Military wives may have missed out on nearly half a billion in state pension rights, leading to the government coming under fire again for the poor uptake of a pension scheme.
Moneywise reported only last week how the government’s initiative to top up basic state pension had been deemed a failure after less than 5% of those expected to benefit signed up.
But it’s now come to light that the government’s state pension scheme targeting military wives has reached less than one fifth of its target group - although the scheme is still open to applicants.
Since 2016, military spouses and civil partners have been allowed to claim a national insurance credit for every week in which they were abroad due to their partners’ military postings. A full financial year of credits counts towards one year of contributions towards the full state pension.
Former defence secretary Michael Fallon claimed at the time that the scheme would help up to 20,000 military wives top up their lost contributions. But a Freedom of Information Request from financial services provider Royal London has found that only 3,765 women have claimed to date. The provider points to the “lack of publicity” as the primary issue for the scheme.
Steve Webb, director of policy at Royal London and former pensions minister comments: “This is a very good scheme to recognise the service of military wives over the years, but the take-up so far has been very poor.
“Women should not be suffering in retirement for their loyal service alongside their husbands overseas. The government should not simply wait for people to claim but should actively identify those who might be eligible and make sure that they get the money that they are entitled to.”
However, a spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions, doesn't believe Royal London’s research is fair. They say: “These figures are misleading and based on flawed assumptions. Our 20,000 estimate covers the period up to 2066 so applicants in the first 18 months isn’t indicative of a low take up at all.
“Our armed forces protect our country and it is only right that in turn, we help protect their partners’ ability to receive the full state pension when they reach state pension age and we’d encourage everyone to check their eligibility online at Gov.uk.”
How to claim military wives credits
To claim under the scheme, which is still open, you must meet the following criteria:
- It can be claimed for any instances all the way back to 1975.
- Divorced or widowed women can still claim if their former husband served in the military.
- It applies to any women born after 5 April 1953.
Mr Webb recently helped one former military couple, who do not want to be named, to claim six years of credits.
The recently retired Royal Navy commander whose wife accompanied him on overseas postings for well over six years says: "Having tried to navigate my way through the new state pension arrangements with mixed results, I would urge all military spouses who are currently in, or who have been in, married accompanied postings overseas to check whether they are eligible for national insurance credits whilst in their overseas postings.
“It is also important to have an accurate record of the official dates of arriving and leaving accompanied overseas postings. This is a very generous concession to military spouses and goes someway in making up for the recent changes in their pension arrangements, general upheavals and multiple house moves that military spouses are expected to take in their stride."
If you think you are eligible for this scheme, or know someone who may be, claim via Gov.uk.