Military personnel injured while serving their country risk being under-compensated because their rights are not made clear to them by the Government.
Campaign group the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) has raised concerns with the Office for Veterans’ Affairs which is looking at the needs of veterans and their families.
“Victims will include those who have suffered life-changing injuries and have been forced to leave their careers in the armed forces as a result,” said APIL spokesperson Gordon Dalyell.
Since April 2005 the Ministry of Defence’s Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) pays compensation to soldiers, naval and air force personnel, and veterans who suffer injury or illness arising from service, which can be sustained during operations, training or service-approved sport.
But veterans and service personnel risk being under-compensated because it is not made clear to them that as well as using the scheme they can also pursue a separate civil claim for damages.
“The AFCS does not pay for loss of earnings or lost career prospects due to being injured, which can be significant amounts. These can make all the difference to military families as they try to adjust to life after injury and move on,” said Mr Dalyell.
“To obtain these ‘special damages’ veterans and service personnel must pursue a civil claim. But in the information provided by the Government, including that on the AFCS website, it is not made completely clear that they can do this.
“Injured personnel may end up drastically under-compensated as a result. The very least this country can do for its veterans and service personnel is ensure they have all the information they need to rebuild their lives after injury,” he said.
“Injured veterans are particularly vulnerable: many are suffering from debilitating psychological injuries including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and are simply not able to advocate for themselves.
“We have seen cases put in the wrong compensation categories, which affects damages paid by the AFCS. Injured veterans and armed forces personnel attempting to navigate the system alone will not know how to check they are being treated fairly,” he said.
Civil compensation claims also play an important role in holding the Ministry of Defence to account by highlighting issues with poor equipment or training. They can lead to improvements that prevent further injuries and help save lives, APIL has told the MoJ.