The Ministry of Defence 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.
When veterans and their families are compensated for the detrimental impact their service has had on their lives, that is unjustly classed as income when applying for means-tested benefits, rendering veterans and their families ineligible for welfare support under UK Government control, the most significant of which is pension credit. As a result, thousands of veterans miss out on almost £6,000 every year. Will the Minister pledge his support for the Royal British Legion’s Credit their Service campaign? And will he work with the Department for Work and Pensions and his other Cabinet colleagues to ensure that compensation awarded to veterans is disregarded when applying for means-tested benefits?
Of course the MOD works with the DWP on a range of issues. Compensation is set in the full knowledge of how it will be dealt with under the benefits system in the UK. By most measures, the armed forces compensation scheme and the war pension scheme are felt to be sound and appropriate for awarding significant amounts of money to those who have served our country and who, unfortunately, have been disadvantaged as a result.
Will my right hon. Friend join me in thanking The Veterans Charity in North Devon for their Poppies to Paddington operation, which saw 231 wreaths from the Great Western Railway region reach Paddington for Remembrance Day, and for their incredible work to help support our wonderful veterans across the UK?
I absolutely will, and I add my congratulations to my hon. Friend’s in thanking The Veterans Charity in North Devon. I also congratulate her on the extraordinary support she gives to our veterans in her constituency and elsewhere, particularly as we come out of the season of remembrance, which I know you were heavily involved with too, Mr Speaker. It is important to reflect on those who give so much in the service of our country.
Over the past year, the number of veterans claiming universal credit has increased by 31.6%, which is nearly a third. Does the Minister recognise that the King’s Speech failed to help veterans in receipt of universal credit to cope with the increased cost of living caused by his Government’s economic failure? And does he further recognise that some of the long-term sick who his party has been attacking in the media over the last few days are veterans with physical and mental health challenges? What advice has he given his colleagues about the Conservative party rhetoric, and about lending their full support to our veterans and all those who have served?
The hon. Gentleman will know that universal credit is an in-work benefit. Within the system, there are allowances that we offer to our veterans that can be improved. As he knows, that is why we have instituted the quinquennial review and the independent review of veterans’ welfare services, which we will be responding to shortly.