Inquiry into Gulf War illnesses - London, July - September 2004
4. The battle for benefits

Alex Izett, Corps of the Royal Engineers, 12 July 2004.
The way the Pensions Agency is treating veterans is disgusting.  I went through a five‑year long battle to even be recognised to have a war pension.  I had to go through a pensions appeal tribunal to get the condition recognised and the actual tribunal itself said that my condition was autoimmune induced osteoporosis and depression that was directly linked to the vaccinations I received in preparation for the Gulf War. 

Stephen Roberts, 16/5 Queen’s Royal Lancers, 12 July 2004.
If I do not have Gulf War Syndrome down as an illness on my war pension, when I die, my war pension ceases to exist.  If it has Gulf War Syndrome on it, my wife will get a pension. 

Anwen Humphreys, RAF, 19 July 2004.
I have a 60 per cent War Pension.  I started off in 1992 with a 20 per cent War Pension for injuries to my knees and to my thumb. 

Michael Capps, Royal Corps of Transport, 19 July 2004.
I got a 40 per cent pension... [Now] it is 70 per cent.  I got that in 2001... I cannot work. 

Mrs Deborah Capps, wife of the previous veteran, 19 July 2004.
We [must not] have to fight all the time to get the benefits we get...  DOCTOR JONES: You obviously are really in effect a full-time carer. A.  Yes.  DR JONES:  Have you explored the possibility of getting recognised as one?   A.  No, I have not, actually. 

Hakim Tella, Royal Artillery,19 July 2004.
I remember writing to an MP saying I was going to commit suicide because these people should be hurrying up with my pension, that I was living in a slummy area, in one room. 

Mark McGreevy, Royal Signals,19 July 2004.
I was only paid a one-off payment of £4,000...  I do not qualify for any army pensions that are in place and I do not receive any weekly war pension.  I have had a constant battle with the Veterans Agency over my entitlement, one of which where I feel like a scrounger.  I should not have to do this when I am ill.  I am just thankful that at the moment I am clinging onto my police career… There are just not enough benefits or anything like that that I have been trying to obtain that I can receive, so I will have to find a job as best I can. 

Carol Avison, widow of a 24-year regular soldier “[who] started off as a private and worked up to a major”, 19 July 2004.
Ian was in receipt of a 100 per cent war pension.  It started off at 10 per cent and then, as his illnesses progressed, he got so much for being doubly incontinent, so much when he needed assistance in breathing machines and he had to be suctioned out, so much for (inaudible), so much for emphysema.  He got a 100 per cent war pension.

THE CHAIRMAN:  Did that continue after he died?

A.  No.  I get a war widow’s pension; they give me £144 a week and, in that £144, is £60 towards my council rent and I have a 14-year old daughter. 

Andrew Hazard, Royal Engineers, 19 July 2004.
I receive a 30 per cent war pension for fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, depressive disorder...

THE CHAIRMAN:  Did you have a problem getting that pension?

Initially, I applied for Gulf-related conditions.  The first payment I received off the War Pensions, the first assessment, was 14 per cent for post-traumatic stress.

THE CHAIRMAN:  When did you get that? 


THE CHAIRMAN:  What are you on now? 

I am on 30 per cent now.  It took a further four and a half years to get to 30 per cent, and two tribunals.

Michael Barber, Royal Corps of Transport, 21 July 2004.
THE CHAIRMAN:  What was your position as far as the pension was concerned at this point?     Did you apply for a war pension? 
A.  I had not even applied. My wife kept saying to me --- because, to be honest, I did not want to admit that I was not well…

THE CHAIRMAN:  You applied a year ago for a pension.  On what ground?  Can you remember?    

A.  Just on all the illnesses that I have suffered - depression, aches and pains.  I have been getting a lot of blackouts as well.

THE CHAIRMAN:  What was the first response you got to that?  Was last week the first you had heard? 

A.  No.  I heard round about five months ago and they turned me down.  They just said, “Basically, your illness is nothing to do with your service in the Army”, so I appealed. 

Jason Bosworth, Ordnance Corps, 21 July 2004.
They tried, by insisting with me, to force me out on an administrative discharge, which is section 9.414, I think.  I found out all the rules and I basically had to play them at their own game.  I had to find out the rules.  They threatened to transfer me to a different corps.  I told them to do it.  I knew that if I refused anything they could have got rid of me administratively.  I did not know what was coming but the stress was pretty heavy... At the end of that I was retired from the forces as permanently medically unfit for any form of Army service.  

What I had gone through administratively to start with, the stress, they realised that I was not going to bow down, I was not going to accept the administrative discharge… The war pension is not too difficult for myself.  Because I came out of the Army medically I did not have the battle which some of the guys who did not come out medically have had.  I managed to secure a war pension of 30 per cent for my diagnosed conditions of chronic fatigue syndrome, acute vaccination reaction and recurrent tonsillitis.  

