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Armed Forces Compensation Scheme: Is it fit for purpose?

The Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) replaced the old War Pensions scheme back in April 2005. It was heralded as a non-fuss and simple process for service personnel injured caused by service, to obtain compensation for their injuries without the need of a specialist legal professional.

Unfortunately, as the system has matured, the scheme is still marred by red tape, inaccessible descriptors and continual underestimates of injury. The result is that injured service personnel are often having to seek redress by making applications to review or appeal the original AFCS decision on their injury awards.

The issues with the scheme have been highlighted in a recent survey conducted by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Veterans which found that:

  • 76.4% veterans and personnel would rate their overall experience claiming compensation through Veterans UK as poor, or very poor – compared to just 6.4% as good or very good;
  • 83.4% veterans and personnel would rate the level of support they felt during the process of claiming compensation as poor, or very poor – compared to just 5.9% as good or very good;
  • 77% veterans and personnel would rate the level of communication they received whilst awaiting the results of their application for compensation as poor, or very poor – compared to just 6.5% as good or very good;
  • 84.5% veterans and personnel would rate the consideration given by Veterans UK to their mental and/or physical health whilst making their claim as poor, or very poor – compared to just 5.7% as good or very good;
  • 74.9% did not receive the desired initial outcome to their claim and of those that appealed only 40.8% were successful;
  • 77.6% felt the appeals process was very poorly or poorly explained and a further 86.3% rated their experience of the appeals process as very poor or poor.

Of particular concern were the findings around making appeals to AFCS decisions, that individuals:

  • felt launching an appeal was ‘pointless’, a ‘waste of time’ or had limited or no chance of success;
  • were too ground down by the system and the process, were exhausted, or felt they had to give up;
  • found it too stressful, or their mental or physical health was too poor to continue. More than one respondent mentioned suicide attempts;
  • didn’t realise they could appeal, were not given the opportunity to appeal, or were given poor information on the appeals process;
  • felt the process had been too long, or they’d had enough of waiting;
  • feared their existing award being reversed.

This was added to by the fact that the process of initial claims, appeals and tribunals was lengthy and too slow, with little to no communication and engagement with veterans throughout the process.

A constant theme in the survey results was the lack of transparency and the continued links with the MOD, rather than it being entirely separate, leading to many, potentially rightly, assuming the system is against the best interests and needs of the applicants. These are both major concerns that many military legal specialists have had since the introduction of the system.

As a military injury lawyer, the survey’s findings match the stories and histories myself and my team all too frequently hear from our clients, and it's disheartening to see such stark statistics highlighting the issues around making a claim through the AFCS. 

A further report into the AFCS was originally due this Spring but has been delayed until later in the year. The findings and recommendations of this report will make for interesting reading in light of these figures.

It's also no great surprise, having seen these statistics, that we are seeing more and more veterans and service personnel being left no option but to get legal help to consider challenging their AFCS awards.

An important point to note is that the AFCS is not the same as a civil claim. It's entirely possible to make both a civil claim and make an application through the  AFCS. It's often the case that a civil claim may result in a higher payment of compensation albeit any award from the AFCS will be deducted from any award from a civil claim to prevent compensation being paid twice.

If you've suffered an injury as a result of service and are struggling to make an AFCS claim or appeal a claim, please don't hesitate to contact our specialist team who will be able to advise you and potentially assist you in pursuing your claim and obtaining the compensation you are warranted. 

To find out more and make an enquiry, visit the dedicated section on our website.