In my capacity as Minster for Veterans I am pleased to announce that on 14 April 2003 the Department for Work and Pensions laid before the House the Social Security (Incapacity Benefit) (Her Majesty's Forces) (Amendment) Regulations 2003. The regulations provide that people discharged from the armed forces may in future count days of absence from duty on health grounds while in service towards the higher rates of incapacity benefit.For many years there have been special pay arrangements in place for members of the armed forces which recognise their unique position. Veterans with continuing health problems are able to make a claim for incapacity benefit immediately on discharge. However, until now, they were required to be in receipt of incapacity benefit for 28 weeks before qualifying for the higher rates. The new regulations, which take effect from 5 May, bring ex-members of the forces into line with civilian claimants who have been in receipt of statutory sick pay.I am grateful to DWP Ministers for making this change, which serves as an illustration of the power of the veterans initiative launched by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister with the aim of joining up the Government's response to veterans' concerns. I would also like to pay tribute to ex-service organisations such as South Atlantic Medal Association (82), who first brought this matter to my attention, for the valuable work they do in the interests of ex-servicemen and women and their dependants.
The Under-Secretary of State for Defence
(Dr. Lewis Moonie)