Just seen this in one of our local papers Anger as injured troops' pay is docked MARK NICHOLLS 27 August 2007 09:33 Angry relatives and MPs have criticised the government for hitting wounded soldiers from the Royal Anglian Regiment and other units in their pay packets by snatching back battlefield benefits. The outcry comes as the Royal Anglians suffer mounting numbers of dead and wounded in Afghanistan with the latest being the three soldiers killed and two severely wounded in a friendly fire tragedy after a US warplane accidentally bombed their units. Troops serving in danger zones such as Afghanistan or Iraq qualify for an Operational Allowance of £12.75 a day but this stops as soon as they leave the war zone, either at the end of the tour or if they are medically-evacuated home after being shot or blown up by enemy fire. In some cases, it is costing injured troops hundreds of pounds as they lay recovering from bullet, shrapnel or blast wounds. But campaigners say this is unfair and immoral to dock the allowance of injured and hospitalised troops while their comrades and their battalion are still on the front line. The criticism also coincides with growing anger aimed at the government over the way it funds the military and rewards service personnel, and as more than 30,000 military families have signed a petition calling for a dedicated military hospital to treat wounded troops. The issue of the docked benefits came to light with a growing number of troops from the 1st Battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment suffering serious injury- believed to now be more than 50 of the 600 who were deployed in April. The battalion has also suffered nine fatalities during its deployment in the Helmand province of Afghanistan. Last night Liberal Democrat Shadow Defence Secretary, Nick Harvey said: Soldiers who have been injured serving their country should be given awards, not penalised by penny-pinching bureaucrats. It is entirely outrageous that this money is being snatched back from them almost as soon as they are stretchered off the battlefield. At the very least, those lying injured through no fault of their own should retain all of their allowances until their battalion returns home. The issue is also affecting scores of injured troops from other regiments serving in Afghanistan such as the Grenadier Guards, the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment and the Swanton Morley-based Light Dragoons. It also comes as forces charities such as the Royal British Legion feel that the government is failing to honour its commitments to troops through the Military Covenant, which guarantees soldiers fair treatment in return for forgoing other rights. The 1st Battalion Royal Anglians - nicknamed The Vikings - recruits from Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire and has been involved in intense and close-quarters fighting with Taliban forces on a daily basis over the last few months and has been harder hit than any other battalion with a high number of casualties. The father of one soldier who was wounded while serving with the Royal Anglians in Afghanistan spoke of his disgust at his son's pay being docked of the Operational Allowance. What more can you give for your country than your life, he said. Nine of them have done that and about 10pc of those that are out there have very nearly done that and this is the way the government treats them. I would like to see the government that sends them out there in the first place do something to show that they support them. I think the Operational Allowance should be paid for the period that the regiment is on duty. The fact that somebody has been wounded and returns home should not see them penalised while the rest of the regiment that have not suffered an injury are still being paid it. It just shows this government's attitude towards out troops. The Operational Allowance, paid to anyone serving in what is called a hazardous operational area, was introduced last October for UK forces in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Balkans, though has since been stopped for Balkan service. The decision followed a campaign to stop soldiers paying tax on their earnings while on deployment and bring them into line with US troops. The Operational Allowance now amounts to £2,320 for a typical deployment. A Ministry of Defence spokesman confirmed that the allowance is only payable to troops in Afghanistan for the time they spend in theatre and halts the moment they leave the danger zone. Soldiers are eligible for the Operational Allowance from the time they go into theatre and for the time that they remain there. If people feel that they are not getting the money that they are entitled to they need to take it up with their regimental pay department. The idea of the scheme is to compensate military personnel for the dangers that they are going through and the living conditions they are enduring while on operations. The MoD points out that there is financial assistance available for injured troops who are hospital in-patients. They receive £5 a day and continue to receive the longer-service separation allowance, travel support for families and access to TV, library and comfort kits. Mid-Norfolk Conservative MP and military expert Keith Simpson has called for a thorough review of the way the army compensates servicemen and women. He said: In the past two years the MoD has ended up having to retreat on various things due to public and media pressure. But what is happening is that the MoD is looking at this piecemeal but it now needs to look at the whole business of this covenant between the people and the army and look at this in the light of circumstances that have changed considerably. Part and parcel of that may be a recognition that the servicemen and women should be treated fairly. Britain has often been behind other countries in many of the things it has done for its servicemen and women. I think the government never expected the intensity of operations that the army was going to face in Iraq and Afghanistan, it underestimated how high the level of casualties would be and I do not think the system of allowances has caught up with that.