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We are letting down our Army Forces veterans and this should be a national scandal

Armed Forces Day is fast approaching, a day when we come together to honour the courageous service men and women who keep us all safe. The appalling human cost of war, and its impact on those who fight on our behalf, must never be forgotten.

The State has a duty of care to those who put their lives on the line for their country, so the very least we should expect is for veterans who suffer injuries or ill health to have the support they need post service to live a full and dignified life.

Yet many veterans have told me this is not always the reality.

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People with complex PTSD and worsening physical injuries can face an arduous, confusing, complex and stressful fight for years to get what they are due through the War Pensions and Armed Forces Compensation schemes.

They feel abandoned by the State and distrusted by a system which seems rigged to refuse them. Many veterans give up on their claims while others struggle on with worsening poverty and mental ill-health, even in some cases suicidal thoughts.

These are not outlying issues – the dissatisfaction rate with the claims processes at Veterans UK, the arm of the MoD that administers the schemes, was a shocking 80 per cent in the latest customer satisfaction survey.

We are letting down our veterans and this should be a national scandal. It is why I am calling for an independent public inquiry into the processes at Veterans UK.

We need to make sure there is root and branch reform of the system, not simply tinkering around the edges. We need to give veterans an impartial platform to raise their experiences and to be taken seriously, not dismissed.

This is not a party-political fight. I have no doubt we are united in our desire to do the best for ex-service men and women so I am seeking support from MPs of all political persuasions to take this forward.

Indeed, in a cross-party debate that I led in March, a resolution was agreed by the Parliament which called for an independent public inquiry to be set up, so it is disappointing that this was simply ignored.

In the absence of UK Government plans for an inquiry, I will be tabling a Private Members’ Bill to set one up as soon as possible.

I hope it will be widely backed across the House so that the Government will no longer be able to bury its head in the sand and say ‘nothing to see here’.

As we thank our Armed Forces for their incredible efforts, protecting us from the very worst that humanity has to offer, surely it’s not too much to ask that we treat all veterans with the respect, kindness and compassion that they deserve.

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