The scheme for compensating armed forces personnel injured on duty has effectively been shut down by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Ministry of Defence, which once trumpeted the armed forces compensation scheme as an alternative to using lawyers or going through courts, will no longer take on any new cases during the crisis.
The department said that due to staff not being able to attend the office, it is unable to process casework, including requests for new claims, reviews, reassessments and appeals.
Its announcement added: ‘We are sorry but we are unable to provide an estimate of how long claims will take to process once normal service resumes.’
The scheme was part of the revamped Veterans UK website, launched earlier this year, with the site saying in February it could offer access to payments with ‘no courts or legal help needed’. By the start of March, this phrase had been removed from the front page of the site.
Lawyers have argued that the scheme is a cynical attempt to under-settle claims and ensure personnel who have been injured due to negligence are not minded to seek out professional advice.
There are now question marks about where those who might be due compensation are supposed to turn.
Grant Evatt, managing director of Alma Law who served for 10 years with the Royal Artillery and now runs claims on behalf of veterans, questioned why the MoD could not operate the scheme remotely, given that most lawyers have been able to do so. He pointed out that for many, the scheme was the only route to compensation for those injured in combat operations and training accidents.
‘We have PCs, mobile phones, video conferencing and easy and secure access to our usual office based, relatively inexpensive, case management systems,’ said Evatt.
‘But Veterans UK, who incidentally are based in Blackpool, can’t function at all? Surely their staff are also key workers and if not, why can’t their case workers work remotely? Surely in the 21st century the MoD uses a case management system? It’s astonishing.’
*The Law Society is keeping the coronavirus situation under review and monitoring the advice it receives from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Public Health England.