This piece first appeared in The Daily Telegraph on 11 November 2000
The text here may not be identical to the published text
Each year £1.2 billion is spent paying war disablement and widows pensions to nearly 300,000 men and women. But the Royal British Legion believes many more people could claim. There are many misconceptions about war disablement pension.
The injury does not have to be in wartime
The pension can be paid to anyone who has served in the armed forces – in peace or war – and now has a disability which was caused or made worse by anything that happened to them as a result of that service. Traffic accidents, training injuries, or workplace mishaps which lead to a disability can all entitle service personnel to a war disablement pension.
The injury does not have to be physical
Nowadays, the effects of battle on a person’s mental health are well understood. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can be as disabling as any physical injury and, if it was caused by service in the forces, then a pension can be claimed. But other non-physical injuries such as a disease which causes a disability will also lead to a pension. A change of policy in the 1990s virtually ended claims for deafness unless the effects on hearing were well-documented shortly after the events which caused them.
Even civilians can claim if they were injured by enemy action or action to combat the enemy
The injury does not have to be completely caused by service
People who have an existing condition which is made worse by things that happen to them in service can also claim a pension. For example, a bad back can be made worse, a breathing problem can be exacerbated.
For World War II, the injury does not have to have occurred in the armed forces
Special rules apply to the period from 1939-1945. Anyone who served in the Home Guard, the Auxiliary Nursing Corps, the fire service and various other units can claim for injuries as if they had been in the forces. Anyone involved in civil defence who suffered an injury in the course of their duties can also claim. Even civilians can claim if they were injured by enemy action – or action taken on our side to combat the enemy.
A woman married to a man who gets a war disablement pension can claim a war widow's pension if her husband’s death was ‘attributable’ to his injury. That is often a hard and lengthy battle to fight. However, if her husband’s disability was at least 80% AND he got a supplement because he could not work then she should automatically get a war widow's pension after his death.
The pension is paid at different rates depending on the severity of the disability and ranges from £116 a week for someone whose disability is assessed at 100% down to £23.20 a week for someone with a 20% disability. There are extra amounts for the more severely injured and for those whose earning power was reduced and for some pensioners are 65. War widows now get £144 a week with age allowances starting at 65. All war disablement pensions are free of income tax.
Someone whose disability is assessed at less than 20% gets a lump-sum gratuity ranging from £306 for a minor short-term injury, to £7169 for a more serious and durable disability.
Claiming a war disablement pension takes longer than any other benefit. The target time to deal with a claim is an astonishing 20 weeks with a further year is there is an appeal.
War Pensions Agency website www.dss.gov.uk/wpa/
War Pensions Agency helpline 0800 169 22 77 or +44 1253 866043 from overseas
Royal British Legion helpline 0345 725 725
11 November 2000