Veterans UK refuses 40% of compensation and pension claims. A soldier said ‘doing battle’ with the organisation led him to ‘some very dark places’ while others talk about being ’emotionally broken’
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The official lifeline for injured veterans is so badly run it is driving some to self harm and suicide, critics claim.
Former officers say Veterans UK is no longer fit for purpose.
The service is part of theand was set up to assess compensation and pension claims.
Some suffering mental health issues say they have been fighting for payouts for years, while many have given up.
Those with physical injuries say they have faced a battle to prove they were caused by military service.
The organisation has paid millions to woundedbut around 40% of claims are rejected.
Andrew Fox, 42, a former Parachute Regiment major, said: “A lot of people who have issues with Veterans UK find out fairly quickly that they are judge, jury and executioner.”
Major Fox, who was medically discharged with PTSD last year after 16 years’ service, believes it was set up to save the MoD money.
He said: “I was categorically told I would receive a pension, which was one of the reasons why I took medical retirement.
“But three months after I left, Veterans UK said a mistake had been made and that I needed to have completed 18 years’ service before I was entitled to any pension. I am now locked in a battle with them and it has sent me to some very dark places.”
Iraq War veteran Colonel Philip Ingram, 56, a former military intelligence officer, said he knew of people who had taken their own lives, been made homeless or bankrupted themselves while fighting Veterans UK.
He added: “I can hand on heart say Veterans UK nearly killed me. I can only believe it is an accepted tactic to get rid of complex cases.
“I have had personal dealings with them since getting treatment and they have remained as belligerent.”
Another Iraq War veteran, who wished to remain anonymous, said dealing with the organisation had left him “emotionally broken” and he had twice attempted to take his own life.
He added: “The organisation is impossible to deal with. It just grinds you down. I was very vulnerable.
“I began self-harming and in the end I took an overdose.”
Last year Veterans UK received 5,300 claims for compensation and paid out on 2,438 or 46%. A total of 2,120, 40%, were rejected and a further 742, 14% of claims, were accepted but received no payout.
Former Veterans Minister and Tory MP Johnny Mercer, who served in Afghanistan, said: “Veterans UK has consistently been under invested in for many, many years and it’s a disgrace to be honest. The staff work really hard but the truth is that, whenever there is money to spend, veterans are the last people governments tend to think of, and it makes me very sad.”
Veterans UK is the responsibility of the MoD’s Defence Business Services. That organisation is run by Richard Cornish, a career civil servant with no military background.
Mr Cornish has been in the post for nine months and earns around £160,000 a year. Before that he was the chief operating officer of conservation watchdog Natural England.
Last year the MoD tried to hire a chairman for Veterans UK offering a salary of £1,000 a day for 20 days’ work a year but the position was unfilled.
The MoD said: “Veterans UK provide free support for veterans and their families. All decisions on claims carry a right of appeal to an independent tribunal within the UK courts system and outside of the MoD.”
‘How are young soldiers meant to cope?’
Major Fox developed PTSD after three tours of duty in Afghanistan.
He described dealing with Veterans UK as “unpleasant, attritional, dismissive and mentally damaging”.
Major Fox explained: “If you ring up and ask about your case you have no dedicated case worker, you go through a switchboard, you have to speak to someone new every time – that’s if you can get through.
“You can’t email them directly and you might get a reply three weeks later.
“For an organisation set up to look after people who served their country, it’s really poor.
“When you join the military you can have a reasonable expectation that you will be looked after if they break you. That is not the case, particularly with mental health.
“You can get good treatment but you shouldn’t have to fight for it.
“I was a top band major and I have good contacts, but if I’m struggling to get anywhere with this, how is a young soldier struggling with mental health meant to deal with this?”