Hundreds of thousands of veterans with health problems face losing free BBC TV licences

There are just 105 days to go until June 1, when the BBC plans to scrap the perk for over-75s in a cost-cutting move. They will only be given to those who are eligible for the pension credit benefit. Many old soldiers, sailors and ­airmen who have a small military pension will find this excludes them from claiming the benefit, meaning they are no longer entitled to a free licence. 

They now face paying £157.50 a year to keep their TVs. Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “We owe so much in this country to all the older people who have served in the forces over the years. 

“More than a million are now in old age and coping with serious health problems. 

“It seems incredibly mean-spirited to take their free TV licence away. But that’s what’s going to happen by the summer unless the Government and the BBC have a change of heart and agree a ­different approach.” 

There are 1.1 million men and women aged 75-plus in Britain who have served their country. 

Many now rely on their televisions for company as they suffer debilitating health problems which make it difficult to get out. 

As many as 600,000 have long-term conditions affecting their hearts and blood pressure. Around 400,000 find it hard to walk as they struggle with leg or foot problems, and 250,000 have poor mobility due to back or neck issues. 

Another 250,000 either cannot use or find it difficult to use their arms or hands 

More than a quarter have hearing issues which make socialising difficult and contribute to loneliness. 

With the clock ticking, Age UK is warning that these most vulnerable older people who will be hardest hit if the decision to scrap free TV licences remains in place. 

Peter Rayner, vice-president of the National Pensioners Convention, said: “As an ex-serviceman myself, I am aware of how much of an issue this is for many of our veterans. 

“I count myself very lucky that I am not personally dependent on the state pension alone, but I know that for those who are, this is a tremendous blow. 

“It says very little for our leaders that they can so quickly forget the debt owed to this generation. We hope they will take steps to help them.” 

Under BBC plans, pensioners aged 75-plus will have to buy a TV licence or navigate a complicated means-testing process to prove they are in receipt of pension credit, entitling them to continue receiving the concession. But two in five of all those ­entitled to pension credit do not currently claim the benefit, it has been suggested. 

Veterans whose military pensions take them over the £167-a-week minimum income for pension credit top-ups will be affected. 

Some servicemen and women who received compensation because of an injury during their time in the Forces are also ineligible for pension credit. 

A spokesman for The Royal British Legion said: “Veterans who are over the state pension age who receive compensation payments due to an injury in service may find themselves unable to access pension credit as the Government’s means test unfairly treats all but £10 of payments as normal income. 

“The Government should urgently review the pension credit means test to ensure that those who are injured in service are not cut off from this vital benefit and the ­support it offers.” 

The BBC’s plans to send out support workers to help pensioners have backfired as critics say the door-knocking teams are likely to frighten or worry older people. They are also not likely to have received any specialist training or have experience helping pensioners cope with physical ailments. 

The Daily Express crusade to keep free TV licences has seen tens of thousands of coupons flood in to the BBC from our army of loyal readers furious at the plan. 

In addition, more than 600,000 people have signed an Age UK ­petition calling for the benefit to remain. 

A BBC spokesman said: “We have reached the fairest decision we can – one that helps the poorest pensioners while ensuring that everyone will continue to receive the best programmes the BBC can provide. 

“We are working with charities to make sure that we make this transition as easy as possible. A key part is a new payment scheme so that over-75s can pay smaller regular payments rather than the whole fee in one go.” 

A Government spokesman said: “We are disappointed with the BBC’s decision and have been clear that we wanted and expected them to continue this concession.” 

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