Posted - 12/07/2013 : 18:51:04
I met with Oliver Colvile MP and two other MP's at Parliament last week.
We had an interesting chat about Veterans needs and in conversation this article was mentioned.
If you have any comments regarding content, I would be interested to hear from you and I will pass on your views at an upcoming meeting .
Sorry I have not been on the site of late, I won't bore you with the details.
Suffice to say I have been quite busy and hope to be up and running again soon.
I do hope all are well,
America takes its veterans' welfare more seriously
By Western Morning News
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Plymouth is a global leader for marine science engineering research. A key ingredient to this global reputation is the Royal Navy. It is not only the home of a sizeable part of the Royal Navy's fleet but also the home of 3 Commando Brigade. Whilst Plymouth is a naval garrison city, which is very proud of its naval heritage, we also face real social challenges that accompany a sizeable veteran community.
At the beginning of June, I visited Washington DC with the Northern Ireland Select Committee to take informal evidence for our inquiry into how the Province implements the Armed Forces Covenant.
Whilst there I also took the opportunity of making sure that everyone I came across knew that in 2020 Plymouth will be commemorating the Pilgrim Fathers leaving England, on the Mayflower, to found the American Colonies. I promoted Plymouth's case to host the G8 to coincide with this historic 400th anniversary.
The first thing that struck me was just how much more seriously they take veterans' welfare than we do. This is partially because they don't have a National Health Service but also because they failed to deal properly with their veterans' experience in Vietnam. This is an issue which has a major effect on American society.
In a visit to the Department for Veterans, I learned how the US Government:
Takes the lead on much of veterans' welfare where as we depend on charities – like Combat Stress, SAFFA and the British Legion; and
Supports their veterans by ringing them up three and six months after they have quit the services.
On leaving, all veterans are given a detailed directory of benefits and support – entitled Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents and Survivors. 100% of veterans take them up.
I was reminded that up to 15 years and beyond after leaving their military service, veterans can suddenly be struck by real mental health challenges. Some of this can lead to alcohol and substance abuse, which can in turn lead to minor crime and domestic violence.
I also heard how they have Veterans Treatment Courts to allow sentencing of service people for minor crimes to be administered by special courts with a strong emphasis on treatment and rehabilitation.
During a visit to the British Embassy I learned how a joint UK/US Service Personnel, Veterans and Families Taskforce has been created and there is much sharing of best practice between the two countries. Whilst we were not involved in Vietnam, a number of our veterans are dealing with their experiences in the Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan.
I learnt how the Americans have learnt from our Royal Marines' Trauma Risk Management initiative in helping veterans deal with these mental health challenges. For example, they don't discriminate between blood and step children. Here, we have a tendency not to take into account the needs of families with step children but concentrate on immediate blood relatives.
Since coming back, I have raised some of these issues in the House of Commons. Last Monday I called on the defence minister to meet with me to discuss how we might produce our own directory of benefits and support. This should be handed to each serviceman and woman on leaving the services. We should also develop an intranet and chat room for service veterans to share their experiences and act as a signpost for these services.
Along with a Labour MP, who also serves on the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, I am hoping to meet with Justice and Home Office Ministers to discuss how we might set up similar Veteran Treatment Courts. In ensuring that our justice system is aware of our veterans' experiences, we can avoid putting them into prison for minor crimes when we should be helping them with their mental health challenges. I am also hoping to put down a parliamentary question to find out how many members of the judiciary have had military experience.
Finally, with moves to make greater use of our reservists in defending British interests, we need to make sure that our GPs and health workers are aware that their patients have served in the military and that data can be shared. Perhaps this can simply be achieved by adding a letter to their National Insurance numbers.
By Oliver Colvile, Conservative MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport.
Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away