Category Archives: Armed Forces

Benefit system for injured war veterans is worse than the DWP

It’s no surprise: the UK has a prime minister who showed his contempt for the armed forces by laying a wreath face down one year. The Ministry of Defence spitting on injured veterans is par for the course.

After a weekend in which Conservative politicians across the UK stood in all their hypocrisy and mouthed empty words of thanks to soldiers they despise… this:

Former members of the forces say they have been left ‘suicidal, homeless and let down’ by a system of payouts that is tough to navigate and appeal, leaving many feeling betrayed by the government they once served.

Thousands of veterans are struggling to get government payouts for injuries caused in service, with some facing poverty and suicide over the issue.

These veterans overwhelmingly report the same things – not getting the level of payment they need and then facing lengthy and complex battles to get an increase.

Does that seem familiar to you?

Payments to injured veterans come in war pensions and the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) – both administered by the Ministry of Defence which, it seems, couldn’t care less.

Anyone physically or mentally harmed during service before April 6, 2005, should receive war pension payments. Those injured after that date must apply to the AFCS.

But in practice, getting what they are owed seems impossible.

According to The Mirror,

Many former soldiers … report that vital medical evidence proving their claims is removed by the time their appeals are heard.

If veterans are unhappy with their war pension or AFCS payment, they can appeal. But for many the appeal process is complicated and long.

Veterans will often give up on the system or – tragically – die before they get any payment increase.

The Mirror‘s article features accounts by, and about, a large number of veterans who have been struggling to receive benefits they deserve after suffering injuries in the name of their country.

It seems to be unspoken Conservative government policy – consider the policy of the Department for Work and Pensions to deprive sick and disabled civilians of the payments they need if they’re to live lives that are close to normal.

This Writer has to ask what the legions of flag-waving patriots who observe Remembrance Day in good faith think of this betrayal.

Source: Thousands of injured war veterans denied full disability benefits in ‘cruel’ move – Mirror Online

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Why did ex-Gurkhas have to go on HUNGER STRIKE in DOWNING STREET over unequal pensions?

Hunger striker: the government agreed to talks after Dhan Gurung (pictured) returned to the hunger strike outside Downing Street. He had been admitted to hospital after his heart slowed.

The answer to that is simple: racism, ingrained into the way British governments treat people.

Allow me to tell you the story:

Once upon a time (1814), the British East India Company, then in control of India, declared war on neighbouring Nepal because of Gurkha incursions that had taken place.

The war was extremely civilised, with both sides controlling looting and respecting non-combatants.

The war ended in 1816 and both sides decided to build a friendship in which 10 Gurkha regiments were recruited into the East India Company’s Army.

After the partition of India in 1947, a tripartite treaty between Nepal, India and the UK meant four Gurkha regiments were transferred to the British Army.

Here’s the problem, though: the terms on which the Gurkhas joined the British Army were not the same as those for any UK-born soldier.

Those who retired before 1997, like Mr Gurung, currently receive a fraction of the pension the rest of the British Army receive because the Gurkha Pension Scheme (GPS) was based on Indian Army rates.

The Not New Labour government of Tony Blair tried to paper over this racist injustice in 2007, when it eliminated the differences between Gurkhas’ terms and conditions of service and those of their British counterparts.

The change was backdated to July 1, 1997, because that was the date when the UK became the home base for the Brigade of Gurkhas (it had previously been based in Hong Kong, which itself transferred to Chinese rule on that date) and changes in immigration rules meant retiring Gurkhas may settle in the UK after discharge.

The difference between pension rates pre- and post-1997 has long been a subject for grievance because it seems to be impossible to live comfortably on pre-1997 rates, either in the UK or in Nepal. Former Gurkhas who had served the UK as some of our most effective service personnel were therefore consigned to lives of poverty and misery because they weren’t British.

That is why Dhan Gurung, Pushpa Rana Ghale and Gyanraj Rai went on hunger strike on August 7.

Challenged to meet the hunger strikers and discuss their case, current UK prime minister Boris Johnson did what he always does when offer the chance to be a statesman: he ran away.

Previously, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace had said he would be happy to meet  protesters, but argued no government “of any colour” had ever made retrospective changes to pensions of the kind they were demanding.

We can see from the actions of the Blair government in 2007 that this was a lie of the kind for which the Boris Johnson government is now justifiably infamous.

It seems the politicians’ position only softened when it seemed likely that one of the hunger strikers may suffer serious harm to their health on the prime minister’s doorstep.

Dhan Gurung was hospitalised after his heartbeat slowed, after refusing food for 12 days. It was initially believed that the diabetic veteran was having a heart attack.

He returned to the protest yesterday but shortly afterwards the government announced that it will hold talks with the group, and with the Nepalese government, and the hunger strike has now ended.

Further information on the situation is available in this House of Commons Library briefing.

I think it is important also to note that a petition, calling for Gurkhas to have equal pensions as other British veterans of the same rank and service, has reached the 100,000 signature threshold for a debate in Parliament.

How would any such debate run, if one or more of the protesters had suffered significant harm to their health because they had to go on hunger strike even to have their demands noticed?

And the discussion with Nepal seems dishonest, too. The four Gurkha regiments suffering the pension prejudice at the heart of the protest have been employees of the British Army since 1947; their pay and conditions are really nobody else’s business.

Whatever happens, this is another opportunity for Boris Johnson to drape himself in disgrace. He has already fled from dealing with this matter and his Defence Secretary has lied about it.

Who can doubt that they’ll concoct an excuse to short-change – once again – some of the bravest soldiers the UK was ever lucky enough to have?

Mercer sacked over unequal treatment in prosecutions of armed forces veterans

Mercer: it’s right that he should leave the government – but it’s for the wrong reason.

The Minister for Armed Forces Veterans has reported that he has been “relieved of my responsibilities in government” because he disagrees with Tory policy on prosecutions for historic crimes.

This is extremely dodgy ground. It seems clear to This Writer that, if a serving member of the forces has committed a crime while on active duty – but the evidence only comes to light later – they should still face prosecution for it.

The Tory government sees the matter differently and has included in its Overseas Operations Bill measures to protect veterans from prosecution if the alleged crimes were committed more than five years before any allegations are made…

… except for those who served in Northern Ireland. They have been excluded from this measure, meaning long-retired personnel could face imprisonment for alleged crimes committed decades ago.

Nobody deserves to face the extreme distress of court proceedings and possible imprisonment over false allegations, of course.

But nor should anybody receive an automatic free pass if they did commit crimes, no matter how long ago they happened. Think of paedophiles whose abominable practices with children only come to light decades after they took place.

So Mercer is right to go – but he’s going for the wrong reason.

He should be leaving because personnel who served elsewhere are being let off – not because those who served in Northern Ireland are still on the hook.

He should also be leaving because the government hasn’t bothered to devise ways of weeding out unfounded, frivolous or malicious attempts to prosecute veterans, but has instead opted to offer (potentially) amnesty to criminals.

But nobody can say his views weren’t known. He offered to resign from Theresa May’s government in 2019 over the same issue. So it is perhaps unsurprising that he has now left Boris Johnson’s government after it refused to pay attention to his concerns about the same issue.

Of course, we don’t know the exact circumstances yet. First we were told Mercer was on the point of resigning, then we were told he had been sacked, then that he had actually resigned, and then in his resignation letter he said he had been “relieved” of his responsibilities.

Still, this is another departure over government policy, following that of Samuel Kasumu – who actually quit after Boris Johnson’s cronies rewrote a report on institutional racism in order to pretend that it no longer exists in the UK.

We may conclude that the Johnson government is highly prejudiced. Not only is it deeply racist, but it also discriminates against forces personnel depending on where they served.

That’s not a good look for a government that desperately wants to appear friendly to those in the services after years of scandal over veterans who were left homeless after their discharge.

Mercer himself won’t be short of cash after losing this job – if he’s still got his £85,000-a-year job as ‘non-executive director’ of a cyber-security firm.

