Give me money because I'm a 'veteran' and I'm sad.
Let’s talk about cash. We're finally at the reason we're all here. Moochers after an easy life at the expense of the State.
Or so Veterans UK can make you feel.
A 2015 survey of 15,000 people by University College London said British people were 7 times more likely to talk about their numbers of sexual partners, affairs & their STDs than talk about their income (BBC News link.)
I’m mortified every day, not by taking pills, not for ha… havi… having... being diagnosed with PTSD, but by the fact I’m chasing money from the State for my illness. Not just a bit of money, a lot of money.
I have a couple of reasons for breaking this very British taboo and not only talking about it, but kinda making a whole website about it.
I don’t want to seem disingenuous. I've spoken on Instagram for a while now about mental illness and have been really touched by the amazing support I get. But my public expressions about the illness and the healing have to go hand in hand with my claim for the money.
When I did inquest work as a lawyer, solicitors and barristers representing the family of the deceased would often say to the Coroner, with Bafta-worthy heartfelt gravitas:
“Mr or Mrs X just don’t want this to happen to anyone else, hence their questions for the Hospital Trust.”
‘Mr or Mrs X really don’t want this to happen to anyone else, but I'm here representing them on a no win, no fee agreement to ask the relevant questions of the Trust to put us in a position after the inquest to sue the hospital for negligence.'
Of course the families didn't want medical errors to cause the death of anyone else, and they wanted the hospitals to learn lessons from the untimely loss of their loved ones. But when the law can’t turn the clock back and right a wrong, it quantifies the loss financially.
Parallel with AFCS
Through my posts on Instagram about mental health and Veterans UK I have essentially been doing the same thing as these lawyers speaking to the Coroner.
What I haven’t said is:
Categories of injury
The AFCS grades injuries in 9 sections, each with a table in the Order categorising the seriousness of different injuries within that section. The sections are as follows:
Categories are given a scale of seriousness from 1 - 15 (the lower the number, the more serious the injury) relating to an amount of compensation in a lump sum from £1,236 - £650,000, known as a tariff.
The more serious levels also get an annual payment as a percentage of your salary when you left the military. It is known as a Guaranteed Income Payment or GIP. The percentage of salary in a GIP will be either 30, 50, 75 or 100%, depending on the seriousness of the injury. If you're still serving but have been seriously injured enough to be awarded a GIP, it's very likely you're being medically discharged.
My award as an example
My shrink said my PTSD fitted the category in Table 3 that says: ‘permanent mental disorder, causing moderate functional limitation or restriction.’ That’s level 8, which is a £61,800 lump sum + 50% of my salary when I left the service, so I’d get £22,000 a year, having left as a Flight Lieutenant in 2011.
All right for some, yeah?
Once Veterans UK had found my lost paperwork, they graciously said my diagnosed PTSD was ‘partly’ caused by service (#hilarious ). Having done their assessment on paper and decided the shrinks who assessed me in person were being led on by my 'self-reporting,' they decided I fitted level 12. This awards £10,300 and no GIP.
Now, ten grand is not to be sniffed at, even after the £3,090 legal fees. Had my shrink not opined about my being in level 8, I’d have probably said to myself “well, that wasn’t worth a year’s severe stress, and it’s a lot less than a medical discharge pension, but it’s a lot more than some people get, so stop whining you privileged middle class [rhymes with cat]”
But because the shrink did suggest, in their intelligent, qualified and experienced opinion following an in person assessment, that level 8 was appropriate, I decided to appeal. Details of what's involved with appealing are on another page of the site.
Table 10 of Part I to Schedule 3 of The Armed Forces and Reserve Forces (Compensation Scheme) Order 2011
The table above is Table 10 in the 2011 Order. It details the amount of the lump sums that correspond to each level of injury in each category, from 1 to 15, with the lower numbers associated with the more serious injuries.
By way of an example, here is an injury within each category that is classified as Level 8 in Table 10. These injuries would therefore get a lump sum award of £61,800 and a 50% GIP. Some categories, such as 'Injury, Wounds and Scarring,' can have more than one injury 'descriptor' that fits Level 8. 'Descriptor' is the term used in the Order for the description of an injury and its effects.
Level 8 injuries (not all of them):
Student Officer Jones.
It's not an exact comparison due to a number of factors, but I think it's worth a brief look at the amounts involved in a civil negligence claim.
You can still bring a civil claim against the MoD if your injury was caused by negligence. If successful, your legal costs would be paid (see the page on Legal Costs) and you can still make an AFCS claim. You can't, however, keep a full AFCS award and full civil award as you can't be compensated for the same injury twice.
