Injured armed forces heroes are being forced to wait years for paltry payouts, a Sun investigation reveals today.
The soldiers – many of them special forces – suffered horrific injuries while serving their country on hellish missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Each had been pressured into paying thousands of pounds into a private MoD-backed personal injury insurance scheme, PAX, which promised to protect them when needed.
But in a national scandal, some of our bravest soldiers have had their claims reduced, their injuries questioned and their payments delayed for years.
Last night, SAS and SBS troops came out of the shadows to tell The Sun how they felt “betrayed” by the PAX scheme.
In a shocking case, a special forces hero whose leg was left limp and useless after being shattered by Taliban bullets in a shootout has been offered around £15,000 by US giant AIG, the insurer of the diet. Yet it was then multiplied by ten – to over £150,000 – after the soldier hired a lawyer.
But it is feared his case is just the tip of the iceberg, with many members of the armed forces having suffered similar treatment.
The PAX personal injury policy has been sold to new recruits on British bases for almost 50 years, including during the Falklands War of 1982, bringing in hundreds of millions of pounds in premiums. But last night there were growing calls from MPs and former senior military brass for a major investigation into the scheme.
General Lord Dannatt, the former army chief, lambasted: “PAX has been backed by the MoD, it has been well marketed to serving troops and on that basis they are confident that if they buy PAX insurance units, they can expect, in the event of injury, an uncompromising indemnity proportional to the injury suffered.
“This is not what the soldiers expect”
“This should not be a matter that then has to become protracted, interminable and subject to litigation.
“It’s not what ordinary soldiers expect.
“They pay their premiums with confidence in the product they buy. Anything less than that is a shame.
And SAS hero Andy McNab added: “AIG has a duty to do what it’s supposed to do, which is support the military, because they’re taking their money.
“If not, then AIG is scamming them.”
The couple’s fury was echoed by Colonel Tim Collins, famous for his inspirational speech to troops on the eve of the Iraq war in 2003.
He said: “The MoD recommends PAX but it totally depends on the integrity of the supplier.
“If this is called into question, it’s up to the company itself to pull up its socks.”
Sources say the scandal surrounding PAX – short for “personal accident” – has been simmering for decades. The MoD is said to have a major contract with US broker AON, which in turn sells the policy to new recruits at bases across the UK.
But AIG underwrites PAX and handles all claims from its 60,000 policyholders. Many soldiers enlist because they fear that the taxpayer-funded Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) does not sufficiently protect against the dangers of combat.
While the AFCS offers a maximum lump sum payment of £570,000 and up to around £1million in additional income, troops can sustain catastrophic injuries requiring further treatment.
Costs including 24/7 assistance, home improvements and specialized wheelchairs or prostheses can drive up bills by millions more. As a result, many deployed overseas choose to pay monthly for ‘units’ of PAX costing up to £90 to increase their personal injury cover. Last year, AIG reportedly received only 50 complaints from its 60,000 policyholders. The company says three unresolved cases have been brought before the financial ombudsman, all of which have been upheld in favor of AIG.
But our investigation has found a trail of furious policyholders who feel betrayed by the scheme.
The special forces soldier who spoke to The Sun after his payout was increased to £150,000 told how he followed advice to ‘maximize your PAX’ ahead of a mission in Afghanistan that ended his 13-year military career year.
The shootout with Afghan fighters in 2013 left him feeling numb under his left knee. After two years and 16 operations – leaving his left leg 2cm shorter – doctors said he had “100 per cent loss” of foot function.
But insurers then told him only ‘ten per cent’ of his body had suffered, offering him £15,000.
Now 39, he told The Sun: “I was like, ‘You bastards. I’ve shelled out all this money for 13 years.’ It’s not cheap. Believe it or not, the last thing an injured man wants is to make a claim.
“What pisses me off is that you buy into it, and then when something happens, the reaction is, ‘Oh, how can we get out of this?
“It’s disheartening that they’re looking at all the loopholes on how not to pay you, instead of saying, ‘We got your back, we’ll pay’.”
The soldier said of his decision to go to court: “There was huge relief when our solicitors said they thought I was entitled to £150,000.
“It meant I could start planning a future for my family. But I felt sick, it had taken six years to get to this point. One hundred percent, I believe this is a mis-selling scandal. They definitely sold it to me badly in terms of what I should have had.
Another soldier told how his career ended in 2014 after he jumped out of a helicopter at the wrong height and in the wrong place during an exercise.
“This must stop”
He contacted PAX after suffering serious back injuries and was offered £15,000, taking less than £30,000 in settlement after seven years of the claim being disputed.
He received legal advice suggesting he should have been entitled to a payment of around £170,000.
The soldier, now 40, said: ‘By the time PAX pays – and most of the time they pay the guys a fraction of what should be paid – it’s too late. This must stop. I would 100% like my case to be considered.
These are not claims for broken freezers. SAS and SBS are heroes. They deserve the top dollar and they should get it fast
“I had an as**tty deal. I could have done with the money before I left the army. It would have changed a lot of things. I just survived, rather than thriving and not looking to the future. My life would have been different.
Last night the troops’ call for an overhaul was backed by a host of military heroes. SAS legend Rusty Firmin said AIG deserved a ‘kick in the b*****ks’ and said of the forces personnel: ‘If they paid their bonuses and that they get hurt, they should get their payments in full, without delay.”
Rusty, who was part of the SAS team that ended the Iranian embassy siege in 1980, added: “You can’t let these companies drag things out or change people. That’s not true.”
And SAS hero ‘Big’ Phil Campion, 52, said: ‘It’s not your usual ‘I broke my freezer’ assertions. These are people defending their country and getting hurt. They should get the best price and they should get it fast.
Last night AIG declined to comment, but Defense Minister Leo Docherty promised to summon PAX to explain himself immediately.
He said: “The Sun’s reporting has raised an important question. Our staff deserve the best possible treatment and it should be no different when it comes to providing insurance coverage for injuries sustained while defending this nation.
“I will request a meeting with the suppliers to better understand the terms they are offering so that we can collectively determine a way forward that ensures our staff get the support they deserve.”
The Department of Defense said it provides all troops with “no-fault compensation for illness, injury or death caused by service” through the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme.
Asked why troops have been pressured to take out additional policies, the MoD said it was “committed to ensuring that service personnel are not disadvantaged in their ability to access insurance personal injury and life as a result of his employment”.
He added: “It is up to individual service personnel to decide whether they wish to further enhance their protection by taking out life insurance or personal accident insurance.
“They don’t just buy coverage through PAX plans. The MOD receives no money or commission from AIG or PAX.