Hundreds of injured veterans are facing the sack

Hundreds of British soldiers are expected to be sacked because wounds or injuries suffered in Iraq have left them unfit for frontline service, The Herald can reveal.

Up to 2000 veterans have been permanently medically downgraded and many are being assessed for compulsory discharge on the grounds that they are no longer capable of fulfilling operational roles.

The Ministry of Defence said 79 personnel had been discharged on medical grounds by September last year.

Although the MoD says it does not have up to date statistics for the number of troops permanently downgraded as a result of tours in Iraq, sources in its medical service say the total is close to 2000.

The total for last year was 1669, of whom 468 were downgraded due to combat wounds or accidents, 587 for “musculo-skeletal disorders”, 140 for mental and behavioural disorders, and 87 for respiratory complaints aggravated or caused by the desert climate. Army medical service sources said the number diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome is more than 800.

The Veterans’ Agency, an independent executive branch of the MoD, confirmed 263 soldiers have applied for disablement pensions and 148 applications have been approved.

Soldiers permanently downgraded are assessed to see whether places are available to employ them in less physically-demanding capacities. The usual alternative is discharge.

Shaun Rusling, vice-chairman of the National Gulf Veterans’ and Families’ Association, said: “The number applying for a war pension on health grounds between 2003 and now is five times greater than the level for the two years after the 1991 Gulf war.

“Someone in power should be asking why so many are facing what is effectively the sack after serving their country faithfully in increasingly dangerous circumstances.”