Retired BDF Soldiers decry Post- Retirement Ailments

Attribute illnesses to lack of appropriate medical assessment by BDF
Say BDF does not have medical specialists but queries reports of private specialists
BDF says it invited retired soldiers to apply for medical assessment
Asserts it pays compensation according to BDF Act and applicable regulations

Failure of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) to conduct regular medical as-
sessment on soldiers after the vigorous entry military training has left scores
suffering from different ailments post retirement, the Botswana Defence Force Retired
Members Association (BDFRMA) has said. While some members of the army attrib-
uted the ailments they suffer to unqualified military instructors, the Chairman of BDFR-
MA, Major General Pius Mokgware, this week dismissed that view and insisted that
the training meets international standards.

Among other ailments that retired soldiers decry are body deformation, body pains and
spinal cord injuries. In an interview with The Gazette, Mokgware – who is also a retired soldier and a former commander of BDF ground forces blamed the ailments on soldiers’ lack of regular medical check-ups after the vigorous training they undergo when joining the army. He pointed out that military training is intense and vigorous by nature and therefore has the potential to cause body ailments as age catches up with those who underwent it.

“The spirit of the BDF is that by the time soldiers leave, they will be injured some-
how, hence the need for medical assessment upon retirement and regularly during the
course of work,” Mokgware noted. “But due to lack of constant medical assessment, as the soldiers age over the years, some diseases start to occur and render them unfit. The reason so many retired members of the army are experiencing different ailments is due to lack of medical assessment. As per the BDF Act, medical check-ups have to be regularly conducted as an intervention for possible occurrences of body ailments
during work and after retirement.” Mokgware said medical assessment has to
be conducted upon retirement for compensation for ailments sustained in the course of
work. “The BDF therefore ought to conduct medical assessment upon retirement of sol-
diers in the same way that it does when soldiers join the army,” he told The Botswana
Gazette in an interview.

Soldiers who experience post-retirementailments are mainly those who were not as-
sessed or were not assessed properly when they left the army, he said. Mokgware noted
that while the army did good to establish the BDF Medical Board, BDFRMA has long
raised questions about the Board’s lack of medical specialists to conduct assessment of
soldiers, hence the assessment is conducted by soldiers who work as general practitio-
ners in BDF clinics. “For a very long time we have raised concerns about this,” he said. “What is more concerning about the lack of specialists on the Board is that they have a tendency of rejecting medical reports from specialists that some retired soldiers engage when they experience these ailments because the recommended compensation claims are too high.

This is surprising because private practitioners are more qualified than BDF general practitioners.” Contacted about these issues, Colonel Magosi Moshagane said upon realisation that some members of the army may have retired without proper medical assessment, the BDF issued a public notice inviting such former soldiers with health conditions attributable to military service to apply for medical assessment between January 2016 and December 2020. “During the exercise, all eligible former
service members who were assessed and found to have health conditions that were
occasioned by military service or duty were duly paid disability pensions in ac-
cordance with the Defence Force Officers Regulation 55 (1) and Defence Force (Oth-
er Ranks) Non-Commissioned Officers Regulation 43,” Colonel Mogashane said.

He added that the BDF is mandated to conduct pre-exit medical assessments on
all separating members in order to establish their health conditions upon separation
in accordance with the BDF Act. “Where there is evidence ascertaining that a mem-
ber has any adverse health effects occasioned by military service or duty, such a
member is eligible for compensation and a disability pension for their ailment,” he
stated. “In addition, BDF continues to work closely with retired members and their as-
sociation to provide them with all services due to them.”