BY K.C. Vijayan
THE parents of a former full-time national serviceman, who has remained in a coma for over three years after an incident in camp, is taking the Ministry of Defence to court over compensation issues.
They claim that then-corporal Jeremy Tan, now 26, is entitled to coverage for medical costs and a permanent disability package since the injuries occurred while he was in camp and in service.
Mr Tan, then a storeman at the Seletar East Camp, was found unconscious on a grass patch outside the block where his third-level bunk was located at about 6pm on Aug 3, 2005.
He was subsequently taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital with severe head injuries, although his parents were also told when they arrived at the hospital that he had a severe viral infection.
But the issue which the courts are expected to address when the hearing starts today before Justice Tay Yong Kwang is whether the injury was caused in the course of his service. Mr Tan would not be eligible for compensation if the injuries were not service-related.
On the day he was found, he had completed his storeman duty for the day and was last seen in his bunk at about 6pm.
His lawyers Lau Teik Soon and Rajvant Kaur are seeking payment on either of these two grounds - compensation; or if that is not forthcoming, then damages due to negligence.
The lawyers claim Mr Tan, a Temasek Polytechnic diploma-holder who had planned to pursue university studies after his NS, and his family had suffered tremendous loss as the young man had wanted to support his parents in their old age.
His father, 50, a former labourer, is unemployed as he has heart problems, while his mother, 47, is a bank teller. He has a 19-year-old sister who is a poly student.
|Mr Jeremy Tan
Mindef subsidised his medical treatment at Tan Tock Seng Hospital from the time of the accident up to Feb 28, 2007, when he was regarded as having been discharged from hospital.
Mr Tan has, since September 2007, been in a step-down facility for rehabilitative treatment at the Tan Tock Seng Rehabilitation Centre in Moulmein Road.
It is understood that his parents had approached Mindef for compensation prior to seeking legal help.
They have sought an explanation for the cause of their son?s injuries. Although he was found unconscious, it is understood there were no visible injuries at the time aside from foaming at the month.
In previous media reports in May 2006, Mindef had said he was found in a comatose state in a spot just below his room, which was on the third storey.
Mindef said he was not engaged in any operational or training activity at that time, and was last seen in his room at about 5.45pm.
It added that independent medical evidence showed his injuries could have come from a fall and its probe found no evidence of foul play.
|Mr Tan Kian Lee, 50, Madam Hor Hong Kiow, 47, and sister Jasmine
Tan, leaving court. They are the parents of former full-time national
serviceman Jeremy Tan.
Mr Tan was given $5,000 from the SAF Benevolent Fund. In addition, Mindef had offered on compassionate grounds $500 a month for five years to assist him.
He did not have insurance cover.
Mr Tan completed his NS in October 2005 while he was in a comatose state.
His parents visit him daily at the Moulmein Road facility, where he remains bedridden. Since Mindef's payments ceased in February 2007, his parents have chalked up outstanding hospital bills totalling $133,000 for his upkeep.
This article was first published in The Straits Times on Jan 12, 2009.
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|Jeremy Tan lies in a vegetative state in hospital.
His family visit him every day, hoping for a miracle.
|Mr Tan showing The New Paper the
hospital bill, with medical expenses
amounting to more than $35,000.