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Support for Veterans

Volume 737: debated on Monday 11 September 2023

The MOD delivers a range of services to veterans and their families, including the administration and payment of armed forces pensions and compensation, and tailored advice and assistance through the Veterans Welfare Service, Defence Transition Services and integrated personal commissioning for veterans. The independent reviews of those services were published in July, and we will respond in full to the recommendations later this year.

Last October my constituent, a disabled veteran who served with distinction in Afghanistan and Iraq, applied to the war pension and armed forces compensation schemes. Despite his supplying all the information required, and medical evidence, he is still waiting for the determination of his case almost 12 months on. Will my right hon. Friend look into the case as a matter of urgency and carry out a review of the waiting times for the schemes to make sure that nobody else has to wait such a long time to get their due rewards?

If my hon. Friend is able to provide further details of that specific case, I would be happy to investigate. The latest armed forces compensation scheme quinquennial review was published on 17 July 2023. The review process aims to ensure that the scheme remains fit for purpose and to identify opportunities for improvement of the sort that my hon. Friend highlighted. The review’s recommendations are currently being considered—I think timeliness is foremost among them—and a Government response will be published later this year.

The Royal British Legion’s recent report showed that only 8% of disabled veterans who applied for employment and support allowance had their service medical records considered in their work capability assessment. I extend my condolences to the Defence Secretary, but what discussions has he had with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions about this matter, and on disregarding all military compensation awards for means-tested and income-based assessments such as for housing benefit?

Such conversations are live in the context of the work I previously described. We will take into account the hon. Lady’s points, which have been made by several people in the defence and veterans community. I know that people feel strongly about such issues. Ultimately, of course, it is a matter for the Department for Work and Pensions and the Treasury.

This House as a whole provides vociferous support for our veterans of all kinds, particularly through the mechanism of the all-party parliamentary group for the armed forces. Perhaps I can take this opportunity to pay tribute to Miss Amy Swash, who has now run the APPG for me for eight years, but will sadly leave us shortly for other jobs. I thank her for all the work she has done for a superb amount of time, in particular to raise the plight of veterans.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right and I add my tributes to his. I also express my admiration for the armed forces parliamentary scheme, which does a fantastic job in informing and educating colleagues.

In July, the Government published a review of the treatment of LGBTQ+ veterans. The previous Secretary of State’s response to that won him many plaudits and his reaction was welcomed, but he did say that he would take his time to ensure we got things right. Can the Minister give us an update on when we can expect a response to the recommendations?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. He is right to raise that. At the time I said that the community should allow us time, but not too much time, and I am sure they will hold us to that. We will respond in full to the large number of recommendations, but we are broadly supportive of Lord Etherton’s work and there is much in it that we utterly agree with, plus some that we would like to add in the way of changes for the future.

On that theme, the loss of livelihoods and the long-term suffering endured by LGBT+ veterans due to the cruel and unjust ban on homosexuality in the armed forces has been enormous. The Opposition welcome the Etherton review into the ban, and its recommendations, which represent the beginning of a long-overdue healing process. The Secretary of State’s predecessor promised that the Government would provide a full response to the review’s recommendations after the summer recess, which the House would have an opportunity to debate. Will the Minister confirm when the Government will respond to the recommendations and that the House will still be provided with time to debate that response?

Clearly, we will be debating this at some length; I hope the House, when it sees the Government response to Lord Etherton’s recommendations, will be pleased with it. At the moment, we are working with the community, particularly Fighting With Pride, to ensure that what we put in place is right and is acceptable to those who have been done down by the events between 1967 to 2000.