The New Frontline: Voices of Veterans in Need

A RECENT report by the Armed Forces charity, SSAFA, describes what it calls a “forgotten army” of veterans.

The major report from SSAFA, The New Frontline: Voices of Veterans in need, which surveyed nearly 1,000 veterans it has helped, shines a rare spotlight on the issues facing younger veterans. While attention has often been focused on the problems faced by older, retired veterans, this younger group is most likely to feel undervalued by society, the charity found.

There are 900,000 veterans aged 16-64, according to the Ministry of Defence’s 2014 survey of the veteran population. And although most successfully make the transition to civilian life, the report found for some veterans, the transition is a lot harder and the challenges faced by these men and women are stark.

The research identified the top ten challenges faced by SSAFA veterans, which fall into three main categories: financial hardship, poor physical and mental health, and lack of hope and self-esteem.

The report also found that four out of ten of veterans helped by SSAFA do not feel valued by society, a feeling that is most pronounced in the 16-34 age group and amongst veterans of recent conflicts in Iraq, the Balkans and Afghanistan.

The Armed Forces Covenant, enshrined in law by the 2011 Armed Forces Act, is supposed to ensure that veterans and their families are not disadvantaged as a result of their military service. It covers public services, such as health, education and housing. It says:

“Those who served in the Armed Forces, whether Regulars or Reserve, those who have served in the past, and their families, should face no disadvantage compared to other citizens in the provision of public and commercial services”.

More than half the veterans surveyed by SSAFA, however have never heard of it.  When its provisions were explained, only 39% of SSAFA working-age veterans thought it was 'fair', and 55% said it was inadequate and should be more generous. Only 16% thought it was being implemented effectively.

Do SSAFA veterans believe the Armed Forces Covenant is being taken seriously and implemented effectively?
47% No
33% Don’t Know
16% Yes
4% Not Stated

The crucial window of opportunity in which to reach the vulnerable is as they are leaving the Forces, not months or years later when they are in a downward spiral and find it more difficult to ask for help, said the charity.

To read the full report, go to https://www.ssafa.org.uk/thenewfrontline.