‘Thousands’ of retired soldiers unaware of entitlement

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retired South Yorkshire soldiers could be missing out on pensions they do not know they are entitled to, a campaign group has claimed.

The Equality for Veterans Association, which is campaigning for better pensions for service personnel, wants to highlight the problem - which they believe affects ‘hundreds, possibly thousands’ of veterans.

Sid West, a former soldier who is now campaign manager for the association, said: “Entitlement to pensions in the Army was changed in 1975.

“Before then, people had to serve 16 years if they were officers or 22 years as non commissioned officers, or they were not entitled to anything.

“After that date, it changed so people were entitled to pensions pro-rata after having served three years.

“We are concerned there were people who joined before 1975, when there was no entitlement if you had not served the very long required period, and left afterwards who may not have realised that they were entitled to the pension and are still not receiving it.

“We believe there are hundreds, possibly thousands of former soldiers in South Yorkshire who are in that situation.

“Anyone who served before 1975 and left afterwards is entitled to a pension and if they are not receiving one theyshould contact us for help.”

The campaign group is also calling on the Government to change the rules for soldiers who left before 1975, so they also receive pensions.

Mr West’s call was backed by senior Sheffield councillor Clive Skelton, former chairman of the licensing board, who served in the Army’s Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers from 1967 to 1992, retiring after the first Gulf War.

Coun Skelton, who has made sure he is receiving his armed forces pension, said: “Veterans absolutely should come forward. I have my full pension rights but if there is anyone who should be paid and is missing out, they need to come forward.”

The councillor helped ensure fuel tankers were sent to troops on the front line in the Iraq conflict of 1991.

He added: “The old system was unfair, it was a travesty.”

Sheffield Central Labour MP Paul Blomfield added that he would be willing to support the association’s campaign for equal pension rights.

“I hope that we’ll be able to use the forthcoming debate on the military covenant to press the issue with the Government,” he said.

Anyone who qualifies for the full pension should contact the Equality for Veterans Association by logging onto www.efva.co.uk or ringing 01924 827628.