‘Morning Star’ article – How the DWP helps to hide the cost of war

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Since British governments seem consistently keen on sending our young people off to war, you’d think they would keep track of what happens to our soldiers when they get back.

But a recent question I asked in Parliament suggests not.

I tabled a question to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions asking, first, how many former service personnel who have served in either Iraq or Afghanistan are in receipt of work-related benefits, and second, how many were in receipt of disability-related benefits.

Minister of State Mark Hoban told me that “the information requested is not available.”

I’m astonished that the DWP doesn’t hold this information.

Over the last decade the British state has been involved in several major military operations, of which the disastrous war in Iraq and the continuing quagmire in Afghanistan are the most obvious examples.

Thousands upon thousands of brave service personnel have been asked to risk their lives as a result of these foreign policy decisions.

Many have returned with terrible mental and physical injuries.

Politicians across the spectrum are rightly concerned that those who have returned from active service receive full support in reintegrating into civilian life, and that those who have suffered terrible injuries while performing their duties receive full support.

In other countries like the United States, veterans and their dependents receive specific benefits via the Department of Veterans Affairs.

In Britain, once service personnel leave the military they are dependent on civilian social security.

Many veterans would be eligible for work-related benefits as they reskill, or would be in receipt of disability benefit following the injuries they have incurred.

Indeed, evidence from the US suggests that many returning veterans have found it difficult to hold down jobs as a result of the trauma experienced in war.

There is another pressing reason why accurate and up-to-date information should be kept by the DWP.

Those of us who oppose the imperial ambitions of the British state argue that the cost of war is too high, both in human and in financial terms.

Those returning servicemen would in all probability otherwise be leading productive lives, contributing to the economy.

Instead they will, rightly, receive support from the state for the duration of their lives.

We know from Ministry of Defence figures that there have been nearly 7,000 casualty evacuations from Afghanistan alone.

It’s a legitimate question to ask what support these individuals have received on their return.

We deserve to know the full cost of these liabilities.

If electors were aware of the true costs of war they would be far less likely to support political parties who jump to the beat of the war drum and send our young people into danger.

It might lead to a far more reserved and sensible foreign policy by the British government.

Conveniently not holding information on the amount of war veterans in receipt of social security support is a way for the government to hide the true cost of war, both in human and in financial terms.

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