Update as of 9 Oct 2019:
As it appears there is a lack of interest in this matter, I am not going to appeal against the Judge's decision. On my part, I have demonstrated to the best of my means my duty and love to Singapore, in particular, towards my fellow national servicemen.
While I certainly hope this matter will not be repeated in the future, this matter shall be dealt with by the next unfortunate serviceman as it stands now. If that happens, I sincerely hope he will have the strength like me - to fight when it's time to fight, to let go when it's time to let go.
For those who have considered making a donation, thank you for your consideration.
I wish Singaporeans well.
I am bringing up a matter of national interest and public importance regarding the handling of servicemen's government medical certificates and compensation awards by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF). In my situation, certain officers of the SAF have misplaced trust, in particular, by revoking my medical certificate issued by the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) without following due procedures, failing to properly investigate the incident (described below), refusing various claims for compensation award unreasonably, and others.
Reasons for crowdfund
The incident started with the SGH medical certificate which states “Fit for light duty from 07-Feb-2014 to 06-Feb-2015” with the clarification “Excuse from reservist & downgrade permanently”. On 12 January 2015 and following from the SGH MC, MO initially issued a handwritten SAF MC indicating “Excuse ICT”. The CO did not accept. The MO then amended his MC to “Light Duties x2/52” without re-examining me or explaining the type of light duties that I’m suited for. Relevant images are attached below.
Handwritten MC - before MO's amendment:
Handwritten MC - after MO's amendment:
In 2016, MINDEF cleared the CO/MO in their investigation. After the incident, I contacted the following parties:
- MINDEF feedback unit
- Chief Medical Corps/Chief Army Medical Officer
- Defence Minister
- Local Member of Parliament
- Singapore Medical Council
- Ministry of Health
None of my actions got MINDEF to review their investigation. Now, the outcome of this investigation has affected the compensation award.
The Ministry of Health / Health Minister is currently determining if the MO was negligent. The CO remains cleared by MINDEF’s findings. I have shown how MINDEF’s findings contradict MO’s statement (explained later).
There are also an ambiguity with the current regulations on the Compensation Board.
Having attempted all possible avenues, a judicial review is therefore necessary. However, the High Court Judge refused to commence this review.
I wish to appeal against the Judge’s decision, but security of costs of $20,000 is required to pay to the Court of Appeal by 11 October 2019. Furthermore, the lawyer costs for the appeal is estimated to be $30,000 (at a discounted rate) excluding disbursement.
I am unable to afford these sums. Also, I am unable to represent myself in this appeal due to the complexity of this case and my current medical condition.
Most importantly, flawed procedures and wrongdoings should be reviewed so that future servicemen can benefit.
I am providing only a brief background as the full story is very long. This background omits other incidents that put MINDEF/SAF in no better light.
1. The incident: On 12 January 2015, the first day of In-camp training, the SAF CO and/or MO revoked my SGH medical certificate. After one night, my injury aggravated and this subsequently led to my surgery. Unable to cope with my work after the surgery, I left Singapore for New Zealand in 2016. My medical condition is now considerably worse than that before the incident.
2. Improper Investigation: MINDEF did not take a full statement from me to conduct a proper investigation. In March 2016, their investigation concluded that the CO and MO were not negligent. I disagree with their findings, and provided reasons and evidences. However, MINDEF refused to review their findings. However, on 19 November 2018, the Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen responded in a parliamentary question that SAF MOs do not revoke medical certificates issued by external medical practitioners. It is very clear that due procedures were not followed during and after the incident.
The MO's statement to the Ministry of Health also contradicts with MINDEF's findings; the MO claimed that the CO made the decision to revoke the SGH MC, but MINDEF's findings indicate that the MO revoked the SGH MC.
MO's statement (to the Ministry of Health):
Findings from MINDEF's investigation:
In the above, the CO had found the annotation "Excuse ICT" broad. However, about a year before the incident, I had presented the same SGH medical certificate to another unit MO who then issued a SAF MC indicating "Excuse In-camp Training..." (see image below). I was subsequently excused from that ICT. The CO should justify how he could have seen "Excuse ICT" as a broad annotation when the term is as clear as it can get.
