Pension pains

by Emmanuel Joseph

They have written to Governor General Sir Elliott Belgrave, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, the Barbados Defence Force Pensions Committee, the Ombudsman, Opposition Leader Owen Arthur, former leader Mia Mottley and even hired a lawyer.

However, more than 12 years on, three former Barbados Defence Force soldiers complained they have just about come to the end of the road, waiting to be paid what they said are outstanding pensions.

In fact, in a letter titled Medical Unfit ex-Soldiers, dated June 4, 2012, and addressed to Sir Elliott, Corporal Anthony Mayers and Privates Ryan Lewis and Phillip Clement wrote: Your Excellency, we the three former members of the Barbados Defence Force, who were medically discharged, … would first like to congratulate you on your newest achievement as Governor General of Barbados and wish you all the best in your office.

“It’s with great regret that we address this letter to you, but there seems to be no other option.”

The correspondence, signed by the three men, informed the Head of State that after numerous attempts in writing, calling and interviews with the Permanent Secretary of Defence and Security and the Prime Minister, both present and past and various other Government entities, “we have found no favourable response to our grievances”.

The ex-soldiers requested a meeting with the Head of State.

Correspondence on the letterhead of the Governor General, dated August 20, 2012, acknowledged receipt of the soldiers’ written communication requesting that meeting.

“With respect to the matter of the pension which you seek as persons who have been retired from the Barbados Defence Force on medical grounds; I wish to state that I have had a meeting with the Permanent Secretary in the Department of Defence and Security, who informed me that he has been in regular contact with you on this matter,” the letter noted.

“He has also assured me that the next meeting of the committee will take place very shortly and that you will be informed soon thereafter of the result. It seems to me however that the problem which you must face is that you were not permanently injured and in order to qualify for the pensions, the three of you are seeking, the regulations must be satisfied.”

The letter informed the former BDF members, through spokesman Ryan Lewis, that in order to be granted a pension, an applicant must be permanently injured, and that appeared to be their problem.

“In the circumstance, no useful purpose would be served by a meeting with me,” it ended.

However, Lewis rejected that position and suggested that this was what officials may have led the Governor General to believe. Lewis sought to prove his case by referring to Part Vl, Section 25 of the Defence (Pension) Regulations, 2007, under Special Allowances for Injuries which state in part: ‘Where the officer’s or soldier’s capacity to contribute to his support is slightly impaired … five sixtieths, impaired … ten sixtieths, materially impaired … fifteen sixtieths, (and) totally destroyed … twenty-two sixtieths’.

The ex-soldier showed a series of correspondence exchanged between himself and various Government entities, including one dating back to March 2006, in which then Ombudsman Cyril Clarke acknowledged receipt of his complaint, and promised to be in touch with him once he received a reply from the relevant department.

The Barbados Defence Force Pensions Committee itself, replied to an April 29, 2010 letter from Lewis, the following month and assured him his medical discharge issue was being investigated and that he would be contacted in due course. In another letter dated January 25, 2011, the same committee apologised for the lateness in responding to his query regarding the payment of his pension benefits. That correspondence told Lewis the body was still working on matters affecting payment and would reply as soon as was possible.

Up to the time of publication of this story, the soldiers lamented that they were still waiting.

When contacted this afternoon, Acting Permanent Secretary in Defence and Security, Eugenia Edey, told Barbados TODAY, through her secretary, she could not speak at this time because she was about to attend a meeting, but would mostly likely comment tomorrow.†††

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