Many veterans in Wales aged over 60 are not receiving armed forces pensions, according to a leading charity. Age Cymru’s Steve Boswell said the money could make the difference between a life of “making do” and “activities and opportunities”. Armed forces personnel who served from 1975 were automatically enrolled in the Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS). But they must contact the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to be able to claim the cash.
The system is complex and eligibility is linked to factors such as amount of time served and the end of service, as well as retirement age. Age Cymru said evidence from a Wales-wide project suggested many over-60s were not claiming what they are entitled to. It is estimated several thousand veterans are losing out across the UK, according to the Forces Pensions Society.
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Mr Boswell, Age Cymru project officer, said some were put off by the prospect of undertaking large amounts of paperwork, while others were not aware they needed to apply for the pension rather than be automatically awarded it. “We know through our work with veterans that many of them are proud people who may not like making claims,” he told BBC Sunday Politics Wales. “This additional income could help transform their lives from one of making do to one full of meaningful activities and opportunities.”
The Forces Pension Society, which has helped 3,800 veterans or their families with pension queries since 2017, said more than 1,500 did not know whether they had a pension entitlement – of which data suggests 483 had a pension entitlement they were unaware of. Some have received a pension of up to £4,000 a year and a lump sum of £12,000. Veterans can discuss their personal circumstances by contacting the Veterans Welfare Service.
An MoD spokesman said: “The Armed Forces Pension Schemes provide a generous package of support to veterans in recognition of their service and we encourage anyone eligible to take advantage of the scheme. “We contact all personnel upon leaving service to let them know how they can claim their pension, and regularly review members’ records so we can write to individuals who may have an unclaimed pension.”
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Defence Minister Johnny Mercer outlines the MOD’s commitment to the armed forces at the 2019 DSEI.
It’s my third visit to DSEI and it’s been a really good week, really interesting. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it, whether walking around the stands talking to our brilliant partners in the Defence industry, meeting lots of friends and old colleagues from across the wonderful service charity sector, but chiefly of course meeting so many veterans who have transitioned successfully into highly challenging and rewarding careers since leaving service. And it is specifically that ‘people’ piece I am going to talk about this morning because it was that ‘people’ piece that first propelled me into the political arena to try and improve the lives of those who serve our country in the Armed Forces community.
And so, of course, I was delighted personally when the new Prime Minister asked me to lead on this for Her Majesty’s Government. Because as you wander around this remarkable exhibition this week – you will have seen some extraordinary equipment, both land air and sea, with capabilities we could only dream of, just a few years ago. But it will not have missed your attention that they all require one key component. We live in extraordinary times – we all know that. The chaos and division of a changing world have presented our nation with challenges it hasn’t faced in a generation.
Individuals Who Believe
Globally the character and nature of conflict is changing sometimes faster than we can keep up with. But for me, there does remain one constant. That key component without which this nation – put simply – simply would not exist as we know it today. Those individuals who believe so much in this country, that they are prepared to leave home, defend our interests and defeat those who would do us harm. And that is, of course, the men and women of the UK’s Armed Forces.
Our people are deeply special. They aren’t like other people’s Armed Forces. I persistently hear, going around here as well, the comparisons about how other nations do this and that, how they are better than us at this or that, or their equipment or capability is better than ours in certain areas. Occasionally this might be fair; often, these days, it is not. But there is one indisputable area where I’m afraid we have no peers. Our people. Our people are extraordinary. Whether shaped by the supreme sacrifices by those who went before us, or formed by our unique traditions and peerless history of our military institutions, we produce a unique product. One envied the world over, and one I am absolutely determined to protect and cherish as much as the most valuable, expensive, and strategically important battle-winning asset in this building.
It’s one that we have talked a good game about for some time in this country, and indeed the MOD has worked hard to protect in increasingly tighter fiscal constraints. But, one that ultimately needs to be repositioned in my view, at the centre of Defence. Our people are actually our finest asset, and this Prime Minister is going to show it. Because when did a Prime Minister last come into office and immediately talk about veterans? Who was the last Prime Minister to come in and strategically alter the apparatus of Government to better look after those who have served? And who was the last Prime Minister to come in and in his first spending review allocate almost 20% of the increased spending plans, towards the military?
