A cen­tury on, lessons have not been learned

The Guardian - Journal - - Letters armistice 1918-2018 -

As the na­tion pre­pares to ac­knowl­edge the fallen in mil­i­tary con­flicts, the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment is threat­en­ing the sur­vival of dis­abled war pen­sion­ers.

A war pen­sion is not a ben­e­fit, it is a mil­i­tary pen­sion, awarded un­til 2008 to pro­foundly dis­abled mem­bers of Bri­tish mil­i­tary forces for their sac­ri­fice and ser­vice to the na­tion. Un­til 2008 any ap­pli­ca­tion for a pen­sion re­view was ac­knowl­edged by the Vet­er­ans Agency with a med­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion, con­ducted by a for­mer mil­i­tary doc­tor, who pro­vided a de­tailed med­i­cal re­port on the de­te­ri­o­rat­ing health of the dis­abled vet­eran.

Any iden­ti­fied in­crease in fail­ing health or dis­abil­ity saw an in­crease in the war pen­sion.

In Oc­to­ber 2008 the fa­tally flawed work ca­pa­bil­ity assess­ment (WCA) was in­tro­duced to as­sess all claimants of dis­abil­ity ben­e­fit, and to re­sist pro­vid­ing fund­ing to as many as pos­si­ble as the WCA dis­re­gards di­ag­no­sis and prog­no­sis. As a con­se­quence, war pen­sion­ers ap­ply­ing for a re­assess­ment are con­fronted by a staff mem­ber from a cor­po­rate gi­ant, who has no com­pre­hen­sion of mil­i­tary ser­vice. Most pen­sion­ers are re­fused any in­crease in their war pen­sions, and are warned not to ap­ply again for fu­ture re­assess­ment, which will not be con­sid­ered re­gard­less of fail­ing health.

As the na­tion’s lead­ers lay their wreaths at the Ceno­taph, war pen­sion­ers will be won­der­ing why their gen­er­a­tion of dis­abled vet­er­ans are treated with such dis­re­gard and to­tal contempt.

Mo Stew­art

War pen­sioner, for­mer (W)RAF med­i­cal ser­vice, Wis­bech •

The de­fence min­is­ter To­bias Ellwood at­tended the burial of three uniden­ti­fied sol­diers found near Tyne Cot, and made some ap­pro­pri­ate re­marks. He also said that “… there is a higher pur­pose for us to act as a force for good on the world stage”. How does he rec­on­cile this view with the sup­port that the UK is giv­ing to Saudi Ara­bia in its mer­ci­less bomb­ing of civil­ians in Ye­men, in­clud­ing at­tacks on schools and hos­pi­tals? We are pro­vid­ing man­power to as­sist with tar­get­ing and achiev­ing record sales of guided bombs; so much for “force for good”. If his com­ments are sin­cere can we look for­ward to a new mo­ral and eth­i­cal de­fence and for­eign pol­icy?

Dou­glas Simp­son

Tod­mor­den, West York­shire •

For Bri­tish sol­diers, the post­war pe­riod be­came a ques­tion of win­ning the peace as they re­turned to find no work and poor liv­ing stan­dards. On 31 Jan­uary 1919 in St Ge­orge Square, Glas­gow, the Clyde Work­ers’ Com­mit­tee or­gan­ised a protest for a 40-hour week and jobs for re­turn­ing sol­diers. It was at­tacked by po­lice, and the sec­re­tary of state for Scot­land called it a “Bol­she­vist up­ris­ing”. Some peace.

Keith Flett

Lon­don • •

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