A total of 42 National Servicemen (NSmen) from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), Singapore Police Force (SPF) and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) have died due to service over the last 20 years.
42 deaths in 20 years
Of that number, 35 were from the SAF, four from SPF and three from SCDF, Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen wrote in a reply to Progress Singapore Party's Non-constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Hazel Poa's parliamentary question on behalf of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Jan. 9, 2023.
Poa asked Prime Minister Lee how many full-time and reservist NSmen in the SAF, SPF and SCDF respectively have passed away while in service, or suffered permanent disability from a service injury, over the past 20 years.
She also wanted to find out what is the amount of compensation paid to the servicemen in these cases respectively.
In his response, Ng stated that six of the 35 deaths – two from SAF, three from SPF and one from SCDF – were due to traffic accidents on the way to or from work or while on official duties.
He added that these incidents are covered under MINDEF's and MHA's compensation framework.
Separately, there were a total of 52 National Servicemen – 43 were from the SAF, four from SPF and five from SCDF – who suffered serious service-related injuries resulting in permanent disability to the brain, spinal cord, eyes or limbs, over the past 20 years.
Of that number, 11 cases were a result of traffic accidents.
Compensation payout ranges from several thousand to over S$1.5 million
Ng wrote that every National Servicemen is covered by injury and life insurance, bought on their behalf by the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Home Affairs, and the coverage under both policies was doubled from a maximum of S$150,000 to S$300,000 to provide a higher baseline payout since Jan. 1, 2023.
On top of this basic tier, further compensation will also be provided depending on the degree of disability and circumstances of injury or death, he stated.
"Total compensation for service-related injuries and deaths takes reference from industrial benchmarks such as the Work Injury Compensation Act (WICA), but is set several times higher to reflect the mandatory nature of National Service."
According to Ng, the total compensation provided to National Servicemen is about four times than the amount paid under the WICA for the same injury and comparable circumstances.
Payouts for deaths or permanent disability due to operations or training can vary widely, from several thousand dollars to more than S$1.5 million, due to individualised circumstances, he stated.
Additionally, servicemen who sustained service-related injuries are also provided with free medical treatment for their injury for as long as is medically necessary at SAF/SPF/SCDF medical facilities and public healthcare institutions.
"Low" rate of service-related death and permanent disability
Around 300,000 male Singapore citizens and permanent residents perform their National Service duties across the three services every year.
"The proportions of deaths and permanent disability due to service within the SAF, SPF and SCDF are therefore 0.001 per cent, 0.001 per cent and 0.002 per cent, respectively," Ng stated.
While both the rates of death and permanent disability due to service are "low" with reference to international or local benchmarks of comparable activity, he wrote that the SAF and Home Team constantly strive to achieve a zero fatality rate.
"Every incident is investigated at the highest levels of command, with corrective measures taken to improve the safety under which our national servicemen to train and operate," Ng said in the written reply.
Recent NSF's death
Poa's question and Ng's reply came in the wake of firefighter Edward H. Go's death in December 2022.
The 19-year-old full-time national serviceman from SCDF fell unconscious while responding to an operation at a rental flat at 91 Henderson Road on Dec. 8, 2022.
He was conveyed to Singapore General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on the same day.
Go was the first firefighter to die during an operation, and he was posthumously promoted from the rank of corporal to Sergeant 1 (SGT1).
SCDF conducted a ceremonial funeral for Go on Dec. 13, 2022, with hundreds of family members, friends, and SCDF officers gathered at Mandai Crematorium to bid farewell to the fallen firefighter.
Top image by Fiona Tan