Applying to the AFCS / Making a claim under the AFCS
Part 1

It may seem I'm being pedantic by repeatedly calling it "applying" to the AFCS. To me a 'claim' is a legal claim where there is a Claimant and a Defendant. In such cases there are rules for expert qualification and competence, there are enforceable time limits, the process is overseen by a judge or independent mediator so that the outcome is objective and unbiased, and costs can be recovered at the end of the claim. 

AFCS ain't that thing.

Parts 1 & 2 of the form, and medical / service records

GOV.UK website for AFCS

If you haven't already, have a look at the AFCS section of the GOV.UK website. It gives a broad brush overview of the process and links to the most up to date version of the 'Claim' Form.

Form AFCSWPS0001

Personally I really dislike using Adobe Acrobat reader (Over 15 quid a bloody month for a PDF editor?! F*** Off!) but the form says it won't work in anything else, so best to use the free annoying version of Acrobat to fill it in. There are links in the form to the instructions which seem to be embedded.

Don't be put off by the size of the form. It does look massive, but you don't have to do it in one go. 

First few pages

The first few pages of the form are standard form filling stuff with a few exceptions. If you've served with or are serving with SF then you really do need to follow the process of getting Express Prior Authority in Writing (EPAW) on the front page of the form (3rd page of the PDF).

Parts 1 and 2 should be ok to fill in, although you might have to dig out some paperwork or make a phone call to find out which pension scheme you were on if you can't remember.

Guidance notes

The guidance notes hidden in the form are limited and can also be misleading. Click on the text which the Big AFCS Help green arrow is pointing at and it will open another PDF with the notes.

Medical records

The first things the guidance notes say to include with your application, if you have them, are your medical records. You don't have to get them, as Veterans UK will request them anyway, but it might be faster if you want to do it, and you might do a better job of getting all the relevant records. 

One thing to know is that you'll probably have records in different locations. Each Hospital Trust that's treated you will have some records. Your GP will have some records. Any private treatment places might have some. Private doesn't have to be a hospital where you have your own room with a TV and they bring you coffee in a china cup. It can be a £30 physio session or block of counselling / psychotherapy. 

See box to the right for an example of the spread of locations your records can be in.

Medical records locations examples

Living just south of The Wall, for example, you could have a GP in Mole's Town. They'll have records of: letters that hospital doctors sent to the GP as you're their patient, and appointments you've had with the GP, Dr Snow, who probably prescribed you anti-depressants, referred you for counselling, and gave you some cream for your athlete's foot. 

Your counselling took place at the GP surgery but the counsellor was part of an alliance of Ned's Healthcare, Winterfell Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and Barrowlands, The Gift and The Neck (BGN) NHS Foundation Trust. You also saw a private psychotherapist in Karhold when your 6-10 NHS sessions ended.

Then you had an assessment by the NHS Veterans' Mental Health Transition, Intervention and Liaison Service, who referred you on to the NHS Veterans Mental Health Complex Treatment Service which is part of White Harbour and Riverrun Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

Photo by Smaran Alva on Unsplash

Ask your GP surgery, REEEALY nicely

You can ask your GP surgery's admin team for a little help identifying where to ask for your records BUT please bear in mind even before COVID-19 they were fully maxxed out. So if you're going to ask them, do it really nicely. If they're ever curt, remember they deal with people at their most scared, and vulnerable, and because humans are frequently shits, the scared and vulnerable patients often take out their fear on the reception and admin teams at the GPs. They are definitely not blunties.

Lots of GPs have a way to make an admin request through their website. You can briefly explain you're applying for your military invalid pension and need to find out which Trusts have records for you. Please could they give you a list.

There's a good page at The Patients Association about how to request records, and they even have a template letter.

Veterans UK being misleading 

Be aware of the, hopefully unintentional, little misleading directions by Veterans UK. In the guidance notes for the AFCS form it says to send them: 

  • "letters and reports from people who have treated you: GPs; Hospital doctors; Specialist nurses; Psychiatrists or psychologists at a consultant grade; Occupational Therapists; Physiotherapists."

The implication is that they don't need or want any letters or reports from psychiatrists or psychologists that are not consultants.

In relation to medical records, Veterans UK absolutely need the letters, reports and comments of all your shrinks. The only relevance a consultant has to the rules for AFCS is that your mental injury must be diagnosed by a consultant shrink. Veterans UK shouldn't (I was going to say can't, but they do) dismiss the opinions of a treating or assessing psychiatrist or psychologist because they're not a consultant. But you need the letters and reports to be included and considered in your claim.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Military records

As if to show how the system really doesn't try and help you, I requested my RAF service records in accordance with the guidance and MoD form 1694 Data Protection Act 2018 Subject Access Request (SAR) Form. 

I used the form, included my proof of identity, sent it to the email address on the form (which I copied and checked repeatedly.) Sent at the start of February 2021. Still no response in January 2022. If you want to try, the link to the form is here