Now this is yet another classic case of the hedge eating the grass.
Earlier in many cases disability pension of disabled veterans used to be discontinued if such veterans failed to report for re-survey medical boards in time. And then if they reported at a later date, pension of the interim period used to granted only on discretion of the authorities and arrears used to be restricted. Ditto was the case in appeals against rejection of disability pension. After a long fight, the issue was resolved and the Ministry of Defence very graciously issued instructions to medical boards to opine upon the percentage of disability during the interim period so as not to deny disabled veterans their disability pension during the gap.
However, even though explicit instructions have been issued by the Govt, our Record Offices, and in certain cases even the Services HQ, have still been denying disability benefits for the interim period and insisting upon illegal undertakings from disabled personnel that their cases would only be processed in case they were ready to forfeit their pension for the interim period. On being pointed out the latest Govt instructions to the effect, rather than just following such instructions, elements in our own establishment have been seeking clarifications from civilian officers as if just expecting to get a negative reply that can be further imposed on our disabled soldiers. It is also not understood as to why our officers in uniform do not have any confidence in their own understanding and art, so much so that they keep on seeking infructuous clarifications on explicit and clear-cut instructions thereby giving a leverage to chances of negative interpretation from some quarters.
A self-explanatory letter on the subject, addressed to the AG by me, is reproduced below. Needless to state, no positive action has been taken till date:
South Block, New Delhi-11
06 Oct 2013
GRANT OF DISABILITY PENSION FOR INTERIM PERIOD: UNFORTUNATE CASES OF ARMY HQ AND RECORD OFFICES RESTRICTING AND REFUSING CLAIMS EVEN THOUGH THE GOVT OF INDIA / MINISTRY OF DEFENCE HAS ISSUED CLEAR-CUT DIRECTIONS GRANTING BENEFITS TO AFFECTED DISABLED PERSONNEL
1. This seems a clear-cut case of the hedge eating the grass and I feel duty-bound to point this out to you for resolution before bringing it to the notice of the Chief of the Army Staff and the Raksha Mantri. This is an issue wherein the Govt has agreed to a long pending demand of military veterans and disabled soldiers but elements in the Personnel Services Directorate (PS Directorate) at the Army HQ and Record Offices are still putting in an unnecessary spoke in the wheel.
2. Since times immemorial, there had been cases of disability pensioners missing out on their re-survey medical boards due to various reasons including lack of knowledge and ambiguity of rules and of claims of disability pension not being processed in time or appeals against rejection of disability pension being processed after an inordinately long period which resulted in such disabled personnel losing out on their disability pension for the interim period, that is, the period between release from service or discontinuance of disability pension till the date of the fresh medical board or the appeal/review medical board. In some cases, certificates of undertaking were being taken from such pensioners that they would not claim arrears for the interim period or that arrears would be restricted for 3 years prior to making of the application or the medical board. In yet some other cases, no arrears were paid and disability pension was started from the date of the fresh or the appeal/review medical board and there were other cases where all arrears for the interim period were duly paid. There also was total confusion and grant of arrears for the interim period was more or less discretionary at the hands of administrative authorities.
3. To offset this problem and to ensure that disabled personnel do not lose out on their monetary disability benefits, the Services HQ took up the issue with the Govt of India / Ministry of Defence that arrears for the period between the release of the person from service/earlier medical board till the fresh/appeal/review medical board should be payable in terms of a universal policy. The Govt of India very kindly agreed to the request and issued a policy letter No 16(01)/2009-D(Pension/Policy) dated 10 Nov 2010 wherein it was now provided that from now onwards, all medical boards shall comment upon the percentage of disability during the interim period for which the pension had not been granted and the same shall be then processed for release of benefits. The contents and salient points of the letter were also very nicely explained in another letter issued by PS-4 (Legal), that is, Letter No 46453K/Misc/AG/PS-4(L)/BC dated 17 Oct 2011 which was endorsed to all concerned. Copies of both the above mentioned letters are enclosed.
4. It is however a matter of great concern that elements in the PS Directorate and also Record Offices are still insisting on taking certificates from disabled personnel that they would be claiming disability pension only from the date of the Re-Survey Medical Board or Appeal Medical Board and that they would not be claiming arrears. In other cases, the PS Directorate is taking certificates from officers that since there is a delay in processing the claim, they would not be claiming arrears of more than 3 years of the interim period. The claims for disability pension are not being processed unless the affected personnel submit the said certificates. One such example in respect of No 3376751 Ex-Naik Avtar Singh of the Sikh Regiment is enclosed herewith wherein his disability pension claim was only processed after he submitted the enclosed certificate and he was paid his disability pension only from the date of the fresh board.
5. It is a matter of even greater concern that the MoD has informed me in writing in the past that they have NOT imposed any such restriction on the disability benefits of disabled personnel and the same is being done locally by the Army HQ. In fact, the MoD has made it mandatory for all medical boards to incorporate a column of disability percentage for the interim period to facilitate the processing of such claims. To put it crudely, this amounts to black-mail wherein our soldiers and officers are informed that their claims would not be processed unless they submit such self-incriminating certificates.
6. You are hence requested to rein in such elements of the Army HQ as well as the Records Offices who insist on exterminating the benefits of disabled personnel which have been granted by the Govt of India to them. It defies logic as to what pleasure do such elements derive by sadistically illegally restricting such benefits when no such restriction has been put by the Govt of India? Even otherwise there should be an element of positivity while dealing with such claims and policies should be interpreted liberally and positively rather than restrictively and narrowly.
7. You are requested to look into the matter in detail without being blinded by noting sheets put up from below which I’m sure they would do in order to justify the illegal actions perpetrated by some of our own. Strict instructions may be issued to the MP Directorate, PS Directorate and all Record Offices to follow the instructions of Govt of India/MoD Letter No 16(01)/2009-D(Pension/Policy) dated 10 Nov 2010 and PS-4 (Legal) Letter No 46453K/Misc/AG/PS-4(L)/BC dated 17 Oct 2011 in letter and spirit and not to insist on submission of such undertakings which have become illegal with effect from 15 Nov 2010.