Widows are the 'forgotten ghosts of war' says wife of killed officer

#1
Thomas Harding

By Thomas Harding, Defence Correspondent

10:00PM GMT 27 Jan 2012

Sheenie Chant, who was seven months pregnant when she was widowed, said she has been forced to “go cap in hand” to private school to ensure her son has a good education as there is no provision for young children.

She has also accused politicians of “gross insensitivity” in failing to apply the Military Covent to war widows when it comes to taxing and assessing their pensions.

Regimental Sergeant Major Darren Chant was among five unarmed soldiers killed by a rogue Afghan policeman in Helmand in November 2009.

Mrs Chant had just given birth to their son George when it was assessed her widow’s pension was worth £19,000. The family’s joint income had dropped from £65,000 after she left her £22,000 job as an accountant at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst to bring up George.

RSM Chant, who was about to be commissioned as an officer, had served in the Army for 22 years accruing a pension worth £15,000 a year.
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Mrs Chant argues that this has only been topped up by £4,000 and does not recognise his future earnings, his age or her loss of employment as well as compensation for his death.

She is the first widow to speak out about the financial difficulties but says a number of Service widows share her distress.

“Widows are the forgotten ghosts of war,” she told The Daily Telegraph. “They give us enough not be on the breadline but not enough to give us the options that would have been there had our husbands lived.

“There is feeling of uneasiness to speak of the financial implications of our husbands’ deaths but on a personal level I was completely shocked on how clumsy and blunt it all is.”

“Tax is deducted, which essentially is taxing a dead mans pension. This is all nothing short of disgraceful and a money saving scheme.”

As an officer RSM Chant, 40, would have served a further 15 years during which he would have been entitled to the Continuity of Education that pays up to two-thirds of school fees.

But although George receives a MoD grant of £3,000 a year his mother has been forced to seek a bursary which has been generously granted by a top public school.

“I’m afraid they have acted with dignity where others have not.

“Darren made the ultimate sacrifice for Queen and country. How is the Govenrment honouring that sacrifice?”

She was shopping in a Camberley supermarket when her father called to say two Army officers were at the house.

“There was a rush of emotions kept thinking he can’t be killed, he can’t be dead.”

“You’re pregnant but the lioness of motherhood kicks in immediately and the little man is protected.”

RSM Chant’s funeral was in the Guards Chapel, London, where he had married Sheenie only four months earlier.

Having survived tours of Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan Mrs Chant saw her husband as “indestructible”.

“The only way Darren could be killed was in an unfair fight.”

It is understood that Gulbuddin, the rogue policeman, has probably been killed since the attack.

“When he meets his Maker I’m sure Darren will be at the door waiting for him ready to have a quiet word,” Mrs Chat said.

Her husband was demonstrably brave. On one occasion in Helmand in 2007 he carried a limbless soldier a mile to a helicopter following a firefight.

Since his death the Grenadier Guards have been “loyal, decent and shown genuine love for me and George” but have been “mortified” by her financial situation.

“It’s never discussed, the aftermath of what happens to widow,” she said, speaking from her home in Camberley.

Mrs Chant, 35, has raised the issue with ministers from the previous government and has yet to receive a reply to a letter she sent to David Cameron.

“With the Military Covenant coming up where are we in all of this, war widows and children of fallen? We don’t want token gestures.”

“Ultimately Darren died protecting the very freedoms they enjoy sat in Whitehall but our issues are just white noise to them.”
 
#2
A bloody disgrace.

Pensions, where a soldier leaves kids behind, should be based on projected future earnings and entitlements.
 
#3
A bloody disgrace.

Pensions, where a soldier leaves kids behind, should be based on projected future earnings and entitlements.
Yes. Widows and children are very often the unseen casualties of war.
 
#4
Automatic CEA should be a given and a much better pension, if we can cap benefits at £26,000 then we can start widows pensions at £26,000.

Although I don't see why her giving up her £22k job is a factor, in this. Did he have life insurance? ie PAX? I for one, and I advise all others to do the same (esp fathers) bump my insurance right up on tour.

