A hospital trust providing free parking for disabled benefits claimants has sparked controversy for exempting war veterans in receipt of a war disablement pension.
NHS bosses introduced parking fees for the disabled at the university hospitals of North Tees and Hartlepool recently - with those on benefits able to claim the charge back.
But a veteran has hit out after it emerged that wounded soldiers receiving a war disablement pension must still pay to park.
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Dr Derek Hall, 61, is director of the National Gulf Veterans’ and Families’ Association and a regular user at the Hartlepool hospital.
He said: “If I didn’t have a disabled war pension I would receive income support but I get the equivalent through a different Government department.
“I have no objection to discounts being provided for people who don’t have a wage packet.
“As a war pensioner, I do object to being denied the same discount.
“They provide free parking to benefit claimants and charge the war-wounded service veteran.”
The decision to charge disabled badge holders who can claim back cash is set by individual hospital trusts.
Under the move, which comes as the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust needs to save £40m over the next three years from its £260m budget, disabled drivers are now charged in line with others.
Blue badge holders who receive benefits including income-based jobseeker’s allowance, working tax credit or pension credit, can reclaim the cost of hospital travel, including parking fees.
But people who receive a war pension are not included.
Dr Hall, also a sitting member of the House of Lords Committee dedicated to protecting ex-service personnel’s welfare, is regularly treated as an outpatient at the hospital’s cardiology, endocrinology, rheumatology and asthma clinics.
Dr Hall, from Wingate, County Durham, is a consultant surgeon who served with the Royal Air Force medical branch from 1972 to 1997.
A trust spokeswoman said unfortunately war pension recipients were not eligible for the refund.
She added: “Our charges would not apply to disabled drivers on income support, income-based jobseekers allowance, working tax credit or pension credits for example and parking is free on our hospital sites for all patients who are undergoing a course of treatment for cancer there.
“People with disabilities do not want to be treated differently to anyone else.
“The important thing is that they can park close to our hospital buildings and we have recently made improvements to disabled parking to ensure it is accessible.”
She added that in making decision over parking charges, the trust follows guidelines set out by the Department of Health, which currently had no information regarding war pensioners.
The Department of Health confirmed that parking charge decisions are taken by individual trusts.
A spokesman for the Veterans’ Agency, which issues war pensions said: “The decision on who claims for car parking would be up to the individual hospital.”
Veterans can find out what they are entitled to by calling the Veterans Agency on 0800 169 2277.