Sunday, July 21, 2024

This is an ARCHIVED article at Information and/or links may well be out of date.

BAFF has uncovered an astonishing error in recent reporting about the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS).

Both the Daily Telegraph and the BBC have claimed that 36,000 new claims were registered in one year 2013-14, an extraordinary figure which would certainly suggest a high level of abuse, and go a long way to explain the "serious delays" in processing such claims.

But that figure is completely wrong.

While we are in no doubt that the mistake was honestly made, we have not seen any attempt to correct it, and we are appalled that it has given encouragement to a whispering campaign aimed at reducing the cost of the AFCS.

Last year the Mail on Sunday ran a story suggesting that "Britain's rampant compensation culture has reached the armed forces". An unanmed "senior officer" said that the AFCS "is a system that is now being wholly abused and the MoD only has itself to blame. It's all part of the me-first culture." This analysis was supported by Patrick Mercer, a former Army colonel and at the time the MP for Newark.

The Mail story said that 8,815 AFCS claims had been submitted in the year 2011-12, and that 36,000 claims had been submitted in the past seven years.

According to media, however, in 2013-14 the number of new claims has now gone up to 36,000 in one year.

The Telegraph's Defence Editor Con Coughlin wrote that he "raised an eyebrow" at that figure, but appears to have accepted that the figure was correct. Mr Coughlin also seems to have assumed:

  • that AFCS claimants are all "former members of the military" - but the majority of claims are submitted while serving.
  • that excellent medical and rehabilitation care to the injured is somehow relevant to a discussion about compensation - but compensation basically reflects the condition you are left in after being patched up.
  • that the AFCS is only for battlefield injuries and deaths.
  • that forces personnel who are deployed in "less arduous support roles ... vital but hardly life-threatening" are not in harm's way and should not have accesses to the AFCS. If they don't get hurt, they won't have a claim.
  • "many of those made redundant were surplus to requirements in the first place" - unfair to those made redundant, including many infantry captains and other teeth arm personnel, but irrelevant anyway to the question of compensation for injury.

Mr Coughlin did add "I am sure there are some deserving cases..."

But where did he get his figure of 36,000 AFCS claims in one year?

Possibly from a write-up by the BBC's Radio 4 Today programme on 6th August*

"MoD figures show there were 36,000 new compensation claims for those injured, disabled or bereaved through service in 2013-14 - an increase of around 16% from 2010-11."

But according to the MoD's latest UK Armed Forces Compensation Scheme Biannual Statistics, the real figure for the number of AFCS claims registered in 2013-14 is 10,735 injury claims and 45 bereavement claims. These claims came from a total of 8,425 people. Not 36,000.

The unchallenged error has been a gift to the whispering campaign against the AFCS and the improvements under the Lord Boyce Review, which BAFF continues to support. No-one should be (in the Telegraph's phrase) "trying it on", and we support appropriate action against fraud.


* A BAFF spokesman gave a related interview that morning on the BBC's Good Morning Wales programme, but the questions were about reported delays in processing AFCS claims and the 36K figure was not put to our spokesman.