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Armed Forces: Health Services

Volume 493: debated on Wednesday 3 June 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assistance his Department provides to members of the armed forces who have been invalided out of service; what (a) discussions he has had and (b) representations he has received on this issue since 2008; whether he plans to increase the assistance available during the next 12 months; and if he will make a statement. (277007)

We take our responsibilities for those who are medically discharged from the armed forces seriously. For those requiring assistance, MOD provides health care and welfare support in service, but at service termination the primary responsibility passes to the normal civilian agencies. The Department's Veterans Welfare Service is there to provide advice on issues such as entitlement to pensions and compensation under the Department's no-fault schemes. In the case of the severely injured, the welfare service monitors those discharged for a period of at least two years to provide advice should difficulties arises.

Working together with civilian and third sector agencies, our aim is to achieve a smooth and seamless transition. Those invalided from service are eligible for the MOD's full resettlement package, including support into work where this is appropriate, and automatic configuration of pension. Where the invaliding disorder is due to service, no fault compensation benefits will be assessed and paid, and for the relevant condition the individual will be eligible for NHS priority treatment with additional benefits such as free prescriptions.

In July 2008 we published the Service Personnel Command Paper, ‘The Nation's Commitment: Cross-Government Support for our Armed Forces, their Families and Veterans’, which outlined the pledges we made to ensure service personnel, their families and veterans are not disadvantaged by the unusual demands of serving in the armed forces and to recognise the sacrifices made by their families and those who have served.

As Minister for Veterans, I meet regularly with veterans and ex-service organisations. Topics raised since 2008 have included priority treatment, civilian mental health services, a new study being undertaken into British Nuclear Test Veterans and the issues of cultural understanding that can arise for those who have served when they seek help from civilian health professionals. Officials from the MOD, other Government Departments, the devolved Administrations and the charities continue to work together to address all key concerns, communicating existing entitlements to all those involved, and areas where improvements might be made to arrangements for ensuring a seamless transition back into civilian life.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much his Department allocated to services for members of the armed forces of each (a) sex, (b) regiment, (c) service and (d) age cohort invalided out of service in each year since 2003. (277008)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to him by my predecessor the hon. Member for Halton (Derek Twigg) on 10 March 2008, Official Report, column 14W.