Scandal of war heroes left on the scrapheap

Written by BAFF Admin on . Posted in Archive

(Daily Mail 16 Apr 2010): A minister with Cabinet status is needed to improve the treatment of war veterans, an influential peer said yesterday.

Lord Ramsbotham, a former prisons inspector, said creating the post would help the thousands of former servicemen left on the scrap heap after leaving the forces.

He said a minister for veterans would be able to work with Whitehall departments to ensure they were properly cared for.

Up to a third of all homeless people are former soldiers, sailors and airmen, many of them suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

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The difference between support for veterans here and in the U.S. is stark.

American veterans have their own dedicated hospitals and their own government department, the Veterans' Association (VA).

Importantly, they are given easy access to a host of support services from disability compensation to mental health treatment.

They get free university education and books, advice and finance to start a business, and free holidays in military 'hotels'.

There is also access to military facilities like golf courses, gyms, and canteens for life, and discounts on loans, car and home purchases and insurance.

A message on the department's website reads: 'Welcome to the Department of Veterans Affairs, and thank you for your service to our country.'

Quoting Abraham Lincoln, it goes on to say: 'The VA was established for one purpose: To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan.'

In Britain, there are bitter accusations that the Government has broken the 'military covenant' which promises a duty of care to soldiers, sailors and airmen in exchange for them risking - and all too often giving - life and limb for their country.

Former Sergeant Andrew Garfield, 49, who served for 12 years with British Army Intelligence and now advises the U.S. Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, said: 'The help available in the U.S. is excellent.

'My wife is the daughter of a Vietnam vet, and as such she is entitled to significant discounts on insurance policies that make a real difference to us.'

But others point out that America does not have an NHS nor the same tradition of charities which enjoy generous public support.