So don’t worry about him. Worry about people who have been wronged by our armed forces who won’t get justice – and about veterans who are being wronged by a government that is still allowing vexatious prosecutions against them.

Source: Johnny Mercer: Tory MP resigns as defence minister – BBC News

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New Bill is ‘lost opportunity’ to put the Armed Forces Covenant into law

No respect: Boris Johnson showed contempt for our Armed Forces by laying his wreath face-down at a Remembrance Day ceremony. Now his government will show contempt by failing to enshrine the Armed Forces Covenant into law.

How many times must the Tories let servicepeople down before military personnel (and former members of the services) realize the Tories are not their friends and don’t deserve their vote?

People in the military tend to have Toryism drummed into them from early training days onwards. It was no surprise when military personnel were found to have been using images of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for target practice a few years ago.

But it is bizarre, when the Tories take every opportunity to let our squaddies down.

Case in point: the new Armed Forces Bill. The Tories are saying it will enshrine the Armed Forces Covenant in law, to ensure that armed forces personnel, veterans and their families are not disadvantaged by their service when accessing key public services like health care, education and housing, but are treated fairly.

Sadly, the Tories can’t even treat them fairly in discussing this law about them.

You see:

The Bill will not enshrine the covenant in law at all.

Instead, the Bill introduces

a legal duty for relevant UK public bodies to have due regard to the principles of the Covenant

– which means very little in real terms.

Labour’s John Healey has it right:

“As it stands, this bill is a missed opportunity. It does not put the Armed Forces Covenant properly into law to ensure Forces personnel and veterans suffer no disadvantage in access to services, nor will it put right the long-term failings in the military justice system.”

No doubt our forces personnel won’t know they’ve been hoodwinked until they are back in civilian life and try to access the services they’ve been promised.

Source: New legislation to help ensure fair treatment for armed forces – GOV.UK

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What is the point of Remembrance Day when the government lets down our veterans so badly?

Contempt: at the national Remembrance Day commemoration service in 2019, Boris Johnson showed contempt for our Armed Forces by laying his wreath face-down. Is this merely symptomatic of the Tory government’s attitude to veterans generally?

I pass this on without comment. Do I need to amplify it further?

Disabled ex-armed forces personnel are being let down by the welfare system, with many experiencing stress and anxiety brought on by the struggle to access social security benefits, according to the Royal British Legion.

The charity said frontline Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) staff were insufficiently aware of their obligations under the armed forces covenant, which requires public services to give special consideration to injured ex-service personnel.

Among the difficulties reported by veterans to a Royal British Legion survey was the failure of benefits officials to understand post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when carrying out and scoring health assessments for disability benefits.

study by a Salford University academic published last year found many armed forces veterans with complex needs reported overwhelmingly negative experiences of universal credit, disability benefits assessments and benefit sanctions.

Source: Disabled veterans being let down by benefits system – Royal British Legion | Benefits | The Guardian

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Outraged Labour members want to know why Starmer supports illegal torture by UK armed forces

Keir Starmer: if he was really a soldier – as in this mock-up image – he might be less inclined to support illegal torture by members of the armed forces.

The Tories aren’t the only ones getting a hammering from the public over plans to break international law.

Party members are calling on their representatives in Labour’s ruling NEC to debate why MPs were told to abstain from voting on a Bill to allow servicepeople to commit acts of torture.

Labour leader Keir Starmer demanded that MPs should abstain, rather than opposing the plan, which should be abhorrent to any right-thinking human being.

So when NEC member Rachel Garnham asked what members wanted to hear discussed at today’s meeting, this was the response:

Some have used it as a subject for humour – with a strong underlying criticism of Starmer, who many party members now consider to be no better than a Conservative:

Starmer’s leadership is too weak to brook any such criticism of his decisions, so it seems unlikely that any such discussion will take place.

This Writer certainly doesn’t expect to hear about any such deliberations.

So much for Labour Party democracy. Jeremy Corbyn tried to roll it back out to the members, but now Starmer is in charge, the people are losing their voice once again.

