Victory for soldier fighting for pension

Michael and Jolene Anderson

Michael and Jolene Anderson

Charley’s War documents the madness of the First World War and the suffering of the soldiers at the front – and on their return home. It’s a story that resonates today, as veterans return home from fighting in Afghanistan and find other battles on their hands. This time, though, there’s some good news for one soldier.

On Monday, Jolene Anderson started a petition for her husband, Sergeant Michael Anderson, to receive his full military pension and by this morning, after her campaign attracted tens of thousands of supporters the couple discovered last night that he was eligible for the payout after all.

After the case  sparked accusations that the Army was seeking to save cash by targeting soldiers close to generous lifetime payments for redundancy, the Ministry of Defence says Sergeant Anderson has applied for transfer to another job within the Army and will be entitled to his full retirement package.

Now Jolene is backing a petition started by the Pension Justice for Troops, a group of former service men and women and their relatives, asking the Prime Minister to review the treatment of all soldiers made redundant within a whisper of qualifying for their pension.

On 13th June this year, Michael was told he was to be made redundant just three days before qualifying for his military pension. This meant he would lose almost half of his promised pension.

Like the fictional Charley, Michael has been a soldier from a young age – just 16 when he signed up. He was serving in Northern Ireland at 18, and at 19 was posted to Bosnia followed by a tour in Iraq in 2004. He is now a Welfare Officer and has had the difficult task of supporting families of soldiers killed in action and the severely physically and mentally injured.

“Our family, like all service families, accept and have dealt with the highs and lows of army life. We have been honoured to be part of the army family and would very much like to continue to be part of it. Our second child was born when Michael was serving in Iraq,” says Jolene. “The proudest moment for me was handing Michael his newborn son when he came home. As you can imagine, a very difficult yet joyful time for us both.

“Having put duty before family on so many occasions, I cannot now see why the loyalty and commitment we have shown is not being reciprocated by this Government.

“When Michael was informed of his redundancy I felt like my heart had been ripped out, more for Michael than me. Everything he knew and had worked for from the age of 16 taken away. We had planned on using the pension to secure a mortgage when we left army accommodation and to support our young family while Michael established a new career on civvy street. After a life of service for our country our family’s financial security has now been cruelly snatched away from us.

“The military pension is the key financial promise on which service personnel are recruited, retained and promoted,” Jolene explained. “Calling it a ‘pension’ is really not correct, it is more akin to a resettlement payment. It exists to assist service personnel transit with dignity to civilian life and is a promise around which all army families plan their financial futures.

“David Cameron has made commitments to men like my husband as part of the Military Covenant. He said ‘that those willing to lay down their lives for the country have a right to expect they will be dealt with properly.’ But the treatment of my husband, and others in similar situations show the promises the Government made to our military are being forgotten.

“Redundancies sometimes need to be made but I believe soldiers who are a few months, or in Michael’s case, days from achieving their pension should be given redundancy payouts that reflect such dramatic pension losses, pensions they have always been led to expect and rely on when leaving the services.

“After months of worry it is a huge relief to finally hear my husband will receive his pension,” she says. “I first raised my fears in the media in June but it wasn’t until my petition on that the Ministry of Defence said Michael’s transfer request will also stall his redundancy.

“The response to our petition has been fantastic and somewhat overwhelming. We are so grateful to the 100,000 people who have responded and continue to spread the word, your efforts have not been in vain and we are so grateful to you all.

“We hope that others in similar situations have the courage to ask for help because with the support of Great British public, it is achievable.

“Pension Justice for Troops, a group of former service men and women and their relatives, have started a new petition asking the Prime Minister to review the treatment of all soldiers made redundant within a whisper of qualifying for their petition.”

You can support the Pension Justice for Troops petition here

First published on the Charley’s War web site

The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Explorer (previously known as Star Trek Magazine) and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of "Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies" for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.

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