Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, July 2
A large number of short-service commissioned (SSC) officers, who were deprived of medical cover at the military hospitals, would now be entitled to avail the facilities once again.
Earlier, SSC and Emergency Commissioned (EC) officers were entitled to treatment at military hospitals. However, directives issued a few months ago by the Directorate General Armed Forces Medical Services (DGAFMS) apparently in contradiction of presidential sanction and Army orders, had debarred them from seeking treatment at the military hospitals.
Sources said a communiqué issued by Army headquarters last week clarifies that medical facilities to SSC and EC officers had not been withdrawn. “A circular issued by Headquarters Western Command states that SSC and EC officers are not to be denied medical treatment in the military hospitals till further orders,” Brig IS Gakhal, director, Sainik Welfare Punjab, who hade taken up the issue with the Defence Ministry, said.
The orders affect thousands of short service officers and their families. Denial of medical facilities had also rendered ineffectual a central scheme for SSC officers under which 80 per cent of the cost of major surgery was borne by the Kendriya Sainik Board, since it required verification by military hospitals. The scheme was introduced because SSC officers are not covered under the Ex-servicemen’s Contributory Health Scheme on the account of being non-pensioners.
Last year, DGAFMS wrote to all Army commands that they were not entitled to medical facilities as these were available only to service pensioners. Since the early 70s, the Army has been inducting about 500 SSC officers annually. In the wake of the 1962 Indo-Pak war, thousands of ECO were also commissioned.
Earlier, medical facilities were only available to ex-service pensioners and their dependants and families of deceased personnel drawing pension of some kind.
Then in 1996, the MoD directed that the term “ex-service pensioners” be replaced by the term “ex-servicemen”. Consequently, entitled categories became ex-servicemen covered under the definition of “ex-serviceman” issued by the Department of Personnel and Training, their dependants and families of deceased personnel drawing pension.
Officers said DGAFMS seemed to have failed to correctly interpret that the sanction for medical facilities was issued by the President through the Defence Ministry and not by the Department of Personnel and Training.