How you can claim under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme
The coronavirus pandemic has affected almost every aspect of life. In April 2020, Veterans UK announced that the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS), designed to compensate Armed Forces Personnel injured during service, had been shut down as a result of COVID-19. Fortunately, the closure was only temporary and the scheme has since reopened, and although they may experience a backlog in the short term, it is positive news that a scheme that helps so many is once again operational.
What is the AFCS scheme?
The scheme was originally introduced in April 2005. It replaces the War Pensions Scheme, which provides compensation for those injured in service before 6 April 2005. The AFCS scheme offers compensation to those who have suffered a physical or mental health injury, which can either wholly or partly be attributable to military service, or have a pre-existing condition that has been made worse by military service. You can make a claim under the scheme while you are still serving, or after you have left the military.
The AFCS is a ‘no fault’ scheme, which means that awards of compensation are paid without any blame being apportioned. This tends to make applications much more straightforward and faster than a civil claim, although awards of compensation are likely to be lower.
Two main types of awards are available under the scheme:
- a tax-free lump sum payment for pain and suffering
- a Guaranteed Income Payment (GIP), which is a tax-free, index-linked monthly payment.
Awards of compensation will be made on the basis of a tariff system, with set figures for different types of injury.
Where your injury is still being investigated, Veterans UK may make an interim award to you, which will be reviewed at a later date and once your medical condition is clearer.
Time limits for pursuing a claim
There is a strict deadline that applies under the scheme and applications must be made within seven years of the earliest of the following dates:
- the date of the incident leading to the injury or illness
- the date on which an injury or illness not caused by service was made worse by service
- in the case of illness, the date of first seeking medical advice for that illness
- the date of discharge.
What should you do if you want to make a claim?
If you have sustained a physical or mental health injury during your service, it is worthwhile seeing if you can make a claim under the scheme. The first step in making an application is to complete a claim form, which can be found online here
You will be asked to provide some basic information, including:
- what your condition, injury and/or illness is
- why you think that your injury or illness was caused by your service
- what medical treatment you have received.
Once your application is accepted, it is likely that Veterans UK will want to obtain and review any relevant medical records, and they may also want to obtain an opinion from an independent specialist doctor to comment on your injury.
As outlined above, it is important that you adhere to the deadline for making a claim under the scheme. If you require assistance with the application process, you can contact a solicitor and/or there are various military charities that would be happy to help – for example, your local branch of SSAFA or The Royal British Legion.
In addition to an AFCS claim, you can bring a civil claim for compensation if your injury has been caused by someone else’s negligence. The compensation awarded in civil claims will normally be much higher than will awards under the AFCS, because in civil claims you can claim for loss of earnings, benefits and pension. However, civil claims will not always be an option for some – for example, those who may have suffered their injuries in combat or those who are out of time (a three-year limit normally applies). You should take advice from a solicitor at an early stage to establish if you have a civil claim and the time limits.
The AFCS provides a system for all those who have suffered injury during service to apply for the compensation they deserve and the reopening of the scheme is a welcome development in uncertain times. Act now to discover your entitlement.