Page last updated at 14:30 GMT, Thursday, 17 July 2008 15:30 UK

Father welcomes compensation rise

Private Jamie Cooper
Pte Jamie Cooper fought to have his 57,000 payment increased

The father of a 19-year-old soldier badly hurt in Iraq has welcomed government plans to increase compensation payments for severely injured troops

Phil Cooper, father of Pte Jamie Cooper, who was crippled after a mortar attack, said he was "delighted" to hear compensation payments may double.

Pte Cooper's injuries have left him unable to work or walk without sticks.

His case was highlighted after he wrote a letter to his local MP complaining that his 57,000 payment was "rubbish".

Speaking to the BBC News website, Mr Cooper said his son's award was being reviewed and would hopefully be increased.

"Jamie caught MRSA and C-difficile in hospital and he now has a useless leg that he cannot use.

"He cannot use his hands properly and is unable to work - even pushing supermarket trolleys is beyond him.

"He was awarded 57,000, but that doesn't buy anything."

Mr Cooper says his son's fight was not just for himself, but for all the other soldiers who have been injured.

"I have spoken to Jamie, and he is very pleased, and hopeful that people like him will be treated more fairly in future."

'Dispose of them'

Diane Dernie, the mother of L/Bombardier Parkinson who was severely injured in Afghanistan, had been scathing about the treatment of wounded troops.

Ben Parkinson
Ben Parkinson's family have campaigned for greater compensation

"Soldiers are a commodity," she said. "They are simply figures on a balance sheet.

"They don't have any role, any function and the MoD want to dispose of them as cheaply as possible."

Ms Dernie has now welcomed the increase in compensation as "absolutely marvellous news".

"It's peace of mind," she said. "It's not so much for Ben's peace of mind, it's for his family's peace of mind. This is security, not just for now, this is for when we can't look after him and for the future.

"We cannot put a price on that, the weight it's lifted from our shoulders is unbelievable."

Long wait

Even those with less serious injuries can rely heavily on the help they receive from the Army.

Martin Biker, 43, from Stoke-on-Trent, was medically discharged in 2006 after having two car accidents while on military duty in the UK.

He suffered injuries to his back and knees which he says still affect his ability to work, stand and get about.

He now receives an Army pension which is tax-free because his injuries were attributable to service, but is angry about how long he had to wait for that help.

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"After I had to stop work I sat at home for a year before I was formally discharged," he said. "All that time I had to live off my pension, but it was being taxed. I had a mortgage, I had no income and it was really hard, I was really struggling.

"It took maybe six months after I was discharged before I was finally assessed and they agreed my pension should be tax-free.

"It's not right. Every young man who signs up aged 18 is willing to give everything if he has to, but if something happens to him they are very slow to give him any help.

"The perception is - whether it's right or wrong - that if you arrive in Britain on a truck, having done nothing for this country, you'll be rushed to hospital, but if you've risked your life for your country, you have to wait a long time."

Mark Elliott is from campaign group Help for Heroes which has battled to help soldiers win more compensation.

He said the news was very welcome: "The problem is with all this that if somebody is wounded the last thing they want is to have to go round fighting for compensation.

"There's always more that can be done - how can you really compensate someone for losing their leg - but money can make life more comfortable."




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