We work very closely with the Veterans’ Gateway so that Veterans who come to the Gateway for help get the best pensions advice there is to be had, anywhere. Many of these cases are about entitlement to deferred pensions. This is the story in his own words of ex-sapper Neil Brogan.
“I joined as a Junior Leader in 1986, age 16, and served for nine years in all. I left as a Sapper (I was a corporal at one point but that’s another story!) Served in Northern Ireland, Belize, the Falklands.
When I left I was given very little pensions advice but I clearly remember being told that I “hadn’t done long enough to qualify for a pension.” So I assumed that was that and put it down to bad luck. Then 20 years later I’m working for Mace who employ lots of sappers and are signed up to the Forces Covenant. A guy mentioned the Veterans Gateway to me. So, I looked at the Gateway website which mentioned the Forces Pensions Society. I thought “if you don’t ask you don’t get”, and emailed the address.
They asked me some simple questions about when I joined and when I left, and the same day they came back and said I was entitled to something! They told me what forms to fill in and showed me the link, and – lo and behold – in two weeks I was told the good news; nearly £7,000 on my 60th birthday tax-free and then £2,300 a year index linked forever!
Well it’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick! I have been told that this will not come automatically and I have to apply for it at the time. So, I have framed the letter and will put it on the back of my toilet door – that way I will not forget.
I really think I was not given the right pensions advice when I retired. We had some lectures but frankly they were difficult to understand and, at that age, all you want to know are the key points. I am sure there are others in my position. “
Neil’s case is not unique. Preserved pensions were relatively new when he served and there was a good deal of misinformation out there – nothing malicious …just wrong. Neil is not the first person to tell me that he had been told that if he left before the 12 year point, there would be no pension – what he should have been told was that, if he left before the 12 year point there would be no immediate payment.
Neil should have received a letter containing preserved pension figures but, in the light of what he was told at unit level, he may well have forgotten about it or discarded it. Who knows.
Between the ‘soft launch’ of the Veterans Gateway in April and the end of September, I have received over 230 enquiries from Veterans, the vast majority have been about preserved pension entitlement.
Enquirers can come to me direct by using the email address in our literature on the Gateway website (which is what Neil did) or they can be formally referred to me by the contact centre.
I advise them about the preserved pension rules in force at the time they left the Armed Forces (there have been five different qualification criteria for Regulars since the introduction of preserved pensions in 1975!) and, if it appears they may have qualified for a preserved pension, I send them a claim form or a form to request a pension forecast depending upon their age.
These cases are different from the enquiries my colleagues receive from our members. They are much more straightforward – they take about 15 minutes to answer. But we are now getting a steady stream of people reunited with pension entitlements they did not know they had.
Of those who have received good news, most are reluctant to let us highlight their success. So we are particularly grateful to Neil for allowing the spotlight to fall on him.
I hope his story will encourage others to ask the question!