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More than 37,000 veterans of the British Armed Forces are being forced to turn to benefits

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Ex-soldiers say: ‘McDonald’s staff earn more than us’ as they join migrants in the lengthening queues for charity and benefit handouts. The government’s own figures show almost 3,000 serving troops are now on benefits while thousands more veterans each month are applying for Universal Credit.

‘I didn’t have enough cash to feed my family on my Army salary’. Gary Weaving, the founder of Forgotten Veterans UK, says his charity helps serving soldiers who can’t pay their bills 

Retired soldiers reveal how they were homeless for years after leaving Army. The situation has been branded a ‘shameful insult’ to Britain’s military heroes as forces charities scramble to help military families survive the cost-of-living crisis

Liam Cary was 16 when he joined the Army but after leaving, he was left homeless for years. He now relies on Universal Credit to make ends meet as he cannot work due to his PTSD diagnosis. Liam is pictured passing out of his basic training 

Almost 3,000 military personnel are claiming Universal Credit, figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have shown. The revelation comes as military charity bosses today warned they were mobilising in preparation for a fresh surge of forces families desperate for help this winter.

The statistics, obtained by the Labour Party, also show at least 37,000 retired military heroes are now reliant on state handouts. The news has left a former soldier and leader of a charity supporting suicidal veterans indignant with rage and saying: ‘It’s pathetic. These people are willing to give their everything in service of this country yet staff in McDonald’s are earning more.’

While another ex-soldier, Liam Cary, 28, who has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and is on benefits, labelled the situation an insult, adding: ‘I’m ashamed… this shouldn’t be happening.’

Government sources have claimed the numbers are misleading, insisting that there is no way to tell whether or not those currently in the armed forces claiming benefits were full-time personnel or part-time military reservists. 

John Healey, Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary, said the situation painted a sorry picture of the pay for Britain’s military personnel and showed the shocking impact the cost of living is having on the force’s community.

Mr Healey said: ‘These figures are a shameful insult to service communities, who are ready to make the ultimate sacrifice for our country. ‘Those who serve in our British armed forces should not be forced to rely on benefits, yet ministers can’t even tell us the true scale of the problem and continue to break promises on employment support. ‘The government must ensure personnel and veterans are receiving the right support to get through the tough winter ahead. It is what our country expects and what service communities deserve.’ 

The number of military personnel on benefits was confirmed by Victoria Prentis, minister of state at the DWP. The number of troops claiming Universal Credit has risen steadily over the past few months, from 2,400 in April to 2,900 in July – the most recent figures available. 

Meanwhile, the number of veterans claiming the benefits package has skyrocketed during the same period, with 38,000 now on Universal Credit compared to 33,800 in April. The news comes as a young soldier claiming Universal Credit says he was ‘abandoned’ by the government and left homeless for years after leaving the Army. 

Ex-infantryman Liam Cary, of Walkden, Greater Manchester, was left traumatised after serving his country and had nowhere to go when his Army career ended. He had joined the military straight from school, aged 16, after his mother Dawn died of Hodgkin lymphoma. But after about four years of service, Liam quit the infantry to find that his father had ‘lost the family home’.

The young soldier then spent years sofa surfing, sometimes resorting to sleeping on public benches.  He told the media: ‘My life has been a rollercoaster since I got out. I was abandoned by the system. The only thing I got was a veteran’s badge.’

He claimed he was unable to work due to his PTSD diagnosis and was forced to ‘jump through hoops’ to claim benefits. He added he was appalled to hear that current-serving troops were being forced to turn to the benefits system to survive.

‘This makes me feel ashamed. It’s an insult. This shouldn’t be happening,’ he said. ‘If you’ve served in the armed forces, you should be put into your own benefits system. I’m a veteran, I should be treated better than this. I understand there are people worse off than this. But at the end of the day, we have done something for this country.’ 

Liam is not alone in his struggle; fellow ex-soldier Marc Hill was forced to sleep in his car for six months after leaving the army. The Afghanistan and Iraq veteran was left homeless and claiming benefits after he quit the Army in 2015, following a 23-year career with the 1st Battalion Light Infantry.

Former Corporal Marc spent the first six months of ‘civvie street’ living in his car while working in Edinburgh as he could not find a place to live.

‘When you are in the Army, it takes care of everything for you but there is not enough preparation for leaving,’ the 48-year-old dad said. ‘I felt I was just left to cope, which I didn’t. I was not in a good place at all. I had gone from being in charge of 30 blokes when I was just 22 to living in my car, with no idea how to cope.’

Marc moved back to his parent’s home in Sunderland, near Newcastle, and has since found a place of his own in nearby Southwick. But he said his traumatic experiences during his time in Afghanistan, Iraq and Northern Ireland had left him with crippling PTSD and unable to work, instead ‘surviving on’ Universal Credit and his military pension. The total number of people in the UK armed forces, as of April, was 158,000, with most – 56 per cent – coming from the Army. 

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