3. Unacceptable delays: The Pensions Officer took 4 years to issue the compensation award. Of these 4 years, (he claimed that) 13 months were spent waiting for information from me. NUH also took some time to respond. I assume this took 6 months. Therefore, an unacceptable period of 29 months was taken to assess the award. Furthermore, of the 29 months, the Pensions Officer required 18 months from July 2016 (the date of NUH disability assessment report) to realize that he needed a further clarification. Clearly, nothing was done during this period. The Pensions Officer justified these long periods by claiming that he should be careful with taxpayers’ money. However, his position as the Pensions Officer during the 18 (or 29 months) is funded by the taxpayers.
4. Denied compensation (due to negligence): The Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean stated in Parliament on 17 July 2007 that “an additional lump sum compensation is provided when there may have been negligence on the part of [MINDEF]”. MINDEF refused to award this compensation even though I have shown that the CO and/or MO were negligent and my permanent disability has indeed arisen from service alone. As it stands now, MINDEF has issued a very pathetic award (relative to, for example, the security of costs) and they have rejected most of my other claims unreasonably.
5. Denied compensation (overseas treatments): The Pensions Officer said he will consider private and chiropractic medical expenses incurred overseas as an exception provided that I submitted certain documents that meet MINDEF’s requirements. I submitted the required documents with the specialist confirming that all of their requirements are met. However, the Pensions Officer, having no medical knowledge, not only rejected all my overseas treatment claims, but also changed the original requirements. For example, MINDEF initially asked for:
“a document explaining why chiropractic treatment, as opposed to medical treatment such as physiotherapy, is necessary for my condition.”
This was later clarified by the Pensions Officer to mean that he was asking for “case-specific medical evidences”. However, the Pension Officer did not allow me to respond to the amended requirement. In fact, the requested “case-specific medical evidences” were provided in my submitted document, but the Pensions Officer did not have sufficient medical knowledge to assess these evidences.
On 12 September 2019, the High Court Judge denied my application to commence Judicial Review against MINDEF’s findings and compensation award. I received the Judge's brief reasons from my lawyer. They are copied as follows:
(a) There is clear statutory appeal process which is able to specifically address your grievances. The Judge is of the opinion that there is a clear avenue for you seek recourse and that you should avail yourself to that appeal process.
(b) The Judge also noted that you are not time barred from commencing the appeal action.
(c) Taking your case at its highest, i.e. that the appeal board's power is limited, the Judge finds that the Regulation does contemplate further enquiries made by you if deemed necessary.
(d) The Judge is not persuaded that you have a prima facie case, that there is reasonable suspicion / procedural impropriety or that there was irrational consideration.
My brief responses to the Judge’s reasons:
(a) While a statutory appeal process has been clearly stated, I have demonstrated that it will not be able to specifically address all my grievances. The Compensation Board will not be able to study non-medical matters (e.g. potential negligence by CO/MO) based on the powers granted to the board by the Regulation 13A of the SAF Pensions Regulations.
(b) While I am not time barred, I have demonstrated that the appeal board’s power is limited. The Compensation Board will not be able to assess all components of the compensation award.
(c) The Judge may not have fully learnt of Regulations 14(1)-(3) and Regulation 16 of the SAF Pensions Regulations, in which the review of award must be necessitated by a Pensions Officer (not by me) and no award under these regulations shall be subject to review or by appeal to any Court except as otherwise provided by any written law.
The phrase “contemplate further enquiries made by you” is a play on words that does not fix the problem. An enquiry is not a review and MINDEF can ignore my enquiries similar to what they did regarding the investigation on CO/MO. It is also difficult for me to raise appropriate enquiries especially when MINDEF has chosen to conceal most of their methods and justifications for the compensation award from me and the public. By then, the regulations do not allow me to appeal against the award to the Court.
(d) My affidavits, evidences and supporting statement speak for themselves. A few arguments are stated earlier in the brief background. Also, the upcoming statutory appeal process may take another few years to complete.
Having made aware of MINDEF's procedures of determining the compensation award from their statements for the Court Proceeding, I am convinced that their current procedures that require the Pensions Officer to assess medical evidences before determining the compensation award is bound to fail. In particular, the Pensions Officer lacks the relevant medical knowledge. If this procedure is not rectified now, then future taxpayers’ money will be wasted on unqualified Pensions Officers and the prolonged wait for the compensation award only adds unnecessary suffering to future injured servicemen.
After viewing MINDEF’s past actions, the Regulations and the Judge’s decision, there is no reason for me to believe that the subsequent Compensation Board (if I proceed with this avenue) and the further enquires made by me (if deemed necessary) will address all my grievances within a reasonable amount of time.
A judicial review to review procedures, both before and after the formation of the Compensation Board, is necessary.