Soldier loses leg in Afghan bomb blast - but told he cannot claim benefits
9:01am Wednesday 26th September 2012 in News
A HERO marine, who was severely injured in an Afghanistan bomb blast, has condemned benefits staff who told him his prosthetic leg was as good as a real one.
Now Aaron Moon, who lost a leg and suffered multiple broken bones in the explosion, has been told that he is not disabled enough to claim benefits.
He has accused the government of turning its back on him after his benefits payments were withdrawn — and he is taking the government to a tribunal in an effort to win them back.
Mr Moon, of Madison Park, Westhoughton , was only two weeks into his first combat tour in February, 2009, when he suffered horrific injuries after the Viking armoured vehicle he was driving hit a roadside bomb while returning from a patrol in Lashkar Gah in Helmand Province.
The 25-year-old was blown through the door of the vehicle and was airlifted to Camp Bastion, where he was put in a medically-induced coma.
He woke up a week later in Birmingham’s Selly Oak Hospital, where he discovered his injuries included fractures to his shoulder, spine, pelvis, hip, heel and legs, a ruptured spleen, dislocated knees and a broken leg.
Doctors fought for a year to save his right leg, but in November, 2010, they were forced to amputate below the knee and he was medically discharged 12 months later.
Mr Moon has claimed £100 per week Disability Living Allowance (DLA) since May 2009, but in November 2011 he had to go for a work capability assessment and his benefits were later stopped.
He said: “The person doing the assessment, who I thought was a doctor but later found out was a nurse, read out my injuries — including the fact I’d had my leg amputated — before examining me.
“He asked me to point down with my left foot, then my right foot, and I said ‘I haven’t got a right foot’ and he said ‘oh right’.
“Then he said ‘can you move your toes?’ “I said I’ve no leg, and took it off to show him and he looked surprised.
“I was shocked. Even though he’d just read my notes out to me he didn’t seem to know what my injuries were.”
Mr Moon said he later received a letter explaining that his benefits were being stopped because the Department for Work and Pensions had “surmised he could walk 200 metres pain-free”.
He said: “I phoned them up to ask why they’d stopped it and a woman in the office said ‘a prosthetic leg is just as good as having your own leg.
“I asked her — did she have a leg missing? And if not, how could she say this to me?”
The former sportsman played rugby league for Leigh Centurions’ academy side, but joined the marines because he wanted a challenge, having been inspired by his grandfather’s Second World War exploits.
Now living alone, his girlfriend has to help him around the house and his only income is his military pension and the compensation he received for his injuries.
Mr Moon said he wants to work and would like to set up a property business with his girlfriend.
He now faces a tribunal at Bolton Magistrates Court in October, at which he will attempt to get his benefits reinstated.
He said: “I’ve fought for my country — and when I got back the government turns their back on me like this. It’s the principle.”
DLA is awarded to people who cannot walk, or have major problems walking or who struggle to care for themselves.
A DWP spokesman said it was changing the system so that injured veterans would not have to undergo continual assessments for their disabilities.
She said: “We owe the men and women who have served their country a huge debt of gratitude and will do everything we can to help them to find work and make sure they get all the benefits they are entitled to if they are injured.
"Cases like this show exactly why we need to reform the system. With millions of pounds in underpayments and overpayments we agree that people are not always getting the right levels of support.”
She said everyone has the right to appeal a decision.