Veterans Aid Stories

Bob

“My father was a former soldier who fought in the war and he never got any help, or wanted it – although he was disabled from the war and died a very young man in a lot of pain."

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Bob

MORE than 40 years after his military service ended Bob found himself unable to work. A legacy knee injury from his Parachute Regiment days had deteriorated to the point where he was in constant pain.

In October 2011 he had a knee replacement. It didn’t go well. His wife had a job but couldn’t drive, Bob was increasingly unable to get about and money was becoming scarce.

His six tours of Northern Ireland were literally a lifetime ago and while he had fond memories of his Army service, he wasn’t defined by it.

“My father was a former soldier who fought in the war and he never got any help, or wanted it – although he was disabled from the war and died a very young man in a lot of pain. I never dreamed of asking for help, I thought ‘I’ll just get on with it, and that’s it’.

Fortunately a neighbour of the genial countryman knew about Veterans Aid. He recalls, “The response was startling. The same day contact had been made with Bob, and within a few days an appointment had been arranged for him to see a Professor of Surgery at one of the London teaching hospitals. Within a few weeks Bob was sent a travel warrant to get from the Cotswolds to London, met at the station by Jon, an ex-Army member of the Veterans’ Aid staff.”

Jon said, “I think the boss chose me was because of my own military background and my time in Northern Ireland. We hit it off straight away. I kept in regular telephone contact with Bob and last year, in January 2014, we got the devastating news that they’d picked up lung cancer, in its early stages, on his scan. That moved the goalposts dramatically for his knee surgery but I was told ‘We are going to support this man emotionally, financially – whatever it takes – and he is going to be your case’.”

Today Bob is back at work, catching moles and enjoying the Gloucestershire countryside with his wife. His cancer is in remission and the remedial knee surgery brokered by Veterans Aid means that he can stride out confidently and without pain. His verdict: “As for Veterans Aid, I just cannot believe what they’ve done for me; they’ve backed me personally, financially, mentally – the whole works. Even paying for taxis to get me around. They are just fantastic.”

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Mark

“Being homeless is like being in battle; if you think you are tough you should try it - the fear the violence, the stabbings. The loneliness, the tiredness and the exhaustion – its just unbearable.”

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Mark

WHEN the icy waters of the Thames closed over Mark’s head his life could have ended. He was homeless, isolated and in utter despair. He’d lost his job, his relationship had broken down, alcohol had become a serious problem and he was sleeping rough.

“Being homeless is like being in battle; if you think you are tough you should try it  – the fear the violence, the stabbings. The loneliness, the tiredness and the exhaustion – its just unbearable.”

Four days after being pulled out of the river the former soldier contacted Veterans Aid where, within hours, he was given new clothes, hot food and accommodation. When he left the charity’s care he was a different man. Today he has a home, a job and a future.

“I have got my manhood back, my dignity has come back, my self-respect has come back . . . my faith in humanity has come back.”

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Employment

“We’re not a job centre, or a careers advice agency, but we have helped many veterans find work, training placements or suitable courses” – CEO Veterans Aid, Dr Hugh Milroy.

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Mental Health

Stereotypes and urban myths about the mental health of serving and ex-serving personnel abound.

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Addictions

We maintain, much to the chagrin of those seeking more hysterical headlines that addiction is a societal issue, not at all confined to those who previously served in the Armed Forces.

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Employment

Veterans Aid has built strong working relationships with a number of employers who are committed to giving ex-servicemen and women a supportive route back into employment.

See infographic on VA Training, work & placements 2016.

Through a structured programme, veterans who are seeking work can be introduced, without commitment, to companies offering job or training opportunities.

The aim of this ‘brokering’ service is to give clients and employers an opportunity to meet and establish whether they are a good ‘fit’. New organisations are being added to the list all the time and feedback on clients’ experiences closely monitored.

“Our decision to work with VA in offering careers to their veterans has seen us meaningfully engage with two to date, both of whom are earning huge amounts of plaudits from the clients whose contract they are deployed to support. Indeed, one was awarded GSS Superstar of the Month recently.” 
Gary Malloy, GSS Ops Director

Companies that VA is presently partnered with include:

Amey, AECOM, AMG, Biotecture, D Group, Foxtons, GSS, Masterfix, McGinleys, Museum of Brands, NHS Foundation Trust, Silverhill Consulting, Skanska, Timpson, SSVC, Wellington Management and Wilson James.

