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Fighting for Fairness: Britain's Military Veterans, Disability and Benefit Cuts

  • Published: 2016-03-13 : Author: Paul Dodenhoff
  • Synopsis: Paul Dodenhoff writes on fighting for fairness regarding Britain's military veterans, disability and benefit cuts in the U.K..

Quote: "Iain Duncan Smith is certainly no stranger to criticism and it would be wonderful to see this arrogant and dreadful man asked some very serious questions in a court of law about his personal attitudes towards Britain's unemployed and disabled, as well as his political policies."

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David Clapson, a former soldier from Stevenage was found dead in his home in July 2013. The coroner's verdict found that David Clapson had died from diabetic ketoacidosis caused by a severe lack of insulin - just three weeks after having his £71 of jobseekers allowance sanctioned by The Department of Works and Pensions (DWP). The coroner stated that Mr Clapson was found lying next to a bunch of CV's, he had no food in his stomach and he had no money to pay for the electricity card that kept his fridge working - a fridge where he stored his insulin. When he died he was found with only £3.44 to his name, six tea bags, a tin of soup and an out of date tin of sardines.

Mr Clapson was described by his family as somebody who had:

"...worked for 29 years; 5 years in the Army - including two years in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, during the height of the troubles - 16 years with British Telecom, eight years with various other companies, and in recent years was a carer for our sick mother. When mum went into a home, David turned to the state for help, receiving benefits while he looked for work and taking unpaid work placements."

Mr Clapson was certainly not a 'scrounger', something that both the British Government and its media cronies would undoubtedly like us all to believe, but someone who had his benefits removed by the DWP simply for missing one meeting arranged by the local Job Centre. After his death, Mr Clapson's sister, Gill Thompson, started a high profile petition to get a public inquiry into the way benefit sanctions are used against people in genuine need of state help and support - a petition that gathered more than 200,000 signatures. And to use Gill Thompson's words: "questions need to be asked of how Iain Duncan Smith is justifying benefit sanctions".

Indeed, Iain Duncan Smith has many questions to answer about welfare reform full stop, as I have often highlighted in many of my previous articles for Disabled-World. The Right Honourable Iain Duncan Smith has attracted widespread criticism for many years now as the leading figure and prime suspect of a deliberate and brutal assault upon both abled-bodied and disabled welfare claimants within the UK. It's an assault that is arguably the most vicious ever seen in my life-time and an assault orchestrated in association with a corrupted media machine that has cynically and fraudulently targeted Britain's unemployed and disabled for being scroungers and layabouts.

In spite of the hardship and devastation that these policies have already caused, this week the British Government has managed to push through controversial legislation that will further reduce welfare benefits to many new disabled claimants by an extra £30 a week. This is on top of other changes that may see £21 to £135 a week removed from the pockets of Britain's most severely disabled. It's a move stated once again to be primarily aimed at motivating unemployed disabled people to find work, although the loss of such money will actually mean that some disabled people will also lose whatever independence they may have had previously. A move that Government themselves admit may affect up to 640,000 disabled people by 2020, and bizarrely, making it less likely that many disabled people will be independent enough to be able to go out to work.

Clearly, nobody within the current Government has learnt any lessons from its abysmally chaotic and ill-conceived welfare policy. Therefore, we can only draw the conclusion that the British Government is either completely incompetent and unable to learn such lessons, or simply on an irrational but completely intentional and deliberate mission to make life for Britain's poor as miserable as humanly possible.

Iain Duncan Smith is certainly no stranger to criticism and it would be wonderful to see this arrogant and dreadful man asked some very serious questions in a court of law about his personal attitudes towards Britain's unemployed and disabled, as well as his political policies. In light of this, I would like to mention that Gill Thompson has now launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money so that she can fight for such a public inquest to be held into her brother's death - it certainly should be supported. However, any inquest into the misuse of benefit sanctions and the deaths they cause, may not be independent enough from Britain's dodgy regime in order to truly get to the bottom of the DWP's demolition of the UK's welfare system. That remark is based upon other public inquests we have had within the UK over recent years, inquests that have merely played public lip service to the principles of truth and justice.

We should certainly not forget that between 2013 and 2014 more than 500,000 welfare claimants had their benefits sanctioned by the DWP for all sorts of minor 'misdemeanours' (the period when Mr Clapson died) and there is little indication that this figure has been reduced within recent times. We can only come to the conclusion that there will be many more 'David Clapsons' departing for heaven before the Right Honourable Duncan Smith has finished his vendetta against Britain's poor.

However, the Clapson case raised other issues that rarely get a mention within Britain's mainstream 'free press', and that is the political establishment's attitude towards Britain's ex-service men and women. People who serve their country and often end up afterwards existing upon a life of welfare - either through lack of employment, service linked ill-health and disability. People who sometimes also descend into homelessness, alcoholism or drug abuse. An inadequately catered for military service that often requires its personnel to buy their own equipment, and where American troops regularly nickname British soldiers 'the borrowers' whenever they work together - for obvious reasons.

While Mr Clapson's army career was only 5 years long, it was certainly long enough for the DWP to be expected by ordinary decent people to have treated this military veteran with some kind of decency, compassion and respect because of it. As Mr Clapsons family suggested, throughout his life Mr Clapson had clearly tried to do his best for both his family and for his country - arguably in contrast to the vested interests of the shabby IDS and his band of cutthroat political pirates.

Military Service and Disability

Firstly, I would like to say that I hold very little truck with 'traditional' British Government behaviour towards other countries, nor past or present foreign policy. Foreign policy that seems much more closely tied to the business interests of powerful multi-national corporations and their neo-colonial exploitation of other nation's natural resources - rather than a genuine desire to spread freedom and democracy throughout the world. But then again, that is just my lowly opinion.

However, while UK citizens may join the military services for many different reasons, whatever the reason and in spite of my reservations of the underlying motives behind where those military personal are eventually sent, it is only right that our establishment should treat these people with some kind of decency and respect afterwards when that career is over. There is growing evidence that the UK does not even do this, treating our military veterans little more than modern day, disposable 'cