Robert E Lee said "Duty is the most sublime word in our language. Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less." Our soldiers in Afghanistan are doing their duty and they are sadly paying a high price in yet another distant foreign field – it’s a pity the same cannot be said of the Government.
At home, the New Labour Westminster Government is to launch an appeal over two soldiers who won significant increases in their compensation paid for injuries received in line with their duties. The test case revolves around two soldiers who had their compensation increased on appeal; one who now walks with crutches after being shot while on patrol in Iraq, who was originally awarded £9,250 but this was increased to £46,000 and another who fractured his thigh in a military exercise and who was awarded £8,250, but this was increased to £28,750.
The High Court previously upholding the higher awards, ruled that the Ministry of Defence argument that there should be a distinction between the original injury and later complications was "absurd". Now the MoD (no doubt with the tacit blessing of the New Labour Money changers) is to take a case to the Court of Appeal, where Government lawyers are expected to claim the pair should be compensated only for the initial injuries and not subsequent health problems.
The MoD has faced repeated criticism of the way it deals with wounded personnel. In 2008 some £84 million in civil compensation was paid out, but, by contrast, men and women wounded in combat have to struggle to win even modest payments. The controversial Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (established in April 2005) puts the burden of proof on claimants, who must provide evidence that they were injured doing their duty. Campaigners say many claims that would have been allowed under the old rules are now blocked. MoD figures show that around a third of all claims are now rejected.
In 2008 the MoD doubled the maximum lump-sum payment to £570,000, only the most catastrophic injuries attain that sum. Currently even the loss of both arms or total blindness would not qualify. Particular concerns have been expressed about the treatment of service personnel with mental health disorders. Compensation for psychological injury is effectively capped at £48,875.
The case will be heard as the death toll in Afghanistan continues to rise, with two more soldiers being killed bringing the total for this month to 20 fatalities. Since the start of operations in Afghanistan began in the autumn of 2001, 191 British service personnel have been killed.