Govt plans to curb disability pension misuse, will start from the top
Under the existing rules, the disability status of soldiers can be certified by any military hospital.Updated: Oct 31, 2019 22:08 IST
Senior military officers should produce a medical report from a Command Hospital to certify their claim of disability pension, a panel of the three services has recommended to the Defence Ministry as part of measures to curb instances of “improper” claims of the pension.
A senior defence ministry official, who did not want to be named, said the proposal had been cleared by Chairman of the Chief of Staff Committee - a tri-service body - and sent to the ministry.
It has been recommended that to begin with, the requirement for certificates from the Command Hospital should be introduced for disability pension claims of Major General-rank military officers and above. This condition could gradually be made applicable to other ranks - for instance Brigadier and equivalent - at a later date.
Under the existing rules, the disability status of soldiers can be certified by any military hospital.
Command Hospitals are better equipped and have more specialized doctors who can take a better call on the level of disability. The services hope that giving the responsibility to Command Hospitals would build a deterrence to soldiers filing improper disability claims.
It has also been recommended that the level or percentage of disability should not be declared in the service records.
“Percentage of disability should be given only when the officer is leaving,” the officer said, explaining that a disability could be rectified or reduced over the years.
The panel has also proposed to alter the existing tax free status of disability pension.
Pensions with disability to the armed forces are not taxed under a 1922 order of British Indian Army. But in 2019, soon after being appointed as Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman had withdrawn the tax exemption. The move which had the backing of the service headquarters, in particular the Army Headquarters, had annoyed veterans.
Defence minister Rajnath Singh took an in-principle decision to rescind the order and asked service headquarters to come up with means to reduce “impropriety” in disability pension. The Hindustan Times was the first to report this.
In the Army - the largest of the three forces - on an average 20 per cent of all outgoing officer are certified with various levels of disability.
In the current fiscal, the government has allocated Rs 1.12 lakh crore for defence pensions alone. Around 11.2% of Indian Army officers, including generals, and 0.8% of troopers receive disability pensions. There are about 2.5 million retired soldiers in India.
A medical downgrade entitles a soldier to better retirement benefits. On average for the same rank, a disability pension can be 20 to 50% more than a normal one, plus tax exemption.
In 2006, the 6th Pay Commission hiked disability pension to bring parity with other services. The 7th Pay Commission, however, observed that there was a huge jump in disability pension cases, especially among the senior ranks.
A recent analysis by Army HQ showed that a large number of officers, including generals, and those in the medical corps had claimed disabilities for non-physical injuries such as hypertension, diabetes, hearing loss, obesity-linked diseases, and other ailments.
There are two types of disability pensions – “war” and “normal”.
War disability is 60% of the last salary drawn in case of 100% disability, and normal disability is 30% of the last salary drawn in case of 100% disability.
For non-battle casualties, the benefits apart from free treatment are 30% of the last salary for 51-100% disability and 15% of last pay drawn for 20-50% disability. Disability pension in both cases are exempt from income tax.