to hell and back – to lose a penson

Former soldier Tony Fisher who has had his war pension reduced
Former soldier Tony Fisher who has had his war pension reduced
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A WIGAN ex-soldier left traumatised by horrific army experiences has had most of his war pension cancelled – three weeks after qualifying for it.

Tony Fisher, who witnessed the aftermath of massacres during the Bosnian War and later faced the bloodbath of the Omagh bombing, has on several occasions attempted suicide since quitting the armed services.

The 37-year-old, from Belmont Avenue, Bickershaw, has been claiming benefits as he tries to conquer his demons and get back into settled work.

Royal British Legion advisers suggested that as he had suffered mental injury from his experiences – he has been officially diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder – he should apply for a war pension.

He applied in October and three weeks ago received a letter from the Service Personnel Veterans Agency (SPVA) informing him he was entitled to £32 a week.

But the dad of two’s satisfaction was short-lived. This week he received a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions telling him that as a result of the new “income”, his £108.50-a-week Employment and Support Allowance would be cut by £22.

A furious Tony said: “This is not about money. I can survive on £100 a week. It is the principle of the thing.

“I have been injured in war and was given a pension by the Ministry of Defence, and now another department has all but taken it away again. I am going to appeal. I am not doing this so much for myself but for others.

“I have a friend who lost a leg, and he had £65 taken off him the same way.

“One of the ironies is that the DWP turned me down for Disability Living Allowance – now it has hit me again, when another department recognised my disability.

“The pension should be no-strings – a thank-you for services rendered, and for putting your life on the line.”

Tony joined the First Battalion of the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment on leaving school, and, by 1994, was in Bosnia as a UN peacekeeper, where he not only had to confront ethnic cleansing atrocities, but in Vitez was kidnapped by crooks while out of camp.

He escaped and two men were convicted of abduction and attempted murder.

Being involved in the clear-up in the immediate aftermath of the Omagh bomb atrocity in Northern Ireland was a trauma which proved the final straw.

His depression, aggression and heavy drinking have led to an inability to hold down jobs, and the break-up of two relationships.

He has made four suicide attempts, and doctors only just managed to bring him back from death’s door after one of them.

A DWP spokesman said: “We owe the men and women who have served their country a huge debt of gratitude. We will do everything we can to help them to find work, and make sure they get all the benefits they are entitled to.

“Disability Living Allowance is paid to help people who are unable to do things, like walk or wash and dress themselves.

“If someone feels a decision was wrong, they can ask for it to be reconsidered and we will look at any new medical evidence.”

She added that income-related benefits help people who need help meeting their day-to-day living expenses.

“We normally take any income fully into account, when calculating the benefit someone is entitled to. However, there is a special disregard of £10 per week in respect of War Disablement Pensions.”

A spokesman for the SPVA said Tony could continue claiming the £32 pension, even if he found work, and if his condition deteriorated he could be re-assessed to receive more financial assistance.