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Veterans Needing Support Expected To Double In 2020, Charity Warns

The CEO of SSAFA said the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the veteran community is "likely to be felt for years to come".

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A charity has warned it is expecting the number of military veterans needing its support to double this year.

SSAFA, the Armed Forces Charity, said the number of veterans asking for help so far this year is already more than the total for 2019.

In a report titled 'Mind The Chasm', the charity warned the misunderstanding of the ongoing needs of former personnel when they leave the Armed Forces is being worsened by the coronavirus crisis.  

The charity claims a lack of understanding and misrepresentation of the forces in the public eye is a reason that former personnel can find the transition into civilian life challenging.

More than 82% of the 2,000 adults surveyed for the report hadn't heard of the Armed Forces Covenant – a Government-funded initiative to support the Armed Forces community.

However, when asked if the Government could be doing more to support the Armed Forces community, just over two-thirds said "yes".

SSAFA’s CEO, Sir Andrew Gregory, said a potential gap in support "could soon resemble [a] chasm" for some former personnel.

"While most servicemen and women thrive when they leave the Armed Forces, a percentage have always found the transition difficult," he said.

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Mr Gregory warned "the impact of this pandemic is likely to be felt for years to come" (Picture: PA).

"Despite having expanded in recent times, the mentoring capacity that SSAFA provides could be tested; numbers approaching the charity have grown significantly this year, especially as a result of the impact of COVID-19.

"That is a single year, but what worries me and the charity more, is that the impact of this pandemic is likely to be felt for years to come."

The report also aimed to raise awareness over SSAFA's own mentoring service, something Mr Gregory said "has never been so necessary".

He told Forces News: “Most people in the military don’t think problems are going to affect them. They are confident in their own and their families’ abilities, so things like the Armed Forces Covenant, they don’t feel are relevant.

“Despite all the efforts that have been made to communicate it to people, we’re not that surprised that so many don’t know about it and understand it.

“What I would urge military people to do, is to look carefully at their own circumstances and try really objectively to take stock. And when they think they’ve got some difficulties – whether it’s getting housing or medical support, during service, or particularly when they leave the service, that is where the covenant can kick in and that is where charities like SSAFA can help.

“Too often people are too proud to ask for support. We find people come very late to SSAFA. If they would come earlier, we could help them greatly.”

Former Royal Marine medic Cassidy Little, who lost his leg after an IED blast in Afghanistan in 2011, said: "They may not be as visible as my physical injuries, but the scars of transitioning out of the Armed Forces run deep and demand long-term support."

Personnel transitioning out of the Armed Forces can access support from the Ministry of Defence for a period of two years after they leave.