Wednesday, July 29, 2009

MoD challenges payments for injured soldiers.

The timing of this, as UK death rates in Afghanistan reach new highs, is simply extraordinary:

The Ministry of Defence today brushed aside criticism of its attempt to cut compensation for wounded soldiers, telling the court of appeal that payments should be limited to the soldier's initial injury and not include subsequent disabilities.

Amid uproar from veterans and their families, the ministry argued that compensation must be based on objective criteria and not take into account an individual's particular circumstances.

The MoD is seeking to overturn a pensions appeal tribunal ruling that increased payments to Corporal Anthony Duncan, who was shot in 2005 while on patrol in Iraq, and Royal Marine Matthew McWilliams, who fractured his thigh in a military exercise the same year.

Duncan was awarded £9,250, but this was increased to £46,000 by the tribunal. McWilliams's £8,250 award was increased to £28,750. If the ruling stands, they will also both benefit from a guaranteed annual income when they leave the services.

The appeal court heard that although Duncan had undergone 11 operations, took two years to recuperate and one of his legs was shorter than the other, he was now "fully deployable". It emerged that he is fighting on the front line in southern Afghanistan. McWilliams is still in the Royal Marines, the MoD said.

One of the things which has always rankled me during both the Iraq war and the war in Afghanistan is the notion that those of us who have opposed these wars are somehow "against the troops". I actually think nothing could be further from the truth. These brave men and women risk their lives at the moment when our country is facing maximum danger and what most enraged me about the Iraq war was that their lives were risked when the country was not facing any danger at all.

So, it is, to me, ironic in the extreme to witness the people who claim to have the troops best interests at heart go to court in an attempt to limit the amount of compensation these troops can be paid when they have suffered horrific injury.

This is simply shameless.

Simon Weston, a former Welsh Guardsman who suffered severe burns during the Falklands war, said the government was being "petty". He added: "It seems awful – it is almost car crash politics when they start doing something like this."

Lieutenant Colonel Jerome Church, of the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen's Association, told Radio 4's Today programme: "This case is obviously appalling timing for the Ministry of Defence. The [current] scheme is an improvement over the old war pension in many ways. It is unique that it compensates people in service ... so that is an advantage." However, he said it was based on a "complex" tariff system that applied "remorseless logic".

Lawyers for Duncan and McWilliams argue that the compensation scheme must take into account the effect of the initial injury on an individual, including medical treatment.

The Conservative MP James Arbuthnot, who is chairman of the commons defence committee, said: "If the Ministry of Defence is appealing to keep the costs of looking after injured servicemen as low as possible, it sends the wrong message to people who are wondering whether to join the armed forces."

The hearing continues tomorrow.

So, the people who berated those of us who opposed their illegal invasion of Iraq as "not supporting the troops" are now fighting those same troops in courts of law in order to ensure that they don't have to pay them too much money to compensate for their horrific injuries.

It looks to me as if the troops best interests were actually served by those of us who demanded that they not be sent to Iraq in the first place. They've certainly not been well served by the war mongers who sent them there and now balk at the cost of compensating them for their injuries.

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