Duty to Veterans
For the first time in a generation, we have a unique opportunity to reset this country’s relationship with her Armed Forces and veteran community, and I very much intend to make the most of it. My in-tray is of course, significant. Chiefly amongst it is the Office for Veterans’ Affairs, and I want to outline a little bit of thinking on this matter. The role of this office is to ensure this Government’s duty to the nation’s veterans. We have a unique set of circumstances in this country when it comes to our veteran community, and comparisons to other nations, or similar offices or departments, should really be left to one side.
For we face different challenges. In the shadow of a war 75 years ago which essentially touched all parts of British society, structures such as the welfare state and the National Health Service were set up to help get the nation – and her veterans as part of that community – back on their feet. We have never tried to create a separate society of veterans, and neither would it be healthy to do so, but instead we have strived to create good citizens who have served, who yes, sometimes may have unique needs, but ultimately in the society from which they are drawn. And this is entirely the right strategic approach that we should continue with.
But now, as the nature of conflict has changed, so have our Armed Forces – and their families’ experiences are changing too. Remote wars, often without public support – have become the norm. And so the challenges faced by our Armed Forces and veteran communities have evolved as well. Gaps in provision were painfully exposed by my generation’s wars. The MOD has worked hard to meet these challenges, but chiefly the wonderful British public have stepped into the void and we’ve seen an explosion in the service charitable sector. But now with public giving to these charities reducing, and a re-alignment in political thinking about the country’s ultimate duty to those who have served, means now is the right time for Government to play more of a role in this area.
Fit for Purpose
The Office has a clear objective: to harness all functions and initiatives across Government to ensure the nation’s duty to those who have served – and crucially their families. It does not mean the provision of services – we have some wonderful service providers in the UK, both public, in the NHS, and in the third sector with some world-class charity programmes. But it does mean professionalisation of veterans’ services. It means a determined collection of data to begin to build a single view of the veteran both inside and outside Government. It means a determination to ensure that the charity sector is fit for purpose. It means that if you are 92 years old and you have dementia and you are asked to contribute to an inquest in Northern Ireland almost half a century ago, you have somewhere to turn for support.
It means for the first time accountability – ultimate accountability in the political sphere, for the duty that politicians are so good at talking about – our debt to those who have served and their families. It means an end to duplication so that every single pound donated by the British public to look after the nation’s veterans is used in the most effective way. And finally it means an end to a postcode lottery by legislating the Armed Forces Covenant into law so that wherever you live in this United Kingdom you can expect as Teddy Roosevelt told a gathering of veterans on July 4th 1903: “A man who is good enough to shed his blood for his country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards. More than that no man is entitled, and less than that no man shall have.”
We have some genuine world-class care-deliverers in this country in the Charity sector. I am determined to promote and nurture these. This nation owes a huge debt of gratitude for the leading role charities have played in getting veterans’ care to a better place in this country. I am humbled every time I have contact with individuals working in this sector – the sheer devotion to duty to our people is astounding, and it is now time that in Government we matched it. But collaboration was always the key; it is now a necessity. This sector has received almost a billion pounds in LIBOR money over the last ten years. There is no conceivable reason why the sector cannot be configured in a way that is entirely focused on the veteran and their needs, with the end result being a veterans’ care service that truly is the envy of the world.
So I look forward to the challenges ahead in Veterans’ care. This is a collaborative journey, and there is no-one’s voice who will not be heard going forward – it is an inclusive journey, not an exclusive one, and everybody is invited – we will demonstrate this with our Veterans Forums and other initiatives that I will launch in the weeks ahead. Other challenges in my in-tray are equally daunting. The process of ending repeated and vexatious litigation against our servicemen and women will end under this Prime Minister. He and I are crystal clear; those who break the law in uniform will be held to account. But the attempts to rewrite the history and the sacrifice of our men and women in defence of this nation will simply not be endured anymore.
Best Veterans Care
This vexatious litigation has been a scar on this nation’s military history for too long, and we are only just beginning to see the harvest of a problem that has been unaddressed by successive Governments. I understand the pain and I understand the anger. The Prime Minister gets it. Give us now the time and space to do what we have promised and end this nightmare for too many of our veterans. In summary – there is much to do. There may well be bumps ahead in the road. But I am determined to get to a place where I can say to both the highest and the lowest rank in this land, that we have the world’s best veterans’ care for the world’s best Armed Forces.
