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Disability Pension Benefits

Published: 21 October 2019
From: Department of Defence

The Army Pensions Acts provide for the grant of disability pension (or gratuity) to former members of the PDF who are found by the Army Pensions Board to have a permanent disablement due to a wound or injury attributable to their military service, or disease secondary to an attributable injury, or related to their overseas service. The Acts also provide for the grant of dependants’ pensions to the spouse/children of PDF members whose death was attributable to their military service. The actual award of benefits in all such cases is not automatic but is subject to individual consideration under the provisions of those Acts and on whether the person’s death or disablement was attributable to, or aggravated by, their PDF service.

Under the Army Pensions Acts 1923-1980 a disability pension or gratuity may, following retirement, be granted to a former member of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) for permanent disablement due to a wound or injury attributable to military service (whether at home or abroad) or to a disease attributable to, or aggravated by, overseas service with a United Nations Force.

Time limits for application

Application for a disability pension must be made within a statutory time limit of 1 year after retirement in wound/injury cases, and 8 years in disease cases.

The criteria for awarding a disability pension or gratuity are based on:

  • whether the applicant is suffering from a permanent disablement due to wound/injury which is attributable to his or her military service at home or abroad, or to a disease secondary to an attributable wound/injury or attributable to or aggravated by service with a United Nations Force abroad


  • the percentage degree of disablement from which the applicant is suffering

The award of a disability pension or gratuity depends on the findings of the Army Pensions Board, the independent statutory body appointed to adjudicate on applications. The rate of disability pension depends on the degree of disablement as assessed by that Board.

It is important to note that compulsory retirement or discharge from the PDF on medical grounds does not give an automatic entitlement to a disability pension.

The Army Pensions Acts essentially constitute a military occupational injuries code which operates separately from, but in addition to, the Defence Forces retirement benefit (superannuation) provisions. However, the combination of both pensions is subject to an overall limit. In a case where both a service (retirement) pension and a disability pension are payable the service (retirement) pension is reduced – usually by an amount equal to one-half of the smaller of the two pensions – and the disability pension is payable in full. A military disability pension is tax-free.

How does the application process work?

Applications for disability pension are made on an application form that is available from Pensions Administration Section, Department of Defence, Áras an tSáile, Renmore, Galway, H91 AN2E.

When an application is received, Pensions Administration Section liaises with the military authorities to verify the service and other relevant details regarding the case. Once all the necessary documentation is available, Pensions Administration Section examines the case to ensure it complies with the provisions of the Army Pensions Acts. If the application is eligible for consideration it is forwarded to the Army Pensions Board.

The Army Pensions Board is a statutory independent Board appointed to investigate disability applications under the Army Pensions Acts. The Board consists of a Chairman and two ordinary members (two doctors) and generally two to three times a month. The Chairman and one doctor are civilians and the other member is a serving doctor in the PDF. The Board’s principal function is to investigate applications for pensions, allowances and gratuities under the Acts and to report to the Minister thereon. The Board determines the question of attributability to military service in each case; assesses the degree of disability; and reports its findings to the Department.

Once the Board is in a position to investigate an application, the Secretary of the Board contacts the applicant to arrange an appointment for medical examination. The Board examines the applicant, and based on this examination, as well as consideration of medical reports and records relating to the applicant, the Board makes a finding. Pensions Administration Section is then notified of the Board’s findings and acts on these findings. A pension or gratuity may be payable under the Army Pensions Acts where an applicant is found to have a disablement attributable to military service, The rates of pension or gratuity are set out in the Acts and depend on various factors including the degree of disablement. In cases where a pension is awarded, the award is generally not made final or permanent immediately. The award is generally made on a temporary basis and the disablement is reviewed by the Army Pensions Board after a number of years. A case can be reviewed on a number of occasions before the award is made final and permanent.

Section 13(2) of the Army Pensions Act 1923 as amended

If an applicant has been found eligible for an award under the Acts, and has received compensation for the same injury/condition, Section 13(2) of the Army Pensions Act, 1923 as amended, may be applied. Section 13(2) provides that any alternative compensation received by the applicant may be taken into consideration in fixing the level of disability pension or gratuity that might otherwise be awarded for the same injury or medical condition. The underlying objective of Section 13(2) is to take into consideration compensation paid ‘on the double’ for the same disablement. Compensation of the kind in question would usually result from a civil action for damages against the State but compensation received from any other source is not excluded.

In a case where Section 13(2) applies, the applicant or his/her solicitors are advised of the provisions of Section 13(2). They are invited to make submissions as to how much, if any of the compensation should be taken into account in fixing the rate of disability pension. The Minister then makes a decision based on a consideration of all the facts of the case. The Minister may decide to take all, some or none of the compensation into account in fixing the rate of disability pension. If the Minister decides to reduce the disability pension under Section 13(2), the reduction applies for the lifetime of the pension.

Abatement of service pension where a disability pension is paid

Under the rules of the Defence Forces (Pensions) Schemes, in a case where a disability pension has also been awarded, the service pension is subject to a reduction. This reduction/abatement is calculated in accordance with certain formula. In most cases a standard abatement applies, where the service pension is reduced by half of the disability pension amount.