Letter: Forgotten veterans

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THIS is a follow up to a letter I sent your publication late last year. I wish to update your readers on our progress and to thank those who contacted and joined Equality for Veterans Association (EfVA).

The issue of public service pensions has been very much to the fore in the media over recent weeks and yet there is one body of public servants who continue to be denied any pension whatsoever.

Affected veterans of the UK Armed Forces when serving did not work normal office hours, indeed invariably worked very unsocial hours; were often separated from their families; had no right to withdraw their labour or take any form of industrial action; and were prepared to lay down their lives in defence of UK national interests.

The ‘Forgotten Veterans’ pleas to Government for a meaningful discussion of these matters have continued to be ignored for well over 20 years.

However, the good news is that last month the inaugural meeting of a newly formed All Party Parliamentary Group to discuss the inequality in Armed Forces pensions has been held. The group of MPs (ten from Government Benches and ten from the Opposition) is to be chaired by Ms Katy Clark MP (Labour) and the group secretary is Sir Bob Russell MP (Liberal Democrat).

Service leavers pre-April 1975 receive no pension benefit whereas those leaving April 1975 onwards qualify for a ‘preserved’ pension pro-rata their service on reaching State Retirement age. There is a great body of evidence which shows that both pre and post April 1975 service leavers were not kept informed of pension scheme changes or of their likely entitlement.

Indirect contributions towards the future payment of pensions have always been taken as part of the annual pay award formula devised by the Armed Forces Pay Review Body, the sum of such contribution which would otherwise have been paid in the salaries of servicemen and women.

We are all aware of the current parlous state of the UK economy and that any sizeable reduction in the budget deficit will not come overnight.

However Government claims that to allow settlement of this long outstanding issue would simply be unaffordable does not stand scrutiny and it is argued that the true cost would in practice be much less than claimed by HM Treasury and is very affordable. It all boils down to where public expenditure priorities lie and service veterans do not appear to warrant any consideration.

The terms of reference of the group are ‘to seek a resolution to issues regarding inequality in the award of occupational pro-rata pensions for UK Armed Forces Veterans who in the period 1949 to April 1975 completed less than 22 years’ service (16 for commissioned officers)’. It was agreed that the terms of reference are to be taken as not excluding others who served in the UK Armed Forces.

For more information please see website www.efva.co.uk.

JIM MONAGHAN

Regional organiser Sussex, Equality for Veterans Association

White Horse Court, Storrington