94-year-old squaddie takes on the Government.

Daily Mail but worth a mention.
A 94-year-old war hero today pledged to hand back his medals after the Government refused to give him his winter fuel allowance.

Bob McGowan was told he could not claim the £300 subsidy because he moved into his flat just one day too late to qualify.

Despite his age and the six years he spent fighting for his country across Europe, Asia and Africa, the Pension Service said it could not show flexibility.

Mr McGowan, of Portsmouth, has been waging a battle of principle with Whitehall ever since he was turned down for the fuel support in 2007.

He wants an apology from Gordon Brown and says if it is not forthcoming he will post his five medals to 10 Downing Street.

Mr McGowan, who won the Burma Star, the Africa Star, the War Medal 1939 to 1945, the 1939-1945 Star and the Defence Medal following 2,133 days on active duty overseas, said: ‘I think it’s disgusting.

‘It seems I’ve got to bow down over one solitary day, when I did six years overseas.

‘You’d think they would make allowances but they keep saying external factors won’t be considered under any circumstances.

‘What hurts me is I that did all that time overseas and they ignored it - they think more of one solitary day.

‘I’ll hold on to my medals if Gordon Brown will apologise, of course.

‘But if I don’t get satisfactory answers I will send them. I’d like this saga to end. It’s two years and I have had enough of it.

‘It’s the principle of it. I’ve not heard a single word of humility, I don’t think they know the meaning of the word. These people must have hearts of stone.’

To qualify for the fuel allowance people must be at least 60 and resident in a non-supported home during the qualifying week.
For 2007/08 this was September 17 to September 23.

During this week Mr McGowan was in supported accommodation, but moved into his own independent home on September 24, the day after the qualifying week ended.

He has written letters to the Department for Work and Pensions appealing for leniency and in October Mike Hancock, Liberal Democrat MP for Portsmouth South, sent a letter on his behalf but this too failed to have an impact.

The department said in a statement: ‘People who are aged 60 or over during a qualifying week every year will receive a winter fuel payment automatically.

Mr McGowan during his service: Despite his age and the six years he spent fighting for his country, the Pension Service said it could not show flexibility

‘Residents of care homes are not entitled to a Winter Fuel Payment because heating costs are met by the local authority.’

The Royal British Legion today called for more understanding from the government over Mr McGowan’s case.

Roseanne Hanley, from the Welfare Department of the Hampshire Royal British Legion, said: ‘We believe discretion should be shown by the authorities when assessing slightly late benefit claims, especially from the very elderly.

‘Many very elderly members of the ex-Forces community are forced, through low income, to ration.

‘They”re forced to apply to these winter allowances because the income they have means they have to be thrifty, and the government should support them more.’

A spokesman from Help the Aged said: ‘We occasionally hear complaints from older people who have missed out on benefits because they were one day short from meeting a deadline or a particular requirement.

‘We know some people feel very strongly this is unfair, but the Department for Work and Pensions state they need to establish cut-off dates to make the administrative machinery work.

‘While we know Winter Fuel Payments are valued by those who receive them, ideally we want to see a system where people have adequate pension incomes and don’t need to rely on additional one-off payments in order to meet essential bills.’

Mr McGowan joined the Army in November 1939, aged 24, and was first posted to Egypt.

There he was tasked with ferrying troops and ammunition as a driver, before going to the Balkans on attachment to a field ambulance division.

But the British force was overwhelmed by the Nazis, and was forced back to Greece.

He was then taken to Crete on board Royal Navy cruiser HMS Orion.

Shortly afterwards the ship was bombed with the loss of around 300 lives.

He was shipped to Syria, and then sent to relieve Australian forces at Tobruk, Libya, where he spent three months surrounded by enemy forces.

He then went to Rangoon, but was called back after the city fell to the Japanese.

After around two months in Burma he went to India, where he spent the rest of the war.

He returned to Britain in July 1945, setting foot on home soil for the first time in nearly six years.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/art...used-winter-fuel-allowance.html#ixzz0Wgt6jnOu


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