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Dictator Johnson threatens MARTIAL LAW if we play five-a-side or stay in the pub after 10pm

Dictator Johnson: he’s putting troops on the streets to enforce his will. Remember this comes before a harmful Brexit, and he is planning to abolish our human rights. Do you feel safe with this man in charge?

Boris Johnson appears to have lost whatever grip on reality he had left.

Announcing new restrictions on public freedom in England, in his latest bid to show he’s doing something about Covid-19, he threatened to bring in the armed forces to enforce them.

And what are these new restrictions? Here:

All citizens are being told to work from home if they can with immediate effect – and from Thursday, all pubs, restaurants and even kebab shops and takeaways must shut from 10pm.

Masks will become compulsory for shop and pub staff, taxi passengers within days – while the fine for breaking the ‘rule of six’ on gatherings will double to £200.

Only 15 people will be allowed to attend weddings from Monday and five-a-side football will be axed.

That’s the lot.

And Johnson had the following to add:

Boris Johnson has said the military could be deployed in England to help with the enforcement of new coronavirus restrictions.

Speaking in the Commons on Tuesday, the prime minister said there would now be “greater police presence” on the streets with “the option to draw on military support where required”.

The prime minister’s spokesperson said the military could be used to backfill certain police duties, such as office roles and guarding protected sites, so police officers can be out enforcing the virus response.

That seems a sop to the masses – an attempt to co-opt our support for having the military invading our daily lives.

“This is not about providing any additional powers to the military, or them replacing the police in enforcement roles, and they will not be handing out fines. It is about freeing up more police officers,” the spokesperson said.

And how long will that last before more powers are granted to the military? Before our guardians become our keepers?

Possibly the worst aspect of this is the fact that the Labour Party – Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition to the Johnson government – has no interest in opposing:

Johnson said MPs will have the opportunity to debate the new coronavirus measures next week.

Labour leader Keir Starmer said Johnson was “right” to announce further measures. “We support those measures,” he said.

This is terrifying.

It seems our political leaders are colluding to take our freedoms away from us, using the pandemic as an excuse.

Is it really a coincidence that this introduction of the military into our daily lives is happening just months before Johnson takes us through a potentially traumatic end to the Brexit process that is likely to cause shortages of goods including foods, along with unemployment and civil unrest?

Johnson is preparing to put down any such unrest with military force.

But don’t just take my word for it:

Even Brexit Party bigwig – and hence arch-Brexiteer – Richard Tice thinks this is a step too far:

What do you think?

[polldaddy poll=10613085]

Source: Military Could Help Police Enforce New Coronavirus Rules, Says Boris Johnson | HuffPost UK

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Starmer’s bid to engage Armed Forces is a pale shadow of Corbyn’s

Keir Starmer: I adapted this mock-up of him pretending to be a soldier from a right-wing site that was mocking him.

Isn’t it strange how Keir Starmer is attacking the legacy of Jeremy Corbyn in public while failing to offer anything better than watered-down versions of the former Labour leader’s policies?

Today is Armed Forces Day, so Starmer has rolled out a weak-ass offer to the UK’s serving men and women, under the banner of the existing “Friends of the Forces”.

It comes with absolutely no offers at all – just an undertaking to “listen” to the views of forces personnel.

Shadow defence secretary John Healey said he wanted to hear the views of service men and women. The party’s current position is that the Tory government should devote a chapter of its upcoming defence and security review to military personnel, overhaul the country’s covenant with serving forces, and champion the armed forces in public.

Compare this with Jeremy Corbyn’s five pledges for the armed forces, as described in Labour’s election manifesto last year that Starmer doesn’t seem to have read:

  1. Fair Pay – scrap the public sector pay cap, which has seen a 5.8% real terms pay cut for the starting salary of an Army Private
  2. Decent housing for forces and their families – end the growing reliance on the private rented sector
  3. A voice for service men and women – consult on creating a representative body, similar to the Police Federation
  4. End privatisation – root and branch review of outsourcing and a clear presumption in favour of public delivery of public contracts
  5. Support for forces children – better access to schools with dedicated local authorities admissions strategy for the particular challenge of frequent school moves

Those were solid promises, not wishy-washy offers to “listen”. Corbyn’s plan would have made a difference.

