This is a personal blog and I should declare that I am an ex-serviceman although have not been impacted in any way by what I am about to discuss.
I understand that not everyone is close to the military or feels quite the same way I do.
However, I hope you will bear with me during this post as I explain a great injustice and how we might all help to ensure we are, as a nation, honouring the military pension for all service personnel.
Honouring The Military Covenant
I just happen to feel pretty deeply, particularly in November, the month that we remember and honour our serving military personnel as well as those who have fallen in numerous conflicts around the globe.
Conflicts where servicemen and women do the bidding of our elected politicians in return for financial and pastoral support through what is termed the ‘Military Covenant’.
The armed forces covenant sets out the relationship between the nation, the state and the armed forces. It recognises that the whole nation has a moral obligation to members of the armed forces and their families and it establishes how they should expect to be treated.
It exists to redress the disadvantages that the armed forces community faces in comparison to other citizens and to recognise the sacrifices that they have made. At the local level, ‘community covenants’ are being signed across the country bringing military and civilian communities together. Our politicians are the guardians of the upkeep of this covenant.
Pensions are difficult and people need certainty
The world of pensions can be pretty difficult to navigate. Despite our best intentions as wealth managers and financial planners the sheer volume of legislative changes, differing regimes, ‘simplifcation’ and overly complex product design mean that for far too many individuals saving for their retirement they do not manage to achieve what they had hoped for.
For those in the military they have always expected that in return for service, often at great personal physical and mental cost, that they would receive a pension based upon their length of service. This remains true today so what is the problem?
The problem is that the current restructuring of the armed forces, generally accepted as necessary if not massively popular with many within and related to the military, has thrown up an anomaly where checks are not being made to ensure service personnel are not being hugely disadvantaged in pension terms when served with redundancy notices close to their normal retirement age. This just strikes me as very wrong.
These are members of our society who have served and fought for our society in difficult, dangerous conditions that we can only imagine.
The efforts that they have made over the last few years have been monumental since being committed to The Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan (and the many other trouble spots of the last decades such as Northern Ireland, Sierra Leone etc).
Politicians are not keen to act
Some politicians have picked up on this, particularly Lord Touhig, but The Treasury and The Ministry of Defence do not seem keen to act as they appear to see it as a small problem or anomaly affecting very few. This may be the case, I do not have the numbers, but in this type of situation, could we not as a nation see fit to commit to sorting this out?
Despite numerous pleas from the personnel affected, and from members of Parliament, the Government has refused to review its policy decisions, despite being presented with clear evidence of the injustice and financial hardship it is causing.
Why get involved
Why do I want to get involved? I hate to see injustice of this type and I hope you do too. The Armed Forces are denied employment rights – they must rely on trust. Unlike other public servants they have no unions or appointed representatives to fight their cause but must rely on the Military Covenant to ensure that they are treated fairly by the Government of the day. They have accepted the redundancy decisions but why should they accept being treated so dishonourably.
Whilst I can bring some order to the retirement and pension planning of my civilian clients it appears that, for the time being at least, that servicemen and women cannot do the same planning for themselves if this situation is allowed to continue.
Therefore, if you feel the way I do, I would be grateful if you could sign the Pension Justice for Troops petition and help restore order to the pension affairs of those service personnel affected.
If you do agree, please share this in any way you can. For those of you who use Twitter please follow @justice4forces and feel free to share this through Linked In, Facebook or any other social media outlet.
If you have some spare time on your hands you could always write to any of these ministers of the UK Government to make your feelings known. You can share this post by the social media sharing buttons below if you feel so inclined.
If you do not feel that you wish to get involved I completely understand, thank you for reading this.
Lee Robertson is chief executive of Investment Quorum