A woman has been denied pension benefits by the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency (SPVA) because she was not married to her partner when he died.
The woman launched an official complaint on the grounds that she should qualify for the benefits due to her long standing relationship with the Air Commodore and the fact that she was dependent upon him.
According to the rules of the Armed Forces Pension Scheme 2005 (AFPS), a person can qualify for benefits upon the death of an enlisted member of the Armed Forces if they “were cohabiting as partners in an exclusive and substantial relationship” and were financially dependent on them.
While those rules would make the woman eligible for a pension, the AFPS also states that a person would be disqualified from receiving benefits if they were legally “prevented from marrying”.
Even though she had been in a long term relationship, the woman had not actually divorced her husband, from whom she separated in 1993.
The woman argued that she and her partner were married in all but name. They had been together for 15 years prior to his death, had been living together for a substantial amount of time and had shared assets.
They got engaged in 2009 and she began the process of having a wedding dress made. She also downloaded divorce papers in 2010 with the intention of completing them.
She argued that because her husband underwent heart surgery and suffered from poor health in 2010, she did not wish to add to his stress by pressing for divorce, so the wedding was deferred.
The Air Commodore’s death was completely unexpected, so the couple had not felt any urgency in getting the divorce on the basis that it could easily be completed before the wedding.
She also claimed that neither she nor her partner were aware that the failure to divorce would disqualify her from receiving a pension.
The Deputy Pensions Ombudsman ruled that the SPVA had obeyed the rules of the AFPS and did not uphold the woman’s complaint.
Photo by Ewan McIntosh via Flickr