Defence and armed forces – guidance

Support for war veterans

Find out about legacy health, recognition, return to civilian life, support from the voluntary sector, commemoration and payment schemes.

The Veterans team

The Veterans team within Pensions Compensation and Veterans (PCV) is responsible for the policy on a range of veteran issues. The main areas the team deals with are legacy health, recognition, commemoration, transition to civilian life and liaising with the voluntary and community sector, devolved administrations and local authorities.

Legacy health

The Veterans team addresses health concerns of the following groups of veterans who believe their ill health to be a result of their service:

  • veterans of the UK Atmospheric Nuclear Testing programme of the 1950s to 1960s
  • veterans of the Porton Down volunteer testing programme of the 1950 to 1970s
  • veterans of the 1990 to 1991 Gulf conflict
  • veterans of the most recent operations in Iraq (Operation Telic) and Afghanistan (Operation Herrick)

The Veterans and Reserves Mental Health programme

The Veterans and Reserves Mental Health programme (VRMHP) provides assessment and treatment advice for veterans (who have deployed since 1982) and reserves who have been deployed overseas since 1 January 2003 as a reservist, and believe that their deployment may have affected their mental health.

All veterans referred to the VRMHP will receive a full psychiatric assessment completed by a consultant psychiatrist; this assessment report is then sent on completion to the veteran’s GP and if involved, the local mental health service, with advice on further treatment and care. Reserves whose condition is found to be operationally related and of a nature that can be treated within the resources of the Defence Medical Service (DMS) can access treatment in a MOD UK Department of Community Mental Health (DCMH) and will be offered out-patient treatment at a DCMH closest to where they live.

Referrals for reservists and veterans should be directed to DCMH Colchester:

Veterans and Reserve Mental Health programme
DCMH Colchester
Merville Barracks
Read Hall House
COLCHESTER
Essex
CO2 7UT

Tel: 0800 0326258

E-mail: dphc-dcmhchl-vrmhp@mod.uk

Purpose of the VRMHP

The VRMHP provides assessment and treatment advice for veterans (who have deployed since 1982) and reserves who have been deployed overseas since 1 January 2003 as a reservist, and believe that their deployment may have affected their mental health. Reserves whose condition is found to be operationally related can access treatment in a MOD UK Department of Community Mental Health.

Patient referrals to the VRMHP

Referrals to the VRMHP should be made by the individual’s GP, self referrals will only be accepted for this service as an exception. All referrals should be made to the VRMHP at the above address, contact number or e-mail. Mental healthcare is a multi-agency delivery effort and the MOD and UK Department of Health are working with the NHS and service charities to support Veterans and Reservists.

Doctors are encouraged to refer any patients who are concerned that their mental health may have suffered as a result of their military service and who fulfil the criteria.

We recommend visiting your GP to discuss your concerns in the first instance.

Further information

General practitioners or veterans requiring further information about the service provided can contact the VRMHP on freephone: 0800 0326258.

The VRMHP does not provide an urgent mental health assessment service. If you require urgent support, you should seek advice from your local GP or mental health team in the first instance.

Travel costs

The Ministry of Defence is able to assist with travel costs for those attending the VRMHP from within the UK, but veterans should always confirm travel arrangements with the VRMHP prior to making their journey. Since changes on 1 April 2016, in most instances, eligible veterans and reserves will be referred to the most local local Defence Community Mental Health (DCMH) to where they live.

Recognition

The Veterans team works to ensure that former service in the armed forces is recognised, appreciated and valued. It does this by formulating, advising and ensuring the delivery of policy for initiatives such as:

  • Armed Forces Day
  • HM Armed Forces’ veterans badge & UK merchant seafarers lapel badge
  • Veterans’ challenge fund

Transition

The Veterans team deals with transition issues which can affect a small minority of service personnel when they leave the armed forces. These include:

  • veterans in the criminal justice system
  • homelessness among the veterans community

Voluntary and community sector

The Veterans team’s main priorities include:

  • communicating and consulting with ex-service organisations on all issues affecting veterans.
  • working in partnership with the voluntary and community sector to deliver programmes which address the needs of veterans.

Commemoration

The Veterans team deals with the MOD’s policy on commemoration. This includes:

  • graves
  • memorials

Legacy health

Information about legacy health issues for armed forces veterans and veterans of the Porton Down testing programme and nuclear testing programme:

Gulf Conflict 1990 to 1991

Information on illnesses relating to veterans of the Gulf War including:

  • UK position on ‘Gulf War syndrome’ The medical asssesment
  • programme medical statistics
  • gulf war health research

Porton Down Volunteer testing programme 1950 to 1970s

Historical information on the Porton Down site and the tests conducted there, including:

  • Medical Research Council Common Cold Research Unit
  • historical survey of the Porton Down service volunteer programme 1939 to 1989
  • Porton Down helpline

UK atmospheric nuclear testing programme 1950s to 1960s

Between 1952 and 1963 UK personnel were involved in a series of nuclear weapons tests in Australia and and islands in the Pacific.

Iraq (Operation Telic) and Afghanistan (Operation Herrick)

In 2003 the MOD commissioned the King’s Centre for Military Health Research to conduct a study on the health and wellbeing of UK armed forces personnel.

Recognition

The veterans team is responsible for ensuring that former service in the armed forces is recognised, appreciated and valued by both the government and general public. It does this by formulating, developing, evaluating and reviewing policy taking account of financial and presentational aspects.

Raising awareness

The Veterans team is responsible for raising awareness of the role of veterans and their contribution to society through initiatives such as Armed Forces Day, and the provision of HM Armed Forces and UK Merchant Seafarers Veterans lapel badges.

Heroes Return 2

The Big Lottery Fund is delivering the Heroes Return 2 programme. World War 2 veterans from the UK, Channel Islands and Republic of Ireland can apply for travel and accommodation costs to visit the places where they saw active service. They can also receive funding to take part in an official commemorations in the UK.

The scheme was scheduled to close on 31 December 2012.

Transition

Information about some of the issues which may affect servicemen and women who are due to leave and veterans who have left the armed forces, including homelessness and support for veterans in the criminal justice system.

Support following discharge

A smooth transition to civilian life is about ensuring ex-service personnel have the support they need once they have been discharged from the armed forces.

The vast majority of the 20,000 servicemen and women leaving the armed forces each year make the transition from service to civilian life without significant difficulties. However, there are some who do need additional support. The current focus is on homeless veterans and veterans in the criminal justice system.

Homeless veterans

The MOD supports a co-ordinated approach to meet the needs of ex-service personnel, working with policy leads from across government to ensure that those ex-service personnel who require support in securing accommodation receive appropriate assistance. The Department for Communities & Local Government (DCLG) in England and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have primary responsibility for homelessness policy.

Research

The Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) provide data on the number of veterans seen rough sleeping in London.

The latest CHAIN survey (funded by DCLG) estimated that 3% of those found rough sleeping in London, from 1 April 2010 to 31 March 2011 had previously served in HM armed forces. The number of veterans who are ‘statutory’ homeless is not available.

Supported housing

The MOD has supported the establishment of 2 supported housing schemes for ex-service personnel - Mike Jackson House in Aldershot, which opened in 2008 and The Beacon at Catterick, which opened to residents in September 2011. The focus is on helping individuals in service to ensure the risk of becoming homeless is minimised through the provision of schemes which offer affordable housing solutions.

Early service leavers

Early service leavers have been identified as a group particularly at risk of facing homelessness. This group receive appropriate assistance, however, it must be recognised that those who leave early tend to be vulnerable individuals from the outset, rather than become vulnerable as a result of their short career in the armed forces.

Veterans in the Criminal Justice System

Veterans in prison

The MOD and the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) have been working to provide up to date and authoritative data on the number of veterans in prison in England and Wales. The MOD’s Defence Statistics have estimated that, as at November 2009, regular ex-service personnel represented 3.5% of offenders in prison.

Defence Statistics have also determined that ex-service personnel in prison are predominantly male, British nationals, ex-army other ranks. The time between discharge from the armed forces and the start of their current prison sentence ranged from 0 to 41 years. However, Defence Statistics estimated that for males aged 18 to 54, the proportion of ex-service personnel in prison was 30% less than the proportion of the general population in the same age group.

Veterans on probation

Defence Statistics has also determined that, as at 30 September 2009, 3.4% of those supervised by Probation Trusts in England and Wales had previously served as regulars in the UK armed forces.

Defence Statistics also found this group to be predominately male, ex-army other rank, with 50% being aged 35 years and over. The time between discharge from the armed forces and the start of their current supervision record varied from 0 to 47 years, with 49% having received their supervision record within 10 years of leaving and only 6% within a year of leaving.

Information on previous cases of supervision records for these individuals was not available. However, Defence Statistics estimated that overall, a male member of the general population aged 18 to 54 was 12% more likely to have a probation supervision record than a former member of the armed forces.

Defence Statistics reports

Visit Statistics at MOD

Ex service offenders working group

Status

The ex-service offenders Working Group (ESOWG) is a non-executive group with a clear reporting chain within the MOD and the MOJ who each report to their respective Ministers. This ensures that the working group remains core business.

Membership

  • MOJ - National Offender Management Service - Chair
  • MOD
  • The Royal British Legion
  • Her Majesty’s Prison Dartmoor
  • Combat Stress
  • SSAFA Forces Help
  • Nacro
  • Veterans UK Veterans Welfare Service
  • Action for Prisoner’s Families
  • Liaison Officer Scottish Prison Service
  • Liaison Officer Northern Ireland Prison Service
  • Centre for Mental Health

Aim

The working group aims to ensure that the ex-service prison and probation offender population, their families and the resettlement services, are fully informed of the forms and levels of support and assistance available from Veterans UK and the voluntary and community sector.

This support and assistance applies during imprisonment as well as pre and post discharge. This work is designed to contribute to wider government policy for reducing the risk of reoffending by those offenders either in custody or serving community sentences, and ensure a common and collaborative approach to veterans in the criminal justice system across the UK, including coordination, communication and effective working practices between all the major stakeholders.

Objectives

  • produce accurate statistics on the ex-service population in prison service establishments (snapshot analysis)
  • produce accurate statistics of the number of ex-service personnel on probation (serving community sentences or released on licence)
  • monitor changes in statistics of the ex-service population
  • tailor support for veterans in those prison establishments with higher ex-service populations and which analysis shows to have specific issues, including mental health. Take into account the differing requirements during imprisonment, pre and post discharge
  • raise awareness (veterans and staff in prison establishments and probation service) of support available from Veterans UK and the voluntary and community sector through appropriate means of communications and publicity including through the Veterans UK website
  • feedback from prison establishments to gauge the level of awareness of the ‘working group’ and services for veterans and recommend improvements if necessary
  • SSAFA Forces Help, The Royal British Legion (TRBL) and Combat Stress to conduct prison visits as appropriate
  • SSAFA, TRBL and Combat Stress provide feedback of progress/issues at working groups. TRBL and SSAFA and Combat Stress feedback should cover periodic reports on casework including as appropriate the type of welfare assistance requested and provided, training conducted etc
  • Centre for Mental Health to feedback on issues and progress around veterans mental health arising from the reference group they have established to look at this area
  • devise measures of effectiveness to gauge the impact of the working group and related activities in reducing re-offending
  • highlight issues of concern raised by the Ex-Service Offenders Working Group (ESOWG) to the MOJ and MOD. Report progress in order that ministers can be kept informed

Homelessness

Homelessness is defined as having no permanent accommodation, and includes people in hostels and those couch-surfing. Rough sleeping is only those people actually sleeping on the streets.

Responsibility

The primary responsibility for homelessness policy lies with DCLG in England and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. Each policy lead has a strategy for handling homelessness among the general population and assigning social housing to particular individuals.

There are variations in the way that waiting lists are operated by the social housing provider - eg. local authority, housing association, or registered social landlord - as responsibility has been devolved to them provided they operate within agreed housing regulations.

When in-service all accommodation needs are met by the MOD so in-service personnel are a low priority on a social housing waiting lists.

Local connection

Until recently, no recognition was given to service personnel if, on leaving the armed forces, they wanted to apply for social housing in an area local to their duty station; their application could only be based on their place of origin. This meant some service leavers struggled to secure accommodation.

Legislation changed in England, Scotland and Wales to enable service personnel to establish a ‘local connection’ with the area in which they are serving or have served to allow parity of treatment with civilians already living in the area with regards to accessing social housing. This puts the armed forces on an equal footing to others when applying for social housing. The changes do not mean that service personnel can ‘queue jump’ others on the social waiting list. Where they still have an entitlement to MOD accommodation, they would be treated the same as anybody else who is suitably housed but wish to apply for social housing, ie. at low priority. The provisions in Northern Ireland are already of a good standard.

Certificate of Cessation

Service personnel can inform the social housing provider that they will lose their entitlement to MOD accommodation up to 6 months in advance of a discharge date through issue of a ‘Certificate of Cessation to Occupation’ of MOD living accommodation. This warns the social housing provider that the housing options available need to consider, taking into account family construct, future employment and the individual’s finances. It does not mean an automatic entitlement to social housing or a ticket to move to the top of the waiting list.

The certificate does not take the place of a social housing application or give automatic entitlement to social housing on or before discharge date. The certificate is only a guidance note for social housing providers. It is not legislative but should alert all parties to start engaging on housing options for the individual in advance of a discharge date. This minimises uncertainty and prevents MOD having to go to court to gain a ‘possession order’ for the service accommodation.

Possession orders

Homelessness legislation only applies to a service person once a ‘possession order’ has been issued. The effect of the issuing of ‘possession order’ is that the service person’s social housing application moves from consideration under social housing regulations to homelessness legislation.

Under homelessness legislation the service person’s application is prioritised, depending upon circumstances (family construct and finances), and they may be given temporary/interim living accommodation (such as bed & breakfast), until a permanent solution can be found. A permanent solution may vary from family to family depending on circumstances, availability and timelines.

Supporting homeless veterans: Mike Jackson House

Mike Jackson House (MJH) is a supported housing project based in Aldershot specifically designed for homeless veterans.

MJH’s main aim is to support and assist veterans back into an independent way of living.

The accommodation block has 25 furnished, self-contained flats, and located in Aldershot. It was opened in July 2008 and named after General Sir Mike Jackson, former head of the British army and run by the Riverside Care and Support, funded by Hampshire County Council.

Client ages have ranged from 17 to 61, with numerous support needs from alcohol and drugs issues, mental health, post traumatic stress disorders, homelessness, unemployment and poor education skills.

The staff at MJH are pro-active in finding solutions and support to help the tenants achieve their goals whilst they stay at MJH. They currently employ 3 support workers and 1 peer support worker with a client caseload of 7 clients each with the peer support worker picking up the remaining 4 clients who present the most challenging behaviour.

Facilities

Communal areas: places for veterans to meet and chat in a relaxing atmosphere with staff away from an interview room setting.

IT suite: this is the most used facility in the scheme. MJH have to operate a booking system as it is always full. They currently have 5 PCs and it’s run on the same basis as an internet café.

Training kitchen: staff have supported residents in cooking skills, cooking on a budget - skills that most of the veterans don’t have.

Supporting homeless veterans: The Beacon

The Beacon is a new facility in Catterick for homeless single ex-service leavers and those who are at risk of becoming homeless.

The Beacon provides a supported housing facility for 31 homeless veterans and opened in September 2011. It is managed and operated by Riverside Care and Support in Catterick near the existing garrison. It provides training and support (e.g a training kitchen, workshop, IT suite and garden) and accepts complex referrals, such as veterans with PTSD and substance abuse issues.

The Prince’s Trust also plan to run an entrepreneurship programme at The Beacon using part of a £5 million fund provided by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills for supporting veterans under the age of 30 to run their own businesses.

MOD gifted the land on which the scheme is built and provided start-up funding from the Veterans Challenge Fund. Partnership funding was also secured from the Homes and Communities Agency and the DCLG, in addition to voluntary and community sector organisations.

Ministerial working group on tackling homelessness

The aim of the ministerial working group is to improve people’s lives by preventing and tackling homelessness. By bringing the relevant government departments together to share information, resolve issues and avoid unintended policy consequences, it will be able to help enable communities to tackle the multi-faceted issues that contribute to homelessness. It meets quarterly.

Formal policy decisions made by the working group will be subject to the usual processes of collective cabinet committee clearance.

Membership and departmental interest in homelessness:

  • DCLG (housing and homelessness) (chair)
  • MOD (defence personnel, welfare and veterans)
  • Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (adult skills)
  • Department of Health (health and care services)
  • Department for Work and Pensions (welfare and employment)
  • MOJ (criminal justice)
  • Home Office (policing and immigration)
  • Department for Education (children and youth services)

The lead policy official from each department will also attend.

Voluntary and community sector

MOD works closely with many different organisations within the voluntary and community sector. We are committed to working in partnership with the ex-service charitable sector to deliver a high level of support where needed and particularly to the more vulnerable individuals in the armed forces community.

There is a long and distinguished history of charitable contributions supporting the welfare and recreation of service personnel and veterans. Many charities have historical connections with the armed forces, such as The Royal British Legion and SSAFA-Forces Help.

The defence budget cannot meet every welfare and recreational need that is identified among the armed forces community. The continuing generous support of charities sits alongside the provision of facilities from public funds, as is the practice in many walks of life in the UK.

Forging stronger partnerships by building on existing arrangements and developing better relationships with the voluntary and community sector helps to meet these welfare and recreational needs.

In MOD the lead responsibility for voluntary and community sector issues rests with the Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Personnel and Training). Several areas within head office, including DCDS Pers and the Director of Media and Communications enjoy a good relationship with the Confederation of British Service and Ex-Service Organisations (COBSEO).

COBSEO is a membership organisation of 169 organisations, including 66 Regimental Associations. Their members range from larger charities such as The Royal British Legion and the British Limbless Ex Servicemen’s Association to smaller organisations such as the Burma Star Association. COBSEO provides a focus to communicate the concerns of its member organisations, and to consult with the MOD ensuring that the needs of the armed forces community are considered when MOD polices are developed.

Practical examples of voluntary and community sector partnerships include:

  • Welfare pathway
  • Army recovery capability
  • Mental health pilots

Identified needs could be as individual as a seriously injured serving soldier requiring adaptations to their property, to the provision of a supported housing facility for service leavers at risk of becoming homeless.

Voluntary organisations

The Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) provides compensation for any injury, illness or death which is predominantly caused by service on or after 6 April 2005.

You may be wishing to both explain the scheme to your members and direct a potential claimant to the experts at Veterans UK (formerly the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency), who administer the scheme.

You can give individuals general awareness about the scheme through these channels:

  • ‘the Essential Guide to the AFCS’ leaflet
  • a contact card and a poster for display

You can gain further information through the following channels:

  • presentation on the scheme
  • visit Armed Forces Compensation to download a claim form
  • phone the free helpline for information and guidance: 0808 1914 2 18 (UK only), +44 1253 866 043 (overseas)

It is important that any information that you may give to claimants does not try and predict the outcome of their claim. Any specific queries should be directed to the experts at Veterans UK.

Commemoration: war graves

Members of the armed forces who died during either of the 2 world wars, between 4 August 1914 to 31 August 1921, and 3 September 1939 to 31 December 1947, are buried in official world war graves. The graves of service personnel who died after 1947 are categorised as non-world war graves. The definition of non-world war graves also encompasses the graves of those service dependents who died overseas, while accompanying service personnel, and are buried in military cemeteries.

The MOD’s commitment to the maintenance of service graves is largely determined by the age of the grave.

Pre-World War 1

Before World War 1 the burying of the deceased was traditionally a function of the ship or regiment to which they belonged. No formal assistance was offered by the, then, Admiralty or War Office, and only a limited number of such graves are maintained at MOD’s expense. These are generally graves located in a military cemetery funded by the MOD where all graves are maintained automatically and failure to do so would detract from the overall appearance of the cemetery.

World War 1 and 2

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) was established and is funded to provide a permanent official commemoration for those who died in the two world wars. It maintains in perpetuity the graves and the official memorials which commemorate those who have no known graves. The CWGC’s principle of non-repatriation of war dead was implemented for both world wars so that those who fought and fell together could be honoured together. The UK government, one of the six member Commonwealth countries supporting the CWGC, contributes over 78% of the funding for this work which is proportionate to our number of war dead.

The inter-war years

Between 1 September 1921 and 2 September 1939 responsibility for service burials reverted to the pre-1914 arrangements whereby ships, regiments and units buried their own dead without central assistance. However, dependent on service, some casualties were provided with an official headstone and, in some instances, they received a service (as distinct from a private) funeral. Exceptionally, these relatively few graves are maintained at public expense. As with pre-World War 1 graves, inter-war year graves may be maintained at public expense if they are located in a military cemetery funded by the MOD where all graves are maintained automatically and failure to do so would detract from the overall appearance of the cemetery.

1948 and beyond

Since 1 January 1948 it has been the MOD’s policy that if a member of the armed forces dies in service their next of kin (NOK) are offered the opportunity of the individual having a service funeral and official headstone, to be maintained in perpetuity at public expense.

Service personnel and, if serving overseas, their accompanying dependents, who died post 1 January 1948, were buried in non-world war graves locally or could be repatriated at private expense for a private funeral.

In 1963, the UK government’s policy of non-repatriation changed and if service personnel or their accompanying dependents died while serving in north west Europe, next of kin were allowed the choice of either repatriating and burying the body at public expense or for two relatives to travel out to attend the service funeral overseas.

In 1967, the policy was extended to cover the rest of the world.

It was decided at the time that these arrangements would not be retrospective. However, service personnel, or their accompanying dependents, who died while serving overseas after 1 January 1948 can be repatriated at private expense for a private funeral.

Private graves

The MOD will maintain in perpetuity the graves of all personnel who died in service on or after 1 January 1948, who had both a service funeral and a service headstone, and the grave has been registered to the MOD. Where the NOK elect to have a private funeral, or choose a non-MOD pattern headstone, the graves are maintained privately and the MOD has no responsibility for them.

Related information:

Non Regular Permanent Staff: Pension and attributable benefits schemes and NRPS redundancy scheme regulations

Non Regular Permanent Staff pension scheme

The Non Regular Permanent Staff pension scheme, previously under chapter 9 of TA regulations 1978, has been re-stated in Schedule 1 of the Defence Council Regulations and contains no fundamental change to the benefits payable.

The re-made scheme incorporates amendments required as a result of changes to occupational pension legislation including provisions for pensions on divorce, payment to civil partners and increasing the upper age limit for payment of children’s pensions. It also makes provision to pay pensions for life to all adult dependants where death is caused by service, reflecting changes to MOD policy. The attributable benefits for injury or death caused by service have been removed to a separate scheme to comply with tax legislation.

Non Regular Permanent Staff attributable benefits scheme

A has been established at Schedule 2 of the Defence Council Regulations for injury or death caused by Service before 6 April 2005, (payment for injury or death caused by Service from 6 April 2005 is made under the Armed Forces Compensation scheme).

This is because the Finance Act 2004 introduced a new pension tax regime under which payments from a pension scheme for attributable injury or death would be unauthorised payments and tax charges would be levied on both the individual member of the scheme and the pension scheme. There are no changes to the level of benefits previously set out in Chapter 9 of TA Regulations 1978, but in line with changes to the pension scheme provision is made to pay benefits to civil partners and unmarried partners, and benefits to all adult dependants are payable for life.

Non Regular Permanent Staff redundancy scheme

On 9 August 2012, were extended to members of the NRPS who are made redundant. The previous redundancy scheme arrangements were set out in the Territorial Army Regulations 1978 but these were revoked on 1 September 2011 by The Reserve Forces Non Regular Permanent Staff (Pension and attributable benefits schemes) Regulations 2011.

Medical and dental officers bonus scheme

The bonus arrangements for medical and dental officers replace the benefits available to members of Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS) 05 (and those who have opted out) under the Early Departure Payments (EDP) scheme.

The bonus arrangements not only replace the EDP, but also the Commission Transfer Grant (CTG) currently paid to Guaranteed Minimum Pensions (GMPs) who transfer from a ‘short’ to ‘medium’ commission. GMPs who chose to transfer to AFPS 05 and are eligible for the first primary care bonuses having already received a CTG will receive the bonus payment less the value of the CTG.

Where do I find out more about the bonus scheme?

The directed letter details the bonus scheme and the eligibility points, and the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) provide more information on the scheme.

How do I apply for a bonus?

You need to complete the application form

Pension Tax Relief - annual allowance and scheme pays

What is the annual allowance?

This is the annual limit on pensions savings, ie. the annual growth in the value of the pension pot, allowed without incurring a tax charge. In the case of the armed forces pension schemes, this is the amount of value that can be added each year to the value of the pension.

Significant changes to the annual allowance (AA) came into effect on 6 April 2011 when the annual tax free allowance was reduced from £255,000 to £50,000.

Who Is likely to be affected?

Only a small number of service personnel will exceed the new limit on the basis of their armed forces pension alone. Other ranks are highly unlikely to be affected by these changes, but some officers may incur a tax liability on promotion. This is likely to start to impact on promotion from OF3 (Major and equivalent) to OF4 (Lieutenant Colonel and equivalent), particularly for those promoting late in their career; but the most pronounced effect is expected at the ranks of OF5 (Colonel and equivalent) and above. Additionally, the most senior officers (OF7 and above) may also incur a tax liability as a consequence of annual pay increments.

The introduction of Scheme Pays

On 11 August 2011 HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) introduced a process called Scheme Pays to assist individuals in meeting part or all of any tax bill arising as a result of breaching the AA. Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS) members who incur an AA tax bill exceeding £2,000 may elect for the tax due to be paid by the AFPS. This amount will then be recovered by a reduction in the pension benefits paid on retirement.

Breaching the annual allowance

Individuals who exceed the AA because of the growth in the value of their AFPS benefits will be alerted by Veterans UK, via pension statements sent by the end of October following the end of the tax year (October 2012 for FY 11/12). Where the AA is exceeded, individuals will need to declare this to HMRC via a self assessment tax return, due no later than 31 January following the end of the tax year (31 January 13 for FY 11/12).

Veterans UK cannot take into account any personal pension arrangements that individuals may have made when calculating potential AA tax charges.

Individuals who believe that they may have exceeded the AA because of a combination of personal and AFPS pension savings must make their own independent calculations for the cumulative value of all pension schemes.

Service personnel may request a pension statement to assist them with this calculation once per year free of charge by writing to Veterans UK. This can be requested at any time and in addition to the statement that will be issued in October.

Electing Scheme Pays and other methods of meeting the tax charge

Individuals will need to request a Scheme Pays forecast from Veterans UK, a request proforma will be issued alongside the AA pension statement. Upon issuing the forecast, Veterans UK will also automatically issue an election form for Scheme Pays.

Members should give careful consideration as to which method of meeting the tax charge is most appropriate for them given their financial circumstance and should seek independent financial advice if needed. This may include a personal payment in full, or in part payment in conjunction with Scheme Pays, to meet the charge.

Adjustment of tax code

For tax charges below £3,000 individuals can request HMRC to adjust their tax code to allow the tax charge to be recovered. A request for a tax code adjustment needs to be made directly to HMRC in the normal self assessment process. The deadline for requesting this facility is 30 December.

Veterans UK will not be able to provide advice or guidance on meeting the tax charge via tax code adjustments.

Deadline for electing Scheme Pays

The deadline for completing an election form for Scheme Pays will normally be the 31 July in the year following the year in which the tax charge relates ended. For the first year of operation (FY 2011/12) this deadline has been extended to 31 December 2013.

HMRC must also be informed of a decision to elect for Scheme Pays by 31 January following the end of the tax year. This is done through the normal self-assessment tax return process. For 2011/12 the deadline will be 31 January 2013.

Pension Tax Relief - Lifetime Allowance

What is the lifetime allowance?

Lifetime allowance (LTA) is the limit on total pension savings eligible for tax relief. It was initially introduced in tax year 2006 to 2007 at a limit of £1.5 million, rising to £1.8 million in 2010 to 2011. From 6 April 2012 the LTA limit was reduced from £1.8 million to £1.5 million. If the LTA is exceeded a tax charge is applied.

The LTA applies to the total amount of pension savings held in registered pension schemes, including occupational pension schemes such as the armed forces pension schemes and personal pension arrangements.

LTA is assessed either at point of retirement or when pension benefits are drawn. Any tax due is automatically recovered from the pension, with a reduced pension being paid. Widows/widowers and dependents pension benefits will be calculated on the unreduced pension.

What changes have been introduced to the LTA?

On 11 August 2011 HMRC announced the availability of a protection regime called Fixed Protection to assist individuals who have or expect to have a pension pot in excess of £1.5 million (for Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS), broadly equivalent to an annual pension of £65,000) after 6 April 2012.

Fixed Protection allows an individual to ‘fix’ his/her LTA up to a maximum of £1.8 million after 6 April 2012, rather than the reduced LTA of £1.5 million. Members had to notify Veterans UK of their intention to apply for Fixed Protection by 31 March 2012 and HMRC by 05 April 2012. Members can no longer apply for Fixed Protection.

Inheritance Tax exemption for veterans

When someone dies, Inheritance Tax must normally be paid on their estate (everything they owned at the time of death), if their estate is worth more that a certain amount (currently £325,000). The main exemption is if they leave their total estate to their spouse.

However, the estate of serving or formers members of the armed forces may be certified as being exempt from inheritance tax under the provisions of s154 of the Inheritance Tax Act 1984, if the MOD agrees the death resulted from, was linked to, or hastened by, an injury or disease suffered (or aggravated) whilst on active service against the enemy or other service of a warlike nature, such as operations against hostile forces in peace time or anti-terrorist operations or for deaths occurring on or after 19 March 2014, where the individual was targeted and killed because they were a serving or former member of the armed forces, or death occurred on or can be linked to injuries sustained on duty whilst responding to an emergency circumstance.

Whilst the total exemption is not transferrable to a spouse’s estate, the granting of an exemption on a veteran’s estate will double (currently to £650,000) ) the personal tax threshold used to assess any inheritance tax liability on the spouses estate when they die.

Each application for an exemption under s154 and s155a is considered on its merits, after the death of the veteran concerned, and requires the MOD to be given access to the veteran’s full medical records. Neither war time service in the armed forces, or receipt of a war pension, is guarantee that an exemption will be granted.

Anyone wishing to apply for an exemption on a veteran’s estate under s154 / s155a should contact the MOD Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre:

Defence Business Services
Joint Casualty & Compassionate Centre (Deceased Estates)
Room G35
Innsworth House
Imjin Barracks
Gloucester GL3 1HW
Telephone: 01452 712612 Ext 8174

or Email: dbs-jcccgroupmailbox@mod.uk

Veterans UK

SSAFA Forces Help

Help For Heroes

Combat Stress

Blesma