Single Best Thing
That our people and families feel like that – not that just we at the top of the organisation constantly talk about what we do, but that actually people feel that who work in the organisation. And ensure that I can still confidently tell the hundreds of young people I meet across this country who ask me what a career in the military is like, that it remains the single best thing you can do with your life, and that the nation and successive Governments will fully see through their duty to those who serve in her Armed Forces.
Thank you very much.
British forces need more “non-lethal” options to disable our enemies, the defence head has said. General Sir Nick Carter warned that the world is a less stable place than at any time in his 42-year career. The pace of change is “more profound than anything humanity has experienced outside of the two world wars,” he said.
Speaking to an international audience at a Defence and Security event in London, the Chief of the Defence Staff said the British military needed to develop more non-lethal options to give politicians greater options in future conflicts. He cautioned that challenges to the international rules-based order at the pace of recent years inevitably “breeds instability”. “We are living through a period of phenomenal change,” he said.
Activities short of actual combat such as cyber attacks – increasingly referred to as the grey zone – mean that highly technical military technology is often rendered redundant. The military needed to have “smaller and faster capabilities to avoid detection…and emphasise the non-lethal disabling of enemy capabilities thereby increasing the range of political and strategic choice,” General Nick said.
Although not naming Russia or China specifically, the head of the armed forces said: “We’ve returned to an era of great power competition reminiscent of the first half of the last century, and the threats to our country…are materialising faster than anyone might have anticipated. “This is compounded by a rapidly evolving character of conflict brought on by the pervasiveness of information and the extraordinary advances in technology.” “We are now being challenged on multiple fronts,” he said.
His comments were echoed by Steven Lovegrove, the Permanent Under-Secretary at the MoD, who cautioned that a reliance on traditional hard military power was no longer sufficient to counter aggressive activity from states such as Russia. “Constant competition with rivals in the so-called grey zone is increasing the focus on military capabilities which are not designed to have a kinetic or lethal impact in the way that conventional capabilities tend to be.”
UK Royal Air Force (RAF) Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, today gave an audience at the DSEI show in London an overview of how the RAF is responding to the current threat environment and the future technologies it is developing.
He started by emphasising that partnering and collaboration are as important now as they have ever been in today’s challenging times. “The international system that has served us so well since 1945 that we rely on for our security and prosperity is being eroded likes by states like Russia, Iran and China actively destabilising the world order, challenging our stability, our security and all prosperity,” he said.
Speaking on the anniversary of the September 11th attacks, he said that air and space had been the critical enabler in tackling violent extremism across Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan and the streets of the UK and its allies are safer as a result. He identified some of the major threats facing the UK, ranging from cyberattacks, hypersonic missile, and spam on social media to potential interference with our national interests in space.
“At this time of year, when we remember the Battle of Britain, it is worth reflecting that now as then control of the air remains the final enabler of all we do,” Wigston said. “To quote Field Marshal Montgomery, ’If we lose the war in the air, we lose the war, and we lose it quickly.’ I would now add space to that of course, but I’ll forgive Monty for overlooking it. As Chief of Staff, maintaining the ability to secure control of air and space for all our operations at home and abroad is my foremost responsibility, to ensure that we have the right equipment and the best people to do that.”
Future RAF technology
He went on to give an overview of recent investments the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) has made in the equipment programme, including the Combat Air Strategy it released last year. He said Britain has a 50% stake in every F-35 sold and the money that brings plus the 25,000 jobs that depend on it represent a return that far outstrips the cost of the 138 aircraft the UK is set to buy. Wigston went on to say the Tempest Future Combat Air System (FCAS) represents the commitment of the Air Force and UK industry to the development of cutting-edge combative technologies.
“It will mean that from the early 2020s will be able to mature technology from across the domain at an accelerated pace, de-risking programmes, and reducing the cost of bringing capability to the frontline faster than ever before,” he said. The MOD signed a contract worth approximately £100m at DSEI to test the performance of the Protector, the first remotely-controlled aircraft capable of attacking targets anywhere in world, due for introduction 2024. “Protector exemplifies the benefits that military-industry partnering can bring,” said Wigston. “Through the embedding of experienced RAF operators in the programme, we are helping bring to life a world-leading capability which will provide the RAF with a remotely-piloted air system that can operate worldwide in unsegregated airspace.”
