The Indian defence ministry has implemented new rules for granting disability pensions to armed forces personnel. The rules introduce the concept of “impairment relief” to cover lifestyle-related diseases such as hypertension and diabetes. The changes come after concerns were raised by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) that almost 40% of officers were claiming disabilities to receive higher pension benefits.
The new ‘Entitlement Rules for Casualty Pensionary Awards to the Armed Forces Personnel-2023’ change how disability pension is calculated for veterans. It comes after an internal assessment was carried out after the Comptroller and Auditor General ( CAG ) raised concerns that almost 40 per cent of officers were claiming disabilities to get higher pensionary benefits.
‘Impairment relief’, which has been added to the rules, covers most lifestyle diseases . It has been disassociated from disability pension, which will now be granted to personnel who have acquired other diseases or disabilities during military service and on active duty, such as in high altitude areas, extreme climatic conditions or due to excessive physical exertion.
Personnel deemed eligible for disability benefits get 20-50% higher pension and also get income tax exemptions. As per current assessment, the annual pension outflow is to the tune of Rs 10,000 crore and the tightening of rules is likely to save Rs 4,000 crore from the annual outflow, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The tightening of rules will also address concerns raised by the CAG, they said.
Only 18% of personnel below officer rank were claiming disability benefits, according to the CAG, which also raised concerns that 22% of disability pensions granted to officers and 13% to soldiers were on grounds of lifestyle diseases.
Following the rap from the CAG, the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) set up a panel to look into the matter and identify loopholes being exploited by personnel for claiming extra pensionary benefits. Cases of granting of disability certificates were studied and it was found that in several cases, officers were being issued disability status just prior to retirement. In the past, senior officers have publicly expressed concern on the high number of personnel claiming extra pensions on account of a declared disability.
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