HC Deb 20 January 1997 vol 288 cc509-10W
Ms. Lynne

To ask the Secretary of Social Security if he will make a statement on the proposals to change the rules on backdating of awards to war pensioners in respect of ex-military service men who face a disablement not originally recognized as being caused by military service where medical evidence proves at some later date that military service was the cause of the disablement with particular reference to Gulf war syndrome. [11362]

Mr. Heald

Under the war pensions scheme, awards may be made in respect of any disablement which is attributable to service. Where a claim is made within seven years of termination of service—which is the case for all claims received so far in respect of service in the Gulf—the onus is on the Secretary of State to show beyond reasonable doubt that service has played no part in the cause or course of the claimed disablement. The benefit of any reasonable doubt is always given to the claimant.

Where a claim has been rejected solely on the ground that medical opinion is that the aetiology of particular condition is such that it is not caused by service, and there is a subsequent change in medical opinion on that issue, the Secretary of State may review his decision and make an award. He has the discretion to make the award for any period preceding the date of his review.

In order to simplify administration of the scheme and reduce the cost of delivery, it is proposed that where there is a change of medical opinion, any resulting award will be backdated for a maximum of one year preceding the review. No final decision on this proposal will be taken until comments from members of the Central Advisory Committee on War Pensions—who have been consulted on the change— have been fully considered. Any amendment to the law will apply to all changes of medical opinion, including any which affect conditions claimed due to service in the Gulf.