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Where a surviving partner receives compensation payments, these might change if they remarry, enter into a civil partnership, or start cohabiting with another person. The rules have changed over time, resulting in a complicated picture.

Deaths attributable to service from 6 April 2005

In the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS), survivors’ benefits are unaffected by any subsequent marriage, civil partnership or cohabitation for partners of service personnel whose death was attributable to their service from 6 April 2005.

Deaths attributable to service before 6 April 2005

For deaths occurring before 6 April 2005, the overall payment may be made up of a non-attributable pension from Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS 75) and a compensation award. The compensation award may be made up of two parts:

  • War Widow(er)’s Pension under the War Pensions scheme
  • Armed Forces Attributable Benefits Scheme (AFABS) survivors’ benefits

Changes to survivors’ pensions

Under both schemes, the original policy was to withdraw survivors’ benefits in the event of remarriage or cohabitation. The rules have changed so that:

  • War widow(er)s whose spouse died before 31 March 1973 could keep their War Widow(er)’s Pension if they remarried, formed a civil partnership or started cohabiting with another person after 6 April 2005. However, those who had remarried or began cohabiting before this date did not have their pension reinstated.
  • A War widow(er) whose spouse died after 31 March 1973 whose War Widow(er)’s Pension had been withdrawn because of remarriage or cohabitation could get the pension reinstated if their new partner died or the relationship ended.
  • Since 31 October 2000, AFABS pensions have been paid for life, regardless of remarriage, the formation of a civil partnership or cohabitation. This didn’t apply to people who remarried or started cohabiting before this date (although their pension could be reinstated if their new partner died or the relationship ended).
  • Everyone receiving a survivors’ pensions (whether under the War Pensions Scheme or AFABS) who remarried, formed a civil partnership or started cohabiting after 1 April 2015 have been able to keep their pension.

The change introduced on 1 April 2015 did not extend to those who had already surrendered a War Widows’ Pension on remarriage, entering into a civil partnership or cohabitation.

War Widows Ex-gratia payment scheme

The Minister for Defence People, Veterans and Service Families, Dr Andrew Murrison, announced in May 2023 that the Government would establish a scheme to cover those who forfeited their pension by remarrying or cohabiting before the rules changed in 2015. The new scheme will make a tax exempt one-off payment of £87,500 to each eligible widow(er) from winter 2023.

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