‘No ben­e­fits as­sess­ment help for PTSD vet­er­ans’

Western Mail - - NEWS - DAVID WIL­LIAMSON Po­lit­i­cal editor david.wil­liamson@waleson­line.co.uk

WELSH vet­er­ans have put the spot­light on the trauma and dif­fi­cul­ties faced by former sol­diers who have been dis­charged on med­i­cal grounds as they try to nav­i­gate the ben­e­fits sys­tem.

They are con­cerned that former ser­vice­men who suf­fer from Post-Trau­matic Stress Disor­der (PTSD) and other health prob­lems can be in­structed to come to as­sess­ment cen­tres and re­fused a home visit.

Ex-ser­vice per­son­nel ar­gue a home visit for vet­er­ans should be con­sid­ered a “com­mon cour­tesy” and warn of how go­ing to the cen­tres to prove they qual­ify for help could trig­ger panic at­tacks and put peo­ple at risk.

Lee Jones, a 45-year-old vet­eran, orig­i­nally from Pon­ty­pool, who served with the Royal Green Jack­ets in Gi­bral­tar and North­ern Ire­land, suf­fers from PTSD and other health prob­lems and fears that if he at­tends an as­sess­ment cen­tre and suf­fers a flashback or gets up­set he would “lose the plot”.

He has sought a home visit, with his med­i­cal cen­tre sup­ply­ing a list of his con­di­tions, stat­ing he is con­sid­ered un­able to at­tend an as­sess­ment in New­port.

“All we’re ask­ing for is some­thing sim­ple,” he said.

De­scrib­ing his dis­ap­point­ment with care for vet­er­ans, he said: “I feel let down by the Gov­ern­ment, to­tally. Lo­cal men­tal health is just a joke for ser­vice­men, it doesn’t help them.”

Mr Jones joined the armed forces in 1989, tak­ing in­spi­ra­tion from his un­cle, who had served in the Falk­lands.

He said he saw “hor­ri­ble things” in North­ern Ire­land, adding: “If you men­tion any­thing about it, peo­ple say, ‘Oh, it wasn’t that bad out there, was it?’ And you’re like, ‘You had to be there to know.’”

Dave Price, a founder of Welsh Vet­er­ans Part­ner­ship (WVP), said: “When you’ve got peo­ple with out­stand­ing med­i­cal con­di­tions as­so­ci­ated with PTSD and other com­plex sit­u­a­tions that have arisen out of their army ser­vice, with the Mil­i­tary Covenant they should have a duty of care to give them the op­por­tu­nity for a home visit if their men­tal health is af­fected by them hav­ing to go into some­where that they’re not fa­mil­iar.”

Jamie Knox, a 34-year-old from Swansea, served in the 1st Bat­tal­ion The Royal Welsh and was de­ployed to Afghanistan three times. He was in­jured when hit by shrap­nel in an ex­plo­sion and has also suf­fered back prob­lems.

He joined the army in 2007 and left this year, and is alarmed by the dif­fi­cul­ties former ser­vice per­son­nel face as they wres­tle with PTSD and the chal­lenge of carv­ing out a civil­ian life.

He said: “No-one cared about my treat­ment... The army should still be there in the back­ground be­cause those sol­diers [gave] ev­ery­thing they could and did ev­ery­thing they were told... There’s no af­ter­care. You’re not their prob­lem any more.”

De­scrib­ing the dif­fi­culty of filling out a Per­sonal In­de­pen­dence Pay­ment form, he said: “This is all like hi­ero­glyph­ics to me.”

He re­gards the sys­tem as “messed up” and is con­cerned that peo­ple who need help may not de­scribe what they are go­ing through.

“You don’t tell no-one,” he said. “They’re your demons.

“That’s what squad­dies do, they hide it and they do it well.”

Mr Knox ar­gues the United States shows how bet­ter sup­port can be pro­vided for vet­er­ans.

He said: “You look at Amer­ica... I’m not say­ing we should be treated like gods or any­thing but they get ev­ery­thing square.

“The vet­er­ans are sorted over there, but here it’s just men­tal.”

Sum­ming up his sit­u­a­tion, he said: “All I want is a bit of help and it just seems there are bar­ri­ers con­stantly put up to stop me from hav­ing this help.”

Tor­faen Labour MP Nick ThomasSy­monds said: “I am very con­cerned to hear that armed forces vet­er­ans suf­fer­ing from PTSD are be­ing de­nied re­quests for home vis­its when their med­i­cal con­di­tion makes at­tend­ing ap­point­ments in pub­lic lo­ca­tions such as as­sess­ment cen­tres very dif­fi­cult.

“Not only does this seem un­just, it strikes me [it’s] against the prin­ci­ples of the Armed Forces Covenant.

“Our armed forces vet­er­ans who have served our country de­serve to be treated fairly and I have al­ready writ­ten to ex­press my views on this mat­ter.”

Cardiff South and Pe­narth Labour MP Stephen Doughty also voiced con­cerns, say­ing: “I think there are some very se­ri­ous ques­tions about how the ben­e­fits sys­tem works for a range of vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple, par­tic­u­larly given the spe­cific needs of vet­er­ans.

“It’s cru­cial they are given the right ad­vice and sup­port in an ap­pro­pri­ate en­vi­ron­ment to en­sure they re­ceive the en­ti­tle­ments they de­serve.

“For those who have put their lives on the line for our country, it’s es­sen­tial that we treat them with the ut­most re­spect and sup­port in gain­ing their en­ti­tle­ments.”

A spokes­woman for the Depart­ment for Work and Pen­sions said: “We deeply value the ser­vice of our armed forces and are com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing serv­ing and ex-per­son­nel and their fam­i­lies get the sup­port they need, and have ex­tra pro­vi­sions in place for them.

“We spend more than £50bn a year to sup­port dis­abled peo­ple and those with health con­di­tions.

“All our cen­tres meet le­gal ac­ces­si­bil­ity re­quire­ments, but we go fur­ther and can ar­range to meet at more ac­ces­si­ble sites nearby or a home visit where ap­pro­pri­ate, and can re­im­burse travel costs.”

> Lee Jones served with the Royal Green Jack­ets, but now suf­fers from PTSD

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