The following conditions were also taken into account: muscle and joint pains, mood changes and tonsillectomy in 1994.  I have also tried to have Gulf War illness (formerly Gulf War syndrome) and vaccine damage added to my other claims but the Veterans Agency (formerly the War Pensions Agency) will not accept this.  They say that they have covered it all under chronic fatigue syndrome.  I am basically trying to get a correct diagnosis...  

I have also spoken to a number of other ill Gulf veterans on the phone and what-have-you, and quite a few of them have received administrative discharges from the Army, so it seems like it is common practice that ill soldiers are given an administrative discharge.  They are given a lesser form of discharge even though it is because of health problems that they can no longer perform their job.

THE CHAIRMAN:  But you had a medical discharge?    

A.  I managed to fight it and I managed to get a medical discharge, but there are a number of other people who have not had the strength to fight it.  I am a very strong-willed person.  I believe in what is right even though it takes it out of me.

THE CHAIRMAN:  But the effect of the difference is that with the administrative discharge you would not have got your 30 per cent war pension, is that right?

A.  I also get a medical pension on top...  My war pension at 30 per cent is roughly £150 a month.  My medical pension is in the region of about £460 something a month...  If you cannot work, even with a medical pension and a war pension you cannot live.  Guys who cannot work who are just getting a war pension, even if they are getting 90 per cent, they are getting £450 a month.  They cannot live on that.

THE CHAIRMAN:  What about your wives?  Your widow would obviously not get your medical pension 

A.  I believe she gets a percentage of it if I die.

THE CHAIRMAN:  And what about war pension?       

A.  I am not sure of the rules on that.  I have fought hard to secure what I can for me.  That is another reason I fought to try and get recognised as Gulf War Syndrome in case, because we do not know what is going to happen to us.  I have got chronic fatigue; there are guys out there dying, you do not know what is round the corner so I would like to be recognised as Gulf War Syndrome… The MoD has spent eight and a half million on research, a lot of it on research they have ordered so you question the results.  They have spent all this money.  Why do not they use this money to help the victims? 

Michael Roy Lingard, RAF, 21 July 2004.
I lived [in the Outer Hebrides for three years] off the gratuity I had come away from the RAF with.
THE CHAIRMAN:  What was that? 

A.  I think it was £25,000 that the RAF had given me for voluntary redundancy... I got a war pension of 30 per cent, after appeal.

THE CHAIRMAN:  For that?

A.  For the shoulder and for the skin rash and for signs and symptoms of an ill-defined condition.

THE CHAIRMAN:  And have you reapplied or appealed since then?       

A.  I have an appeal and also a further condition claim in the process of being dealt with at the moment. 

Gerard Davey, RAF, 21 July 2004.
I have a 50 per cent war pension.  20 per cent of that is to do with the back, which is long term.  Only 30 per cent of it to do with... the Gulf.

THE CHAIRMAN:  Are you hoping that that might be increased? 

A.  I should think so... I am sick of feeling that I might be thought of as a hypochondriac when I am not.  

Dr Derek Hall, RAF medical personnel, 27 July 2004.
THE CHAIRMAN:  What about pensions?  Did you ever make an application for a war pension?    

A.  I did, sir.  I think, like a lot of people, the penny did not drop until rather too late and I still think there is a vast hidden reservoir of sick vets who for one reason or another have not claimed. 

Lawrence Halloran, Staff Director and Council of the Subcommittee on National Security and the Public Committee on Federal Reform, 2 August 2004.
THE CHAIRMAN: One might [say] "Okay, people who have claimed in respect of illnesses which they say were due to Gulf War up to a certain point", whatever date one likes to chose, "should be acceptable or accepted as having their origins attributable to war."  A cut-off date, as it were now, not necessarily a cut-off date in the past, but subject obviously to exceptions if one could prove an exception at some time in the future.  Does that seem possible?

A.  I would argue against that for a couple of reasons.  In terms of fiscal planning and budgeting, it would make some sense - you would know where exposure would be after somebody had served - but in this instance it would strike me as rewarding bad conduct that having resisted and delayed and denied evidence for as long as was done, then trying to close that door would lead to more exceptions than the rule applied to and for another reason that Dr Haley will describe more for you tomorrow.  

Had we not persisted in this, had research grown up, indeed had we said that those that are in the door now are compensable, we will deal with those afterwards or we will not… Research tools available today were not available five, ten years ago.  They can now find discrete brain damage, you can find metabolic and chemical differences that we could not see before, and had we closed the door and closed the book before those tools were available, we would not have trained those tools on these problems.

