Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Anil Chauhan, on Friday, stated that the revised disability pension regulations for the armed forces have been introduced to deter any misuse of their liberal provisions. These changes, which came into effect on 21 September, will also boost motivation and improve efficiency to ensure a healthier and more capable military. However, these policy adjustments have sparked disagreements among both serving personnel and ex-servicemen.
Speaking at a media briefing in South Block, General Chauhan, flanked by the Chiefs of the Indian Air Force Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari and Navy Admiral R Hari Kumar, said, “Provisions of the entitlement rules will be applicable to those persons who retire after September 21, 2022-23. There is no retrospective application of these provisions.” It does not introduce any change in the entitlement of those granted compensation for death or disability, and it will not alter the emoluments of war widows, family pensioners or veterans, the CDS added.
The new rules were brought out over five months after the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) asked the Ministry of Defence to carry out an analysis of the disability among soldiers after finding out that nearly 40 per cent of the officers and 18 per cent of personnel below officer rank (PBOR), who retire every year, were drawing disability pensions.
“Earlier, there were incentives to claim disability pension. At the time, only 3-5 per cent claimed this pension, but it can’t be 40 per cent. So many people cannot be disabled,” CDS observed. The armed forces personnel get higher payouts of up to 30 per cent of their pension emoluments based on the percentage of disability.
On the new “Entitlement rules for casualty pensionary awards to the armed forces personnel-2023”, Gen Chauhan said the “disability element” has been renamed as “impairment relief in respect of only those personnel who are not invalidated out due to their nature of disabilities and continue to serve till their terms of engagement” and assured that “the change in name to impairment relief does not affect the nature of entitlement or quantum of emoluments”. This new concept of impairment relief has drawn criticism as it doesn’t involve tax exemption.
Disability pension claims shot up in the years as personnel nearing retirement abused disability benefits for higher and tax-free pensions, flagging concerns about the trend of fit officers exploiting the welfare measure by getting themselves placed in lower medical category.
The Ministry of Defence in its statement, said new rules would streamline the procedure followed for assessment and entitlement of disability without any ambiguity to avoid litigation. However, no policy or entitlement-related changes have been made in the revised rules.
“The eligibility criteria for disability pension and other entitlements have been revised to ensure that the genuine interest of deserving soldiers is protected and to prevent the exploitation of these criteria,” said Gen Chauhan.