Starmer’s is just a public relations ploy.

Source: Starmer launches Labour Friends of the Forces engagement programme – LabourList

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Fact imitates fiction: Johnson puts army on standby after hoaxers pretend soldiers are on streets

Johnson: do you trust this man not to put the army on the streets to quell unrest? Already it’s being suggested they will be ordered to guard Downing Street.

People were left confused about what to think after a news website said sightings of the army on UK streets were hoaxes – only for another paper to say troops were set to be deployed, hours later.

Images of soldiers (allegedly) on UK streets started appearing yesterday evening (March 18) – but the claims were debunked by Buzzfeed:

“Text messages and pictures have been spreading rapidly on WhatsApp on Wednesday claiming that the British army has been deployed on the streets of London ahead of a lockdown to fight coronavirus,” the site stated.

“However, there is no evidence of the military being used to impose a lockdown, nor are there any known plans for that to happen.”

The revelation prompted much humour, like this:

And there were some sharper observations about what the hoax was all about:

Now we find that there may be truth in the rumours after all.

Here‘s the Daily Mirror:

The Ministry of Defence has put 20,000 troops on standby to deal with the coronavirus crisis.

As many as 150 troops are learning to drive oxygen tankers to supply hospitals.

An 10,000 extra personnel, on top of 10,000 already at “high readiness”, will be part of a “Covid Support Force” ready to help Government departments and local resilience forums.

Reservists could be drafted into help as the crisis escalates.

Meanwhile, a Navy hospital ship which supported operations to curb the ebola outbreak could be used to treat coronavirus patients.

The Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel Argus, which was based off West Africa in 2014-15 during the ebola crisis, could be used to ease pressure on packed NHS wards.

No doubt the conspiracy theorists will say army involvement in medical help is a herald of troops arriving on the streets to lock us down – restrict our freedoms violently.

It is a worrying thought because the decision will be down to Boris Johnson – and he cannot be trusted.

Source: Coronavirus: British Army puts 20,000 troops on standby to deal with pandemic crisis – Mirror Online

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DWP leaves navy amputee with £16 a month and tells him: get a job

Kevin Barnes: This former Navy amputee is hospital-bound but must use his pension to pay for a flat he can no longer occupy. Meanwhile the DWP has given him only £16/month in Universal Credit because of that pension.

Is anybody else thinking of Norman Tebbit, a Tory minister back in the 1980s, telling people to get “on your bike”?

That comment, inappropriate at the time, would be even more so in the case of 62-year-old Kevin Barnes, whose leg was amputated by surgeons because of circulatory problems.

The DWP assessed him for Universal Credit and decided to offer just £16 a month – while also demanding evidence that Mr Barnes was serious about returning to work.

It seems the assessment was carried out before his leg was removed, so he is now struggling to cope because of an out-of-date decision.

Mr Barnes is entitled to a military pension which pays £500 a month – most of which must now service his rent of £410 a month.

But his flat is now unsuitable for his needs as he is now bound to a wheelchair. In real terms, he is homeless – but must still pay for his flat because it contains all his possessions. Housing officials are trying to find him a new home.

Mr Barnes also draws £81.90 Personal Independence Payment, which is meant to be used to help him cope with extra financial pressures he faces because of his new disability.

He fears it will be cut in the near future because people are not eligible for PIP if they are in hospital for longer than 28 days and Mr Barnes has been hospitalised for two and a half weeks so far.

According to the Mirror:

Kevin said: “I’m supposed to be looking for work in the future, enhancing my CV, this that and the other.

“But I cannot plan for work at the moment. I now have to prepare myself for being in a wheelchair all the time and get used to that.

“Then there’s the prosthetics – I have my first meeting for that as well.

“I had been working and I expect … to work,” Kevin said. “I just thought I would be working and my naval pension would be a bit of a bonus, but it’s turned out to be my main source of income.

Source: Royal Navy amputee stranded with £16 Universal Credit told ‘get a job’ by DWP – Mirror Online

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