The Norwegian government, immersed in campaigns to boost recognition for military veterans, has been paying out record amounts of compensation to those suffering psychological problems after serving in armed conflicts.
Newspaper Aftenposten reported on Monday that soldiers have received NOK 136.5 million (about USD 25 million) since the beginning of last year. Each soldier has received an average payout of NOK 1.8 million.
A total of 253 veterans from wars to which Norway has sent troops since 1978 have applied for compensation because of psychological problems generally referred to as post traumatic stress syndrome. The government has dramatically stepped up its processing of the claims, granting payments to 101 of the cases in the past 18 months.
Total compensation payments have amounted to NOK 256 million since 2007. Most of those receiving compensation have served with Norwegian armed forces in Lebanon, Bosnia and Afghanistan. Given the relatively large number of Norwegians serving in Afghanistan over an extended period, claims may rise in the years to come, although returning veterans now routinely receive professional mental health care through a program aimed at heading off post traumatic stress syndrome.
Veteran Harald Evensen received NOK 2.4 million recently as compensation for mental health problems that developed after his own service in Lebanon and Bosnia back in the 1990s. Evensen is now on full disability: The smell of garbage reminds him of mass graves and prisoner of war camps in Bosnia, he remains constantly on guard for fear of snipers even when simply walking to his mail box in Norway. His compensation has come years after his service ended, and after several earlier rejections.
Now he says he’s not complaining about the amount he has received, rather that it took so long to get it. “I’m nearly 50 years old now,” he told Aftenposten, but is glad he no longer needs to worry about paying his mortgage.
The pick-up in compensation is part of the current left-center government coalition’s drive to better recognize and reward the service of military personnel in war zones. The military itself is also in the midst of a campaign to hail Norwegian veterans, and recruit new soldiers.