Byline: by Matthew Hickley
WHEN ministers unveiled plans four years ago to hand out millions of pounds in compensation to wounded hero soldiers, they must have hoped the rules would be well received.
Instead the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme has come to symbolise what critics claim is the thoughtless, uncaring treatment of British troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with serious wounds.
Blighted by inflexible bureaucracy, seemingly desperate penny-pinching and paltry payments, campaigners believe the AFCS is completely unable to provide the lifelong support many soldiers need, and is failing to cope with the human cost of Britain's current wars.
MoD officials defend the scheme as a genuine attempt to improve the lot of wounded troops, and point out that it has to operate against a backdrop of crippling budget shortfalls thanks to the Treasury.
The scheme matters so much because a soldier risking their life in battle is in a unique legal position - excluded from Britain's compensation culture. A civilian in the UK paralysed by an injury can look for someone to blame, and to sue - and then expect to win millions in a civil court to pay for their care.
Yet a soldier paralysed by a Taliban roadside bomb has nobody to sue.
The MoD is legally protected by the principle of 'combat immunity', so is not liable for injuries inflicted by the enemy. The AFCS was meant to address this issue. It is a 'no-fault' scheme offering compensation lump sums - and monthly payments in severe cases - to personnel injured on duty, …