James Tuite III, consultant, former Special Assistant to the Chairman of the US Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs for National Security and Dual‑use Export Policies, 2 August 2004.
The situation we faced in the mid‑1990s was one in which US veterans who had served ten, twenty or even thirty years in the military, and who were deployed to the Gulf in excellent health came home sick and the military establishment, in effect, walked away from them.  These veterans were not provided with medical treatment and coverage, but were left in a situation in which they had no access to either military medical establishment nor to any disability compensation, and did not obtain private health insurance at rates they could afford to pay, if at all. 

Keith Rhodes, chief technologist at the [US] Government Accountability Office, 2 August 2004.
If I am the third child of a Gulf War veteran and I have a problem, am I the recipient of a battle field casualty?  If you give a cut off date to the father, what do you do for the child and the child’s child?... Therefore, our point is: presume exposure because we cannot tell you that anybody was not exposed.  Everybody may have been exposed and we have to accept that.  We have to accept that in the case of a nerve agent that is oil based and therefore persistent you can have people who were not in the line of fire, who were not there on the day that bunker 73 was destroyed, and they could be exposed.  

Dr. Harcourt Concannon, President of the Pensions Appeal Tribunals for England and Wales, 10 August 2004.
So far as assessment itself is concerned there is statutory disregard of the impact of the disablement on employment, so that cannot be taken into account.  However, the War Pension Scheme provides a range of supplementary allowances.  Two of the ones which are relevant to this are, first of all, employability allowance, for which there is an entry gateway of, I think, 60 per cent disablement.  If you qualify for that there will be an addition to the basic war pension which is based on the percentage disablement.  

There is also another potentially relevant allowance called allowance for lower standard of occupation, which copes with the situation of someone who, for instance, had been a bus driver before he joined the services but now cannot be a bus driver because of disablement, he can only get a job which pays less than he would have earned if he had been able to continue being a bus driver.  The allowance for lower standard of occupation deals with the pay differential, the loss in pay which is caused by the accepted disablement.

SIR MICHAEL DAVIES:  But that is not part of the War Pension Scheme?    

A.  It is.  It is conceived in terms of what I might call a basic war pension which is based on the percentage assessment, to which can be added various other supplements.  Mobility supplement is one of them, constant attendance allowance is one, unemployability allowance is one, allowance for lower standard of occupation is another one.  I think there are about 25 allowances altogether but those are probably the main ones.  They can make a very substantial difference.  They are all paid in one, so they can make a very considerable difference to the total amount of money that someone is paid... 

I could not tell you, for instance, how many of our appeals in the last year relate to incidents in the Second World War or the war in Korea or the Malayan emergency or the Suez campaign or anything else.  We just do not keep that information.  The 1991 Gulf conflict is in the same category... The number of cases in which [“Gulf War Syndrome”] has been directly raised is actually quite few.  I am sure Mr Rusling has referred to his case.  That is typical of a very small number of cases... His case was one of a small number of cases in which there were rejection decisions in terms of a claim where they rejected Gulf syndrome, or Gulf War Syndrome in this case.  

Very soon afterwards they adopted a different practice which was, if the claim had been made explicitly in terms of Gulf War Syndrome, to side-step that, to leave it to one side, and deal with the symptoms which were suggested either in the claim or in the medical evidence which they would gather as part of the process that I was talking about earlier, so you would get claims which mentioned Gulf War Syndrome but which led to decisions in terms of a range of other things which might be acceptances, which might be rejections, but did not give the Secretary of State’s view on Gulf War Syndrome itself.  

Then more recently there were decisions in which they did confront the issue.  We have got one or two of those appeals to deal with – in other words a claim for Gulf War Syndrome rejected as such by the Secretary of State and appealed as such by the appellant... 

I suppose one thing that surprises me is that there have not been more appeals because there is no doubt that you see an appeal bundle which on the face of it is about, for instance, rejection of chronic fatigue syndrome or some such thing, and when you look at the claim form actually the claim has mentioned Gulf War Syndrome or something which is analogous, “My problems relate to Gulf War Syndrome”, something like that, and you then see a rejection decision by the Secretary of State for chronic fatigue syndrome which is appealed but the claimant has not actually picked up that in making that decision the Secretary of State ignored that part of the claim which dealt rather specifically with Gulf War Syndrome and has not pursued it...

THE CHAIRMAN:  You have got your war pension system, which you have explained very clearly, leading up to 100 per cent disablement pension, and I think we know the figure, although I forget what it is.  What do they get for a 100 per cent war pension?   

A.  I have no idea of the answer to that.  We do not have that responsibility...

THE CHAIRMAN: How many appeals altogether have there been in relation to Gulf War veterans?    

A.  We do not keep those statistics.