lost both legs and suffered 37 injuries when a landmine exploded in Helmand province, Afghanistan, was awarded just £152,150 in compensation.

His mother, Diane Dernie, from Doncaster, described the payout as an "insult" and announced she was going to the high court to challenge the award. The payout was eventually increased to £540,000.

The scheme attracted further controversy last year when the MoD said it was going to the court of appeal to challenge tribunal rulings which increased the pay-outs to two servicemen who developed medical complications after treatment for their initial injuries.

Today's changes follow a review of the scheme chaired by the former chief of the defence staff, Admiral Lord Boyce.

Lord Boyce said that as a result of the recommendations - which the government has committed to implement in full - the UK armed forces would have a scheme that compared "more than favourably" with most other countries.

Under the Ministry of Defence's tariff system, the award for the most serious injuries will remain at £570,000, but the other award levels below that will be increased.

For the second level it will rise from £402,500 to £470,000 and for the third it will go up from £230,000 to £380,000.

However Lord Boyce said that the biggest changes would be to the guaranteed income payment system, based on salary, which would be changed to reflect the average number of promotions a person of their age could expect to receive.

It will also reflect the fact that most people will work until 65 rather than 65.

The youngest troops who suffer life-changing injuries will particularly benefit from the changes, with a 21-year-old private receiving a 35 per cent increase in their monthly payments.

In total, a serviceman or woman who was also eligible for the most serious one-off payment, could receive £1.5m in compensation over the course of their lifetime, Lord Boyce said.

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