When our he­roes de­serve our help

Western Mail - - WM2 | VIEWS OF WALES -

THE plight of vet­er­ans who have served their country but now suf­fer from men­tal and phys­i­cal in­juries is rightly a weight on the con­science of the na­tion.

Vet­er­ans have told us of their dif­fi­cul­ties ac­cess­ing ben­e­fits. Nav­i­gat­ing the bu­reau­cracy of the wel­fare sys­tem is a chal­lenge for many fam­i­lies, but cop­ing with this pres­sure while also suf­fer­ing from Post­Trau­matic Stress Disor­der (PTSD) could push peo­ple into a state of an­guish.

We have heard why some vet­er­ans find the prospect of go­ing to an as­sess­ment cen­tre to de­ter­mine whether they qual­ify for ben­e­fits so in­tim­i­dat­ing. It is not just anx­i­ety about their fi­nances which makes them dread the thought of this jour­ney; the idea of go­ing into such an un­fa­mil­iar en­vi­ron­ment is a night­mare for some former ser­vice per­son­nel whose lives are now blighted by panic at­tacks.

We owe it to peo­ple who signed up to serve in con­flict en­vi­ron­ments that we do ev­ery­thing we can to help them ad­just to civil­ian life and cope with the legacy of their time in dan­ger zones.

Men and women who vol­un­teer to serve in battles are not cowardly or lazy; we can un­der­stand why they will feel ag­grieved if ben­e­fits as­ses­sors will not come to meet them in their homes in­stead of ex­pect­ing them to trek to cen­tres.

The dif­fi­culty of liv­ing with PTSD can­not be over-es­ti­mated. Many peo­ple are not able to es­cape decades-old trauma and are haunted by what they have ex­pe­ri­enced.

In com­mu­ni­ties across Bri­tain, vet­er­ans shud­der daily as they re­call im­ages of hor­ror and mo­ments of ex­treme dan­ger, and mourn the loss of com­rades who died while serv­ing their country.

Fam­i­lies will do their best to sup­port loved ones who bear men­tal and phys­i­cal scars but few peo­ple will be able to re­late to what they wit­nessed and en­dured.

It is im­per­a­tive that care for ser­vice­men and women does not end when some­one leaves the bar­racks for the last time; it should be as­sumed that all vet­er­ans will be sup­ported as they start the next chap­ter of life.

For some, in­juries will mean they will not be able to jump into new ca­reers, and they may strug­gle to cope with so­cial en­vi­ron­ments. Too many vet­er­ans end up home­less and in per­sonal tur­moil.

Char­i­ties such as the Welsh Vet­er­ans Part­ner­ship do im­por­tant work but we should en­sure the mech­a­nisms of the state also help and do not hin­der he­roes.

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