With regard to this Vote for pensions under the Army pensions Act and the Military Service Pensions Act, I think the best thing I can do is to go through the sub-heads and give the Dáil the views of my Department. This Vote is purely for statutory obligations that we have to meet. I propose to start with the last financial year under sub-head (a). The total number of pensions awarded during that year was 624, and gratuities 395, at an approximate total cost of £72,000. In the current financial year a total of 750 pensions is provided for at a cost of £45,000. That includes payment of arrears on new pensions. Provision is also made for the estimated payment of 250 gratuities in cases not eligible on medical assessment for pensions at an average figure of £40, amounting to £10,000. Where the disablement, as assessed on medical grounds, is less in degree than twenty per cent., the case is met by payment of a gratuity as set out in section 1, sub-section (3) of the Act. These figures indicate that, roughly, five-sixths of the work of first assessment of pension cases has been already completed, but there is a reassessment in most of these cases, so that, roughly, two-thirds has still to be continued until the final and statutory condition is reached, when the assessment is made final. Medical treatment, though not specifically within the Act, is being afforded in all such non-final cases, because it is felt that it is necessary in some cases to reduce disability and consequently there will be a corresponding reduction in the pensions. As regards gratuity cases, as I stated, two-thirds of the work of assessment has been already gone through. The total amount of the Vote under this sub-head is £55,000.
As to sub-head (b) —allowance and gratuities granted under sections 7 and 8 of the Act to widows, children, dependents and partial dependents of deceased officers and soldiers of the forces, and of the Irish Volunteers and Irish Citizen Army—the total number of awards under this sub-head during the last financial year was: allowances 194, gratuities 587. The total approximate cost last year was £60,000. In the current estimate provision is made for 200 allowances and 200 gratuities. The cost of the allowances is estimated at £17,000 and the cost of the gratuities at £16,000, so that the total estimate under this sub-head would be £33,000.
Coming to sub-head (c) —expenditure in connection with the provision of artificial appliances for officers and soldiers in receipt of wound pensions, the cost last year was approximately £2,000. In the estimate for the current year that is reduced by £1,000, to cover the cost of upkeep of limbs, to replace worn limbs, and, perhaps, supply a small number of new ones where needed.
Under sub-head (d) vocational training is given to officers and soldiers who are in receipt of wound pensions. Under sub-head (e) which touches on travelling and incidental expenses of discharged soldiers attending medical boards, etc., pay warrants are issued to those men, and their travelling expenses are paid backwards and forwards to Dublin while they are attending those medical boards. The estimate for the current year is £2,000, as against £2,900 spent under that sub-head last year.
We now come to sub-head (f)—military service pensions under the Act of 1924. There is a very big amount set out under this sub-head—£224,000. That is estimated for 3,784 men of all ranks. The total number was arrived at after very close consultation with the Secretary of the Board of Assessors and the Chairman of that Board. When we come to the figure of 3,784, it is the opinion of the Chairman of the Board that the number of persons to whom certificates will be issued will come approximately to 5,000. That will mean an addition of 1,216 to the above estimate. The majority of the latter will come within the lower grades, noncommissioned officers and men. I might say that this estimate is based absolutely on the experience we have gained up to date of the rate of progress we are able to maintain. Sometimes it is very difficult to arrive at a proper conclusion on account of the evidence submitted, and the way in which it is submitted. Very often the referees do not come up in time, and the people getting pensions very often give information which is misleading. Therefore, the work of this Board must necessarily be very slow. We want to see that every person who is entitled to get a pension under the Military Service Pensions Act will get one, but we also want to see that the people who are not entitled, and who seek, perhaps, to get a pension it was never intended they should get, will be properly dealt with, and that the State shall not give a pension unless it can be proved that a person is entitled to get one.
The amount in this estimate is an exceptionally large one. The probability is that, under existing circumstances, there will be an increase in this estimate for next year. While the amount may seem very large at the present time, we have given the matter every consideration, and we have taken all the data that we could get up to date, together with the rate of progress that has been made by the Board in assessing claims, and we have come to the conclusion that £224,000 will carry us through for the coming year. I will be glad to give you any further information that may be required under this Vote. I think I went through it fairly accurately. These estimates are all, I think, on the conservative side. We did not want to ask for money that will not be expended within the year. We went very carefully into it, and had the assistance of people who know what they were doing up to the present, and the progress they can make for the months that are to come.