Soldiers sacked before pension pay-out?
Did the army deliberately sack soldiers because they were within spitting distance of claiming substantial pension entitlements?
Some soldiers with more than a decade of service in the world's most dangerous trouble spots have been sacked just before they crossed the 16-year army service threshold, enabling them to qualify for substantial pension rights.
UK Servicemen aged 40-plus with 16 or 18 years' service behind them can claim a pension and tax-free lump sum when leaving the Army. They're also entitled to a second cash sum at 65.
However a recent culling of 3,000 army personnel is thought to have targeted many who would have been entitled to substantial pension benefits, including an immediate £12,000 stipend after quitting the army after 16 years.
"The decision is not being made on the grounds of ability, experience or commitment, purely on cost," Mr Henry Witham - his son Rupert was 12 months away from qualifying from a pension when he was sacked, despite several tours of Afghanistan - told the Telegraph. "It would appear that capable, experienced and dedicated officers are being sacrificed."
Army personnel are particularly vulnerable to such cuts as they have no union to represent them. However there is huge pressure on the public finances and some Treasury officials will feel a £12,000 a year pension at the age of 40 is unaffordable.
Covenant?But rewind back to 2000 when the Blair Government proposed a Military Covenant. Not legally enforceable it attempted to clarify how British society should support members of the armed forces, particularly with regard to the risks they took and the financial compensation returned to them.
Despite the introduction of this Military Covenant, some Chiefs of the Defence Staff have since claimed there is still not enough support given to injured troops and their relatives. The latest allegations will further strain the 'Covenant' relationship.
"We have been clear," the MOD said in an emailed statement, "that the length of service was not a consideration in the selection of individuals for redundancy and we have worked hard to ensure that those selected for redundancy receive the best possible pension and compensation package."
"This includes reducing how long soldiers would have to serve for before they qualify for an immediate pension – from 22 years to 18 years for those selected for redundancy. This means many individuals will receive an immediate income for which they otherwise wouldn't have qualified."
But clearly not everyone in the army feels they have been dealt with fairly. Will such soldiers affected attract some high-profile celebrity to support their cause? Probably not.