The big advantage of AFCS is that you don't have to prove fault or negligence. As long as your injury was caused or predominantly caused by your service, then you're eligible for an award.
Civil awards for negligence will usually be higher than an AFCS award, which is fair enough given the element of fault. I include a comparison of amounts between the two in order to help reduce any potential worry that it might feel you're taking too much from the AFCS. If I am awarded Level 8 at tribunal, I will feel guilty receiving an award of over £60 grand for what lots of people, including the little Veterans UK voice in my head, would say is merely LMF.
The following figures are not exact, as civil claims can vary a lot depending on individual circumstances, but they will give you an idea.
Using loss of a foot by amputation as our example, if you put the details into a damages calculator it suggests you would expect to receive between £71,640 and £93,540 in what is called General Damages. By comparison, £61,800 for a Level 8 injury under the AFCS, which is no-fault, is comparable. The issue comes if you have to get a lawyer in order to get that £61,800. In a civil claim, if you've succeeded with your claim then the defendant pays (most of) your legal costs. This defendant could be the NHS on behalf of a Hospital Trust if it was clinical negligence, an employer if it was an industrial accident, or an insurer if it was a car accident. I'll go into legal costs on another page.
Guaranteed Income Payment (GIP) and Special Damages
Another potential difference between a civil claim and AFCS is the longer term payments.
Imagine you're a Sergeant in the Royal Marines, the Parachute Regiment, or the RAF Regiment. You have expressed a long term goal of becoming a Warrant Officer, and potentially commissioning to try and reach Colonel / Wing Commander. Your reports have suggested this is not only an admirable aspiration but that it is eminently possible. One day, however, General Melchett is late out of the 19th hole after a few glasses of Pimms, and has commandeered a 4 Tonner to get to the Officers' Mess "before that fucking Crab, Lord Flashheart, chats up the stewards and takes the best veal cutlet". He's not looking as he speeds across camp, and as you're crossing the road, despite an attempt to dive out of the way, he crushes your foot.
In reality there would be a lot of complicating factors such as drink driving, it being a military vehicle, on MoD land etc, but we'll imagine it's just an insurance claim due to an injury 100% caused by the driver of the wagon.
If you had to have your foot amputated due to the injury, not only would you be compensated by the General Damages detailed above, which are purely to do with the physical injury, you would also receive Special Damages. These include all sorts of things, but the majority in a significant injury like this is loss of earnings. I'm assuming for the purposes of this exercise that you wouldn't be able to soldier again although there may now be prosthetics that would allow it. For this example, your aspirations for promotion and commissioning within your regiment (commando?) are scotched.
Again, it is more complicated than this and involves a lot of calculations, but oversimplifying it, Special Damages take into account your loss of earnings and likely future earnings and pension. That's going to be a lot more in this case than the AFCS Guaranteed Income Payment (GIP). If our Sergeant, Sgt Smith, is earning about £40,000 a year, The GIP at Level 8 would give them £20,000 a year for the rest of their life. In a civil claim, if a judge agrees you would have progressed to Colonel, you would be compensated for your loss of earnings at pension based on the expected progression of your career as a soldier.
This site is predominantly about mental injury and AFCS
In my humble opinion Veterans UK Medical Advisers do not understand mental illness. Instead of accepting that, they've doubled down, arrogantly assuming their demonstrably limited knowledge of medico-legal principles, psychology and psychiatry is pre-eminent.
The responses I've had about my own mental injury claim, which are apparently similar to those received by others, feel a lot like if Sgt Smith's story had not involved General Melchett, but instead their foot injury and amputation was due to shrapnel, and continued thus:
He or she had a prosthetic foot made and fitted. They worked incredibly hard, suffered pain and frustration getting used to it, building their strength back up, learning to walk and run again. They returned to work in uniform, clerking for a while just to be back close to their Commando / Company / Squadron. After 6 months they'd had enough of being blunt and left the military to become a management consultant. Another 18 months on and civvy business was doing their head in, so they followed their heart and did what they always wanted to do and became a sculptor. They also banged in their AFCS claim.
The decision comes back from the Veterans UK Medical Adviser that a Level 12 award is appropriate, with the commentary concluding thus:
I know this is what Veterans UK Medical Advisers think of mental health claims, because this is what they said to me, tweaked only slightly to apply to Sgt Smith's fictional injury.
Veterans UK have declared that management of symptoms is inconsequential, that the only criterium for an award is whether you can work in civvy street, and if you leave regular work because you can't cope with it, but you do something less strenuous that's possibly enjoyable too, that's your choice, not because of your disorder.
Medical Adviser's internal monologue:
Or something like that.