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UK GOVERNMENT MUST STEP UP TO SUPPORT OUR VETERANS

Remembering and honouring the sacrifice of those lost to war and conflict is one of the many ways we show support for our armed forces, past and present.


Approaching Remembrance Sunday, we should consider the many veterans who have endured unimaginable pain and loss in their years of service and who must be given the best possible care and support available. Yet some of our most vulnerable and struggling veterans and their families are denied access to the help they need.


In the UK, 150,000 veterans and their families, 12,000 of whom are in Scotland, are rightly compensated for the lasting physical, mental, and emotional impact their service has had on their lives. However, legislation surrounding means tested benefits has made this process unduly complicated.


Military compensation is unjustly classed as income, rendering veterans and their families ineligible for certain benefits to which they would otherwise be entitled. The most important is Pension Credit, which treats all but £10 of a weekly compensation award as income.


According to the 2021 National Census, one million UK veterans are over 65 and 146,000 eligible for Pension Credit. However, during the means-testing process, many are deemed above the threshold for accessing this vital support, with the Royal British Legion Scotland (RBLS) estimating that 5,000 are missing out on £5,800 per year.


This injustice extends to benefits assessed and administered by local authorities, such as Housing Benefit, Council Tax Support, Discretionary Housing Payments, and Disabled Facilities Grants.


This is why I fully support the RBLS ‘Credit Their Service’ campaign, which demands the immediate end to military compensation being treated as income.


This campaign highlights that fact that other forms of compensation awarded by the courts, like personal injury or medical negligence, are exempt from means-testing process. As such, the RBLS believes the UK Government has broken its 2011 pledge that “those who serve or have served should face no disadvantage compared to other citizens in the provision of services.”


I couldn’t agree more.


The Scottish National Party (SNP) Scottish Government is acutely aware of the difficulties faced by many veterans and has acted to support them. Unlike the UK Government, it’s already furthering the goals of the Credit Their Service campaign by ensuring that the War Disablement Pension is exempt from the assessment of income and council tax relief across Scotland, whereas it’s still treated as income in England and Wales.


In addition, the SNP Government appointed a Scottish Veterans Commissioner, the first of its kind in the UK, with a £1.7 million Scottish Veterans’ Fund, to supports projects that provide a range of practical support and advice.


More such improvements and policies are on the horizon in Scotland, including an armed forces body that will play a key role in improving access to, and quality of, veteran support. I am working to persuade the UK Government to amend its own legislation accordingly, where powers are not devolved.


I encourage everyone to keep our veterans and their families in their thoughts and support RBLS calls for fairer legislation to help those struggling long after their service has ended.


ENDS



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