In-service RAF capabilities
Moving on to in-service capabilities service capabilities, Wigston said that the Typhoon, the backbone of the RAF fast jet force, will continue to outlast the competition with the introduction of new technologies including electronically-scanned radar and the Smart Dispenser System (SDS) pyrotechnic smart self-protection system. “Another super example of spiral development is the Spear 3 weapons family,” Wigston said. “I’m delighted to announce that yesterday the MOD signed a one-year, £10m technology demonstrator programme with MBDA and their partners Leonardo to develop and test cutting-edge electronic warfare technology as part of the Spear 3 programme.”
Wigston concluded with an update on the F-35B, which is about to begin trials with the 617 ‘Dambusters’ squadron operating off the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier ahead of full operations in 2021. “I recognise the obligation that we share in delivering the capability and the partnership that has to go with it. We’re going to be handing a legacy to our successes that we need to be proud of, and that our country will be proud of,” Wigston concluded.
Former Army captain Johnny Mercer has vowed to provide veterans with the “best mental health care in the world” after admitting post-combat stress “ripped apart” those he served with. It was announced on Wednesday that the newly-established Office for Veterans’ Affairs would be given £5 million to help address the post-service needs of Armed Forces personnel.
Mr Mercer, who served in Afghanistan with 29th Commando Regiment in the Royal Artillery, said veterans’ care was “unacceptable” in Britain. He has now pledged to lay on greater provisions of care for those suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after returning home from war zones.
Speaking to ITV News, Mr Mercer said: “The mental health challenge, with repeated combat tours in theatre, whether it’s in Iraq, Afghanistan, or wherever else, has completely ripped apart my circle of friends. “I have an intimate understanding of the issues. I am not going to pretend for a minute that I have all the answers – I don’t think anybody has got all the answers. “But I am determined to get mental health care – whether it’s in the veterans’ community or the military community or indeed the NHS – to a place where we can offer those who have served in this country the best mental health care in the world.”
Mr Mercer, who was appointed as Veterans Minister by Boris Johnson in July, says the Prime Minister is also “clear that we need to provide the world’s best care to veterans in this country”. Mr Mercer said the UK has always said “it has a duty” to care for veterans but has failed. But Mr Mercer said the new Office for Veterans’ Affairs “will see that duty through”.
Meanwhile, in a separate interview with The Times, Mr Mercer said far-right ideology must be stamped out in the military. Johnny Mercer has told the newspaper that political factions with “nasty thoughts and ideas” were trying to “use the veterans’ cause” to earn support. He added far-right ideology has “nothing in common” with the values of the Armed Forces. Last year, a former corporal in the Royal Anglian Regiment was jailed for 8 years for belonging to a proscribed far-right group.
Chancellor Sajid Javid will announce a £5 million funding boost on Wednesday as part of this week’s spending round, backing up the Government’s promise to tackle the challenges faced by our nation’s proud veterans. The money will fund additional staff and resources so that the newly-established Office for Veterans’ Affairs (OVA) can drive cross-Whitehall action to support veterans’ welfare.
The OVA will join up support and coordinate existing funding – holding other parts of government to account for delivering the Armed Forces Covenant and action on mental and physical health, education, employment and veteran homelessness. Charities, MPs and stakeholders made their concerns about the need for a coordinated approach to the post-service needs of Armed Forces personnel clear with their calls for top politicians to sign a Veterans’ Pledge. Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has established the OVA to send a clear message that it will have real clout across Whitehall and beyond.
Minister for the Cabinet Office, Oliver Dowden, will represent veterans issues at Cabinet, and lead the OVA alongside Veterans Minister and former soldier, Johnny Mercer. They will drive policy from the heart of government and coordinate Whitehall machinery to make sure ex-service personnel get life-long support.
Chancellor Sajid Javid said:
This Spending Round is focused on public services. And no-one has given more than the service men and women who lay their lives on the line for all of us. Supporting them when they leave service is not just our responsibility but also our duty, which is why we’ve made funding the launch of the Office of Veterans Affairs a top priority.
Minister for the Cabinet Office, Oliver Dowden, said:
Now that we’ve secured this additional funding, we can use it to fight for them from the heart of government, and make sure this country never lets down those heroes who risked their lives to keep us all safe.
Minister for Defence People and Veterans, Johnny Mercer said:
The Prime Minister has given us a great responsibility to make sure our veterans are supported in every aspect of their lives, including their healthcare, housing, and employment opportunities. We’re already hard at work bringing together the right people across government, and this new funding will be instrumental in making this vision a reality.
Military regiments, charities and ex-personnel need to work harder to allow veterans with mental illness to access help, a leading campaigner has warned. The stigma of mental health is gradually being removed across society but many ex-servicemen and women are still being left without treatment, according to the head of a charity that uses horsemanship to rebuild confidence and skills.
Jock Hutchison, a former marine, is chief executive of HorseBack UK in Aberdeenshire. He says it can take seven years for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to manifest itself in veterans, meaning many are well out of the services. He said: “Ex-military people need to engage — one of the problems we have is connecting to people. Once someone takes that first brave step there is a wide variety of help available.” Hutchison said encouraging veterans can come through social media and awareness campaigns “but the most powerful is word of mouth. Mental health is a major issue and the military needs to come together to help those who desperately need assistance,” he added.
Sense of Purpose
PTSD among military personnel and veterans has risen in the past decade, according to a study of nearly 9,000 of the military by King’s College London published last year. It shows PTSD in the military rose from 4% in 2004-5 to 6% in 2014-16. Hutchison added: “With a mental injury you cannot do it yourself but one of the problems with military people is that there is an attitude that ‘we are nails’ and don’t need help.” The ethos of HorseBack UK, which has helped more than 12,000 veterans in the past decade, is to bring a sense of purpose, helping those who have been ill — mentally or physically — to contribute to society.
Juliet Bryce, 54, had been in the RAF for 20 years, working in air surveillance and making the rank of sergeant before leaving in 2003. She then split from her husband after 24 years of marriage in 2010. “That tipped me over the edge and I ended up in a secure mental health unit,” she said. Bryce was told about HorseBack UK by a friend she had met through the support group Combat Stress. “I had never really liked horses because they are big, have a brain of their own and can really hurt you,” she said. But at HorseBack, the animals were a key part of her recovery, and she now goes back as a mentor.
Roxanne Macaulay was introduced to the charity by a fellow veteran. The 61-year-old joined the Women’s Royal Army Corps in 1975 but had to leave in 1978 because she married a civilian. In 1996 Macauley was diagnosed with depression as well as anxiety, and she said it was last year, when she went to HorseBack UK, that she began to feel she was on the way to recovery. Now she acts as a mentor for the charity. “It has shown me that you can overcome your fear,” she said. “I started believing in myself again and that is what is most important.”
Since 2000, Merchant Navy Day on 3rd September has honoured the brave men and women who kept our ‘island nation’ afloat during both World Wars, and celebrated our dependence on modern-day merchant seafarers who are responsible for 95% of the UK’s imports, including half the food we eat, plenty of the fuel we burn and virtually all the products and goods we take for granted!
For the fifth year running, Seafarers UK is campaigning for the Red Ensign – the UK Merchant Navy’s official flag – to be flown on 3rd September on civic buildings and landmark flagpoles across the UK. Parish, community, town, city, district and borough councils are all invited to take part, along with higher-tier local authorities and governments.
There are many locations where the Red Ensign can be freely flown ashore – civic centres, town halls, public libraries, village greens, churches, sports venues, historic buildings, tourist attractions, ports, etc.
This year hundreds of local flag-hoisting ceremonies will be organised, involving VIPs, civic dignitaries, Merchant Navy veterans, naval cadets, etc. A message of support from HRH The Earl of Wessex is available to be read out at participating locations ‘to remember the sacrifices, salute the courage and support the future of the often unsung personnel of our Merchant Navy.’
That Royal request is included in a new ‘Fly the Red Ensign for Merchant Navy Day’ Guide – click here to download.
In 2019 the target is for the Red Ensign to be flown ashore at more than one thousand locations across the UK. As Merchant Navy Day on 3rd September falls on a Tuesday, we are encouraging participants to fly the flag for the whole week! Flag-hoisting ceremonies can be organised for any date, including on the preceding weekend.
For further information please contact Nick Harvey, Campaigns Manager at Seafarers UK, email firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 020 7932 5969.
Important: To confirm your participation please complete this online registration form.
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