Senior military officers must produce a medical report from a command hospital to certify their disability pension claim, a three-service panel recommended to the Defense Ministry as part of measures to limit cases “unjustified” demands for the pension.
A senior defense ministry official, who declined to be named, said the proposal was approved by the chairman of the chiefs of staff committee – a three-service body – and sent to the ministry.
It was recommended that, as a first step, the requirement for command hospital certificates be introduced for disability pension claims for military officers of the rank of Major General and above. This condition could be progressively made applicable to other ranks – for example brigadier and assimilated – at a later date.
Under the existing rules, the disability status of soldiers can be certified by any military hospital.
The Command Hospitals are better equipped and have more specialized doctors who can better deal with the level of disability. The services hope that putting the responsibility on command hospitals would deter soldiers from making inappropriate disability claims.
It was also recommended not to report the level or percentage of disability in service records.
“The disability percentage should only be given when the officer leaves,” the officer said, explaining that a disability could be rectified or reduced over the years.
The panel also proposed to change the current disability pension tax exemption status.
Disability pensions paid to the armed forces are not taxed under a 1922 order of the British Indian Army. But in 2019, shortly after being appointed finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman withdrew the tax exemption. The movement which had the support of the general staff of the services, in particular of the general staff of the army, had annoyed the veterans.
Defense Minister Rajnath Singh took the policy decision to reverse the order and called on the services headquarters to find ways to reduce the “irregularities” in the disability pension. The Hindustan Times was the first to report this.
In the military – the largest of the three forces – an average of 20 percent of all outgoing officers are certified with varying levels of disability.
In the current fiscal year, the government has allocated Rs 1.12 lakh crore for defense pensions only. About 11.2% of Indian army officers, including generals, and 0.8% of soldiers receive disability pensions. There are approximately 2.5 million retired soldiers in India.
A medical downgrading entitles a soldier to better retirement benefits. On average for the same rank, a disability pension can be 20 to 50% higher than a normal pension, plus tax exemption.
In 2006, the 6th Wage Commission increased the invalidity pension to bring about parity with other services. The 7th Wages 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 members of the medical profession had claimed disabilities for non-physical injuries such as hypertension, diabetes, hearing loss, obesity related diseases and other ailments.
There are two types of disability pensions – âwarâ and ânormalâ.
War invalidity is 60% of the last salary received in the event of 100% invalidity, and normal invalidity is 30% of the last salary received in the event of 100% invalidity.
For wounded non-combatants, the non-medical benefits are 30% of the last salary for 51-100% disability and 15% of the last salary deducted for 20-50% disability. Disability pensions in both cases are exempt from income tax.