Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Questions (127)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

127. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of former members of the Defence Forces that were awarded damages in respect of injuries received while in the Defence Forces who have had their pension entitlements restricted thereafter on the basis that they had received an award in court; if this practice is generally in operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13402/19]

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Written answers (Question to Defence)

The Army Pensions Acts 1923-1980 provide for the grant of pensions and gratuities to former members of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) in respect of permanent disablement due to a wound or injury attributable to military service (whether at home or abroad) or due to disease attributable to or aggravated by overseas service with the United Nations.

Section 13(2) of the Army Pensions Act, 1923, as amended, provides that any alternative compensation received may be taken into consideration in fixing the level of disability pension or gratuity that might otherwise be awarded for the same injury or medical condition. Compensation of the kind in question would usually result from a civil action for damages against the State, but compensation received from any other source is not excluded. The underlying objective of section 13(2) is to take into consideration compensation paid ‘on the double’ for the same disablement

The award of a disability pension or of a disablement gratuity is considered under Section 13(2) of the Army Pensions Act 1923 (as amended) in situations where alternative compensation is received in respect of the same injury (or injuries). Consideration under section 13(2) is confined to the specific injury for which the alternative compensation was also received.

In a case where Section 13(2) applies, the applicant or his/her solicitors are advised of the provisions of Section 13(2). They are invited to make submissions as to how much, if any of the alternative compensation should be taken into account in fixing the rate of disability pension. The Minister then makes a bona fide decision based on a consideration of all the facts of the case. Each case is considered on the basis of its individual circumstances, which vary widely. The Minister may decide to take all, some or none of the compensation into account in fixing the rate of disability pension. If the Minister decides to reduce the disability pension under Section 13(2), the reduction applies for the lifetime of the pension.

The Deputy has requested the number of cases in which personnel who were awarded damages in respect of injuries received while in the Defence Forces have had their pension entitlements restricted thereafter on the basis that they had received a civil award in courts.

The relevant legislative provisions have been in place since 1923.

Information as specifically requested by the Deputy is not readily available and it is not possible to compile without incurring significant administrative overheads.

However, information on the numbers over recent years who have had their disability benefits reduced or withheld under Section 13(2), including those where an award was received in court, is available and has been provided to the Deputy in November 2018 on foot of Parliamentary Question Number 70 on 17 October 2018. This information has been updated to reflect the information to a current date and is provided in the table below.

Number of disability benefits which have been reduced or withheld under Section 13(2) of the Army Pensions Act 1923, in each of the past ten years i.e. 2009 to March 2019.

Year

No. of disability pensions reduced

No. of disablement gratuities reduced/withheld

2009

4

5

2010

3

7

2011

2

5

2012

6

8

2013

3

5

2014

2

2

2015

4

2

2016

9

6

2017

15*

6

2018

10

2

2019

4

0

*following an internal review, a number of historical cases were decided in 2017.

The Army Pensions Acts provide for the award of both pensions and once-off gratuities, therefore information in relation to gratuity awards has also been included, for completeness.