03. Who can receive a war disablement pension?

If you were injured or disabled when serving in the armed forces, you may be able to get a war disablement pension, which is paid by the Veterans Agency. Your illness, injury or disability does not need to have occurred in active service or during war, and may be physical or psychological.

You may be able to receive a war disablement pension if you were:

  • disabled by illness or an injury while serving in the British armed forces, including the Ulster Defence Regiment (now known as the Royal Irish Regiment), the Home Guard, or nursing and auxiliary services;
  • disabled while serving as a civil defence volunteer;
  • a civilian disabled as a result of enemy action in the Second World War;
  • a merchant seaman, a member of the naval auxiliary services or a coastguard, and you were disabled by an injury or a disease you suffered because of conditions during a war, or because you were a prisoner of war; or
  • a member of the Polish forces under British command who served in the Second World War, or in the Polish Resettlement Forces, and you were injured or disabled during this service.

If you are unsure whether you can claim a war disablement pension, you can get advice from the Veterans Agency. See 'Further help' for information on how to contact the Veterans Agency.

You cannot claim a war disablement pension if you are still serving in the armed forces.

You may be able to claim a war pension if you live abroad, provided you meet the rules above.

How much war disablement pension will I get?
The amount of money you get depends on how disabled you are. You may need to have a medical examination to assess this. You will be assessed on a percentage scale. The greater the disability, the higher the percentage.

If your disability is assessed at less than 20 per cent, you will usually be paid a lump sum. If you are assessed at 20 per cent disabled or more, you will usually receive a pension. As an example, a non-officer war pensioner receives:

  • £127.40 a week with 100 per cent disability; or
  • £63.70 a week with 50 per cent disability.

Can I get extra money if I have special needs?
You may also be able to get other allowances on top of the lump sum or pension. These include allowances for care and for mobility (getting around). There are four main 'supplementary allowances'. They are:

  • War Pensioners' Unemployability Supplement;
  • Constant Attendance Allowance;
  • Allowance for Lowered Standard of Occupation; and
  • Mobility Supplement.

You do not pay income tax on a war disablement pension or on supplementary allowances.

Is my war disablement pension affected by other income I have?
The amount you receive from a basic war disablement pension does not normally depend on other types of income you may have. However, the Veterans Agency will look at your other income when deciding whether it will pay you other allowances.

Also, your war disablement pension may be reduced if you have received:

  • compensation for your disablement from another organisation, such as the Ministry of Defence; or
  • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.

Does my war disablement pension affect my welfare benefits?
The first £10 a week of your basic war disablement pension is not counted as income when the Department for Work and Pensions is working out what level of means-tested benefits (such as Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance or pension credit) to pay you. But the rest of your war disablement pension counts as income and will affect your benefit. Some supplementary allowances are not counted as income when working out how much benefit you would be paid. 

Some of the supplementary allowances paid with your basic war disablement pension may overlap with your other social security benefits. If this happens, your benefits may be reduced by the amount of the overlap. If you need more help on your benefits and how they affect your war disablement pension, contact Citizens Advice, the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association - Forces Help (SSAFA Forces Help) or the Royal British Legion - see 'Further help' below for details.

What happens if I go into hospital or need extra care?
If you have to go into hospital, your basic war disablement pension is not affected. However, some types of supplementary allowance may be reduced, depending on how long you have to stay in hospital.

The Veterans Agency can also help with the cost of travelling for hospital treatment connected with your war pension disablement. However, to get this money, you must tell the Veterans Agency as soon as you know when your appointment will be. See 'Further help' below for information on how to contact the Veterans Agency.

You can also apply to the Veterans Agency for extra services such as respite breaks. A respite break pays for someone to care for you, to allow the person who normally cares for you to have a break. The Veterans Agency may also help to pay for:

  • private treatment for an artificial limb; or
  • a piece of medical equipment you have bought privately.

However, they will do this only if:

  • you need it because of your disability; and
  • you could not get them free from the NHS or from social services.

Priority hospital treatment for war disablement pensioners
NHS hospitals should give priority to war disablement pensioners, so you should be the first person to be examined or given treatment for the condition for which you receive your pension. This may not happen, however, if there is an emergency or someone else needs urgent treatment. You should tell your GP and hospital that you are a war pensioner to make sure you get priority treatment.

Specialist help for disabled veterans and their families
Several organisations help particular groups of veterans. These include:

  • The British Limbless Ex-Service Men's Association (BLESMA), for veterans who have lost a limb;
  • Ex-Services Mental Welfare Society, for veterans whose mental health has been affected by service in the armed forces; and
  • St Dunstan's, for blind veterans and their families.

See 'Further help' below for more details on how to contact these organisations.

Pensions for war widows and widowers
If your husband or wife's death was due to service in the armed forces, you may be able to claim a war widow's or widower's pension. You may also be able to receive extra allowances, such as allowances for care and mobility. See 'Can I get extra money if I have special needs?' below.

The Veterans Agency may also help with the cost of a funeral of a ex-serviceman or woman, if you need it.

A war widow's or widower's pension stops if you marry again or if you start living with someone as a partner. However, you may be able to start receiving it again if your new marriage ends or you stop living with someone as a partner.

Further information is available from the Veterans Agency (see 'Further help' below)

Inheritance tax for servicemen or women who die in active service
When someone dies, inheritance tax must normally be paid on their estate (everything they owned), if their estate is worth more than a certain amount. The main exception is if they leave their estate to their husband or wife. However, if a member of the forces dies as a result of active service, their estate is exempt from inheritance tax. For more about inheritance tax, see the Community Legal Service Direct leaflet 'Wills and Probate', or contact the Inland Revenue. See 'Further help' below for the number of its inheritance tax helpline.


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