And well done to the school for taking on the nipper. Excactly how the private schooling sector should be working.
 
#5
Are those figures correct? I thought when you die in service your NOK get a payment as well?
 
#6
Automatic CEA should be a given and a much better pension, if we can cap benefits at £26,000 then we can start widows pensions at £26,000.
She gets a 19K pension and a 3k a year for her son from the MOD. Add other benefits (Child Benefit for example) and its not to far off 26K.
Its is of of course sad her husband died but its hardly poverty.
 
#7
She gets a 19K pension and a 3k a year for her son from the MOD. Add other benefits (Child Benefit for example) and its not to far off 26K.
Its is of of course sad her husband died but its hardly poverty.
Is the 19K and 3k taxed in anyway? Particularly the 19k? I wouldn't think 30k (net) would be a hardship for HMG to bestow upon a bereived servicemans family. regardless of their rank.
 
#8
She gets a 19K pension and a 3k a year for her son from the MOD. Add other benefits (Child Benefit for example) and its not to far off 26K.
Its is of of course sad her husband died but its hardly poverty.
Stacker
This is no place for one of your arguments.

This soldiers's little lad should have the same standard of living and life chances as if his dad were still alive.

Bad enough that he loses his dad, but his growing up short of a quid is a diabolical insult to any civilised nation.
 
#9
Is the 19K and 3k taxed in anyway? Particularly the 19k? I wouldn't think 30k (net) would be a hardship for HMG to bestow upon a bereived servicemans family. regardless of their rank.
I don't think 22k (plus any state benefits) for not having to work is that bad either. (taxed or not).
I'm sure everyone would like 100k a year pension to be given to the families of those who die in service to the country but we cant afford it and its not needed to survive.
 
#10
Stacker
This is no place for one of your arguments.

This soldiers's little lad should have the same standard of living and life chances as if his dad were still alive.

Bad enough that he loses his dad, but his growing up short of a quid is a diabolical insult to any civilised nation.
Maybe you should look at bit harder at the story rather than get all emotional because it involved a dead soldier. If his dad was denied CEA the little lad wouldnt be getting into a private school, if his father resigned they would be getting 15k a year not the 22k.
He is not growing up short of a quid, so dry your eyes and stop using the death of a soldier as an excuse to spend money that the MOD can ill afford.
 
#11
Stacker
This is no place for one of your arguments.

This soldiers's little lad should have the same standard of living and life chances as if his dad were still alive.

Bad enough that he loses his dad, but his growing up short of a quid is a diabolical insult to any civilised nation.
What guarantee is there that he would have been able to claim CEA during his future career?

Are you suggesting that no one need take out life insurance (such as PAX) because the MOD should ensure the deceased's family maintains the same standard of living?

Whilst serving I had sufficient cover to ensure my family would not be left short if I died. I knew what the MOD would cover, and paid out of my own pocket to make up the difference.
 
#12
Maybe you should look at bit harder at the story rather than get all emotional because it involved a dead soldier. If his dad was denied CEA the little lad wouldnt be getting into a private school, if his father resigned they would be getting 15k a year not the 22k.
He is not growing up short of a quid, so dry your eyes and stop using the death of a soldier as an excuse to spend money that the MOD can ill afford.
Stacker

Please think before you post:

This man had fifteen years service to go and would presumably have commenced as a capt and finished as a Major/Lt col and would therefore have had an average salary of say , 60k pa, plus he would have been entitled to the school allowance of say 10k pa. Therefore, his total earning capacity would have been approximately 1 million.

Had he left the army, he would have got his pension of 15k, but presumably was very employable so would probably have made a similar amount of money in civil life as he would in the Army, so again, his eaning capacity would have been approx 1 million.

19 k a year, and his kid, being educated by the charity of a school is a bloody insult.
 
Z

Zarathustra

Guest
#13
As sad as this is, the government don't have enough money to pay "good" pensions to the relatives of the dead. £19k is better than nothing and as has been pointed out she didn't "have" to quit her job though it is understandable why she would want to be at home to raise her child she can hardly blame the government for that.
 
#14
For those of us serving, we all know the dit with regards to the possibility of being injured or killed. We also know the dit regarding payouts pensions and benefits. Therefore knowing that information it is the individual's responsibility to provide enough for the family.

While we would all like to think our families would notice no change in income should the worst happen, this is not the case and nor is it unfair, just merely adequate.

She's the first widow I've seen bemoaning the (purported) lack of cash.
 
#15
19 k a year, and his kid, being educated by the charity of a school is a bloody insult.
No it's not. How many service widows receive that? How many service widows are complaining?
 
#17
No one is denying it would be great to have more, or denying widows their just deserts should they be awarded more. But some of us realise that soldiers are not the only people in this country and while we may do a special job and deserve special recognition and cash benefits as a result, it simply isnt going to happen.

Now, you can either bang your head against a brick wall and hope for a miracle OR you can accept something you can do little about and ensure your family are provided for in your death.

The article you chose from the Guardian actually features one of my mates and I know Gary O'Donnell will have agreed with my sentiment and this shows in that he tried to provide for his family as best he could.

The article itself is a poor one to choose to support your comments in that they don't actually complain about a lack of cash, but talk more about the adjustment to life without their husbands.
 
#18
Stacker

Please think before you post:

This man had fifteen years service to go and would presumably have commenced as a capt and finished as a Major/Lt col and would therefore have had an average salary of say , 60k pa, plus he would have been entitled to the school allowance of say 10k pa. Therefore, his total earning capacity would have been approximately 1 million.

Had he left the army, he would have got his pension of 15k, but presumably was very employable so would probably have made a similar amount of money in civil life as he would in the Army, so again, his eaning capacity would have been approx 1 million.

19 k a year, and his kid, being educated by the charity of a school is a bloody insult.


You have no idea what he might have done, just as you have no idea if a young tom getting killed might have made an LE Lt colonel.
You are incorrect in saying he would be entitled to 10k a year schooling. He might never be entitled to it. On top of that, assuming that if he did stay in and was allowed the full 15 years (many officers are not) and was entitiled to CEA his child NORMALLY would not get it unitl he was 11.

19k X 40 years (assuming his wife lives for that long) is 760K. 3k X 16 (for the kid) is an additional 52k. Plus the lump sum payout your NOK gets wont be far of the million you quoted. Not such an insult now is it?
 
#19
You have no idea what he might have done, just as you have no idea if a young tom getting killed might have made an LE Lt colonel.
You are incorrect in saying he would be entitled to 10k a year schooling. He might never be entitled to it. On top of that, assuming that if he did stay in and was allowed the full 15 years (many officers are not) and was entitiled to CEA his child NORMALLY would not get it unitl he was 11.

19k X 40 years (assuming his wife lives for that long) is 760K. 3k X 16 (for the kid) is an additional 52k. Plus the lump sum payout your NOK gets wont be far of the million you quoted. Not such an insult now is it?
By your logic, he might have lived for 25 years after he retired from the Army at 55 and collected his Lt Col's pension for 25 years, what's that worth, about 40k pa?

This would boost his earning potential to 1 million plus 40kx25=1million making 2 million.

Also, 19k pa is not enough to bring a kid up on. As i say, I think that the lifetime earning capacity should be used to calculate pensions in the same way that the courts use in calculating damages in personal injury civil cases.

I agree that calculating the earning potential for a 21 year ols pte is problematic. However, what would the widow and kid of said pte receive now?
 
#20
I'm not going to get outraged about it, but I think it should be looked at. Despite £20k being enough to live on and much more than the welfare scrounges deserve, if we're asking blokes to risk their lives on our behalf, we should be prepared to look after their families when they're killed. That means making them comfortable and filling as much of the gap left by their husband/father as we can - not just ensuring they survive.

I'm the first to say that anything we do must be economically viable, but if casualty figures stay as they are, its affordable. We're talking a few million for each death, payable over the next 50 years or so.

Sadly, there would need to be a proviso to avoid setting a precedent. Obviously if we're going to launch a major campaign and lose 10 battalions in a year, the cost would very quickly become enormous.
 

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