A FORGOTTEN generation of working-age veterans is surviving on an average annual household income of just £13,800, according to a major new report.

Armed Forces charity SSAFA’s survey of nearly 1,000 veterans also found former soldiers suffering from long-term physical and mental health problems, living in fear of debt and experiencing depression as a result of their circumstances.

Many believe they have been disadvantaged by their military service and feel poorly treated when they leave the Forces compared with veterans in the USA according to the report, which focused on the everyday issues facing younger ex-Service personnel aged between 16 and 64 who had approached SSAFA for help.

The shocking findings included:

  • 75 per cent have long-term physical or mental health conditions, illnesses or disabilities
  • 61 per centare suffering from a formally-diagnosed mental health condition
  • More than one-in-two (54 per cent) do not have enough money for essential items. More than four-out-of-ten say they cannot afford daily living expenses
  • One-in-two (51 per cent) are economically inactive, many of them not well enough to seek employment
  • 85 per cent believe the UK doesn’t give enough support to its veterans
  • Four-in-ten believe they have been disadvantaged by their military service in relation to housing and/or employment
  • More than four-out-of-ten Afghanistan veterans reported being formally diagnosed as currently suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – the proportion rises to one-in-two for Gulf War veterans.

SSAFA’s report gives a voice to veterans on “The New Frontline” – the transition from the services to civilian life. Some are reliant on food banks while others have ended up homeless, in prison or have contemplated taking their own life.

One of those interviewed is David Swift, who joined the Army aged 17, but found it near-impossible to adjust to civilian life when he left and ended up living on the streets.

He said: “In the space of a year I went from being a healthy young man in a great regiment to someone sitting in a park wondering what the point of my life was. You need help, but your pride is too important to you. Sometimes you think your family would be better off without you. You feel worthless.”

Air Vice-Marshal David Murray, chief executive, SSAFA, said: “Our research has identified a cohort of veterans living in pretty desperate circumstances, often through no fault of their own. These men and women are not fulfilling their potential in civilian life; their plight is too easily ignored.

“Disappointingly, something that comes across loud and clear from our report is that many of the veterans helped by SSAFA do not feel valued. They have served our country – sometimes suffered for our country – and yet they feel forgotten.

“SSAFA knows that the transition period is a pivotal time for those taking their first steps back into wider society. We must identify vulnerable service leavers before they walk out of the barracks for the last time.”

Following on from the study, SSAFA is calling for:

  • Welfare screening of potentially vulnerable servicemen and women before they leave the Forces
  • A new government-funded mentoring scheme to support vulnerable veterans for at least their first year as a civilian
  • The Ministry of Defence to improve its discharge processes to ensure that the service records of veterans are shared with the appropriate health and welfare professionals.

To download the full report, visit www.ssafa.org.uk/thenewfrontline

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