photo credit: Lisa Norwood via photopin cc

As a disabled veteran of the Women’s Royal Air Force medical branch, I had been well looked after by the UK government since my medical discharge in 1984. The lifetime award of a War Pension (WP) was a guaranteed monthly income and an acknowledgement of my failing health and permanent disability acquired during military service. Since my discharge, all reviews of the WP identified increasing health limitations and so increased the WP, which afforded confidence that my income would increase as my health deteriorated.

A WP is not a benefit, and is totally unrelated to unemployment. A WP is an acknowledgement of chronic illness or permanent disability acquired when in the military service of the Crown. Until 2008, all medical reassessments for my WP were conducted by experienced former military doctors, and always produced clinically accurate medical reports that I never felt the need to challenge. This all changed in 2008 and an increasing sense of betrayal soon followed the introduction of the UK’s ‘welfare reforms’.

Administered by the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency (SPVA), from April 2005 the welfare of older disabled veterans became less significant when the New Labour government replaced the WP with the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) for modern day military personnel. The British public were growing [more] concerned at the numbers of maimed and injured troops appearing on the national news reports every night due to the Iraq war, so a new compensation scheme was suddenly introduced by the Blair administration which gained a great deal of public attention, and approval, and was a distraction from the increasing public disapproval of the war.

The AFCS was much more generous than the WP, with the most profoundly disabled military personnel awarded significant sums of cash which could purchase an adapted house and guaranteed their financial wellbeing for the rest of their lives. Compared to the possible financial awards for the AFCS, often acquired with the help of a growing army of legal advocates, the WP income even for those of us with the higher levels of profound disability pales into insignificance. For serving military personnel, the introduction of the more generous AFCS suggested that the UK government had at long last acknowledged their real value, and were finally compensating them adequately for the often enormous personal sacrifices willingly made when in military service.

Therefore, nothing had prepared me for my experience in 2008, when I applied for another review of my WP due to a further deterioration in my health. I was unaware that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had adopted a new assessment model for the assessment of claimants of long-term sickness and disability benefit, previously known as Incapacity Benefit, which was replaced in October 2008 with the Employment Support Allowance (ESA). The introduction of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), using a fatally flawed biopsychosocial (BPS) model of assessment was introduced by the DWP to restrict access to the ESA, which guaranteed inevitable preventable harm with Coroners identifying suicides as being linked to the WCA.

From 2010 the new Coalition government increased the pressure on claimants under the auspices of additional austerity measures, with a very successful smear campaign against the chronically sick and disabled population, as conducted by Iain Duncan Smith MP when Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and aided by the tabloid press.

Conducted by Atos Healthcare, an unaccountable corporate giant in the private sector, the UK welfare reforms introduced corporate welfare crime into the assessment of chronically ill and disabled people by the adoption of the WCA and the relentless threat of benefit sanctions, which removed access to all benefit income and inevitably led to death by starvation. War Pensioners were to be treated the same as the civilian sick and disabled population, with an assumption by the DWP that all claimants were making bogus claims as the SPVA abandoned War Pensioners to their fate.

Retired military doctors were no longer employed and, instead of the anticipated clinically accurate review of my War Pension by a former military doctor, in December 2008 I was confronted with a representative from Atos Healthcare claiming to be a doctor. He refused to offer any form of identity when he arrived at my home, and proceeded to conduct a meaningless computerised questionnaire that I later identified as the WCA, and totally unrelated to a military WP. Not only was an increase in my War Pension refused, but the award notice also advised that no further reassessment of the WP would be permitted.

This DWP decision not only threatened my pension but also challenged my integrity, as the award letter presumed I had exaggerated claims of increasing disability. With a background in healthcare, my experience of a visiting doctor from a corporate giant conducting a WCA instead of a WP review introduced me to the world of research, first to challenge the SPVA, who were once very supportive of disabled veterans but who, as of 2008, decided we were all suddenly governed by greed so all applications for a WP review were treated with suspicion.

Outrage took this former healthcare professional on a lengthy journey of research discovery, which exposed the fact that the introduction of the ongoing ‘welfare reforms’ had first been suggested by Thatcher in 1982, and were planned since 1992 when a notorious American corporate insurance giant had been appointed as government advisers on ‘welfare claims management.’

By adopting a discredited biopsychosocial (BPS) model of assessment for the WCA, which disregards diagnosis and prognosis, people would inevitably die and, having demonstrated this in numerous reports, the Cabinet Office failed to ‘incentivise’ me to stop the research in a personal ‘phone call in 2014.

Following seven years of independent research the book ‘Cash Not Care: the planned demolition of the UK welfare state’ was published in September 2016, thanks to the valuable support of academics who willingly shared their research with me. Supported by Inclusion London, the book was launched in London in October 2016.

*Cash Not Care: the planned demolition of the UK welfare state  LINK

** You Tube: London book launch of Cash Not Care  LINK

First published by The Progressive Pulse on 5 December 2017. Republished here with permission from the author.

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