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Mental Health

Research, predominately on serving members of Her Majesty’s Forces, appears to have had the unfortunate consequence of erroneously linking military service, in the public’s mind, with the entire range of difficulties Veterans encounter on leaving service.

Another less reported consequence is the creation of a group of individuals who falsify or exaggerate their military service in order to access veteran specific services.

The mental health of serving and ex-serving personnel has become politicised. This has occurred against a background of an increasing tendency within society to ‘explain’ what many would see as normal human emotions and behaviours in psychiatric terms. Many Veterans become naturally distressed by poverty, debt, unemployment, lack of education or skills including literacy and homelessness the treatment of which is action not self or prescribed medication.

Time is money. The current preoccupation with auditing and rationing time through the use of questionnaires, rather than face-to-face contact time, can cost more in the long run. There seems to be a focus on the process of providing care rather than listening in order to identify what is actually needed.

Making time to listen shows the respect so vital in helping anyone connect with support and begin to regain his or her self-respect. Self-respect is an essential step in rehabilitation and restoration of normality to shattered lives.

It is wrong to inappropriately ‘label’ naturally distressed individuals as mentally ill as this can undermine self-respect. Equally, it is wrong to ignore active mental health problems and substance misuse issues, which should be pursued aggressively and managed appropriately. No two Veterans are the same; neither are their needs. Veterans Aid understands this — which is why it is successful.

Ian Palmer, Professor of Military Psychiatry

 

To find out more see the links below:

UK extended Medical Assessment Programme for ex-service personnel: the first 150 individuals seen (2012)

Mental health of regular and reserve military veterans – Amy C. Iversen & Neil Greenberg (2009)

Health of national service veterans – an analysis of a community-based sample using data from the 2007 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey of England (2010)

The Veterans’ Transition Review – Lord Ashcroft’s Review (2014)

RBL – The UK ex-service community: a household survey (2014)

 

 

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Addictions

Alcohol-related harm costs England £21 billion per annum (Alcohol Concern, Alcohol Statistics 2016). The Office for National Statistics shows that 7.8m people admitted to binge drinking. (2017). See Veterans Aid infographic on Britain Today substance misuse.

As the leading charity for veterans wishing to access treatment we are regularly contacted for comment on the plight of ex-servicemen struggling to cope with an alcohol problem. Our reply continues to point the context in which veterans are living in this country – in short, Britain is in the midst of an alcohol crisis. We maintain, much to the chagrin of those seeking more hysterical headlines that addiction is a societal issue, not at all confined to those who previously served in the Armed Forces.
– Phil Rogers, Substance Misuse Worker

Quite why some people can drink and use drugs socially, whilst others cannot, remains a matter of enormous conjecture and discourse for researchers and practitioners within the field. It is hugely complex issue for all concerned, yet the rhetoric of a simple leap from taking the Queen’s shilling to alcohol dependency is something we passionately dispute.

The general make-up of the average veteran this service meets has remained largely unchanged for some years now (the vast majority being ex-Army – 83% – as opposed to Royal Navy / Royal Marines / RAF, 43 years old, and having left the Armed Forces around 15 years ago). Though most still present with an alcohol problem (43%), we have seen a rise in the number of clients using drugs (heroin and cocaine 17%), or combining their alcohol misuse with drugs (34%).
This change appears to have been reflected in wider society as drugs such as cocaine, cannabis, ketamine and the new ‘legal highs’ have become increasingly socially acceptable, particularly for the under 30s. The remaining 6% present with a gambling issue.

Much of our success lies in building strong relationships with services which, notably, are not veteran-specific. Agencies such as RAPt, The Kairos Community Trust, The Providence Projects, Salvation Army Greig House, Street Scene, and City Lit have all provided their enormous expertise and experience to a huge number of our men and women. Though accessing addiction treatment from local authorities for the average ‘civvy’ is proving to be increasingly difficult, for those fortunate enough to have a service number our door continues to represent a place of immeasurable transformation and change.

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