found this posted on : news.telegraph.com.uk
Army 'forcing out sick Gulf war veterans'
MoD using 'manning control' system to avoid paying soldiers medical pensions, reports Michael Smith, Defence Correspondent
The Ministry of Defence forced "hundreds" of victims of Gulf war syndrome to quit the Army under a system known as manning control to avoid paying them medical pensions.
If the soldiers were medically discharged they would have been automatically eligible for a medical pension. But because they were forced to quit, they received nothing.
The National Gulf Veterans and Families Association said yesterday that at least 400 of its members were forced out under the manning control system rather than being medically discharged.
Shaun Rusling, the association's chairman, said they were considering taking a class action against the MoD.
"All these people can prove they should have been medically discharged, but instead were wrongly discharged from the Army, either by manning control or jumping on their own accord before they were pushed.
"Because they weren't properly medically discharged they do not have any medical pension. It is a national disgrace, and it has been well hidden until now by the MoD fudging figures."
The revelation follows an admission by Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, that the MoD's figures for the numbers manning controlled were distorted.
The policy, first exposed by the case of Cpl Paul Biddis, has seen thousands of soldiers given the choice of being dismissed or switching to a short-term contract in a move designed to cut the numbers serving 22 years.
At the end of the short-term contract, the soldier is told that his or her "services are no longer required", allowing the MoD to evade its pension obligations.
Soldiers sign on for 22 years with options to leave at three-year points but unless they do something wrong, the Army can only dispense with their services at the six, nine or 12-year points. If they serve for the full 22 years they receive an immediate pension. This costs the MoD millions of pounds a year.
The Government announced a new system which does away with the immediate pension in the Queen's Speech but anyone who is already in the Army will still receive it if they serve the full 22 years.
The MoD has insisted that only a very small number of soldiers have been "manning controlled".
But even before the Gulf war veterans came forward 360 victims were taking legal action against the MoD.
Mr Hoon admitted, in a letter to Paul Keetch, the Liberal Democrat defence spokesman, that many more may have been affected since "some soldiers elected to leave" rather than wait to be forced out. His admission comes as documents leaked to The Daily Telegraph show that defence ministers misled Parliament over the extent of the "manning control" policy.
Lewis Moonie, the then veterans minister, told Parliament in June that there were "no plans to conduct any manning control point reviews in the next 12 months".
Mr Moonie's successor, Ivor Caplin, confirmed last month in a written reply to a question from Mr Keetch that this suspension was still in place.
But The Telegraph has seen documents sent to units since the alleged suspension in which they are still being given lists of soldiers who are to be considered for manning control.
One document said the Army Personnel Centre in Glasgow, which orchestrated the policy, "would no longer prompt units with a list of corporals, lance-corporals and privates approaching the manning control point".
But a subsequent document sent to the same unit gave a list of soldiers approaching their manning control points and when the unit did nothing it received a demand for confirmation that action was being taken.
Mr Keetch called for an inquiry amid what he said was mounting evidence that the system had been abused.
The legal action that was pending would force the MoD to come clean eventually, he said. Mr Keetch added: "If these Gulf war heroes were chucked on the scrap heap and denied medical pensions to save money, it is a national disgrace."
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