I feel I need to write to you to express my disappointment and concern at the level of service provided by your office.
When my father was demobilised from World War 2, he chose not to apply for his medals as he felt he had done nothing heroic or special. He also felt guilty because he was invalided and in hospital at a time when his entire battalion was decimated at a major engagement. Of recent years, however, and especially since he has had grandchildren to share his stories with, he has begun to wish he had the medals to show them and to talk about.
Eighteen months ago, therefore, I wrote to your office to claim them, sending clear details of his army service record so that they would be easy to identify. You replied that, due to a change in office, it would take nine to twelve months to process the claim.
Please imagine my distress when, eighteen months later, a reply comes to my enquiry. “Before we can assess your father’s entitlement to medals we would be grateful if you could complete the enclosed Certificate of Kinship and return it to this office with your father’s death certificate. Please be aware that the department has placed a priority on the assessment of cases for surviving veterans, therefore it may be some time before we are able to assess your father’s entitlement.”
I contacted the office by telephone to explain that, while he has been diagnosed as terminally ill in the time since I first sent the letter, he has not yet passed away, and my letter had been very clear in stating that my father was still alive. I did not really take kindly to a request for his death certificate. However what made me far more distressed was the callous way in which the gentleman on the other end of the phone dealt with my call.
This is an office dealing with people involved in a war which took place over sixty years ago. The people in question will clearly be nearing the end of their life and so I would think it important that the people dealing with their claims should have some training in speaking to families who may be recently bereaved or may be facing up to losing their loved one. However there was no apology for the mistake, no sense of urgency in dealing with the claim. When I said that my father was terminally ill and asked if he could be given some priority, I was told that I would have to prove he was dying. I should send an official letter to confirm that he is terminally ill and naming me as next of kin.
While I can understand that there may be some need to confirm this in order to avoid queue jumping, I cannot believe that it could not be more sensitively handled. My father lost a lot when he fought for his country and I am disappointed that, in claiming his medals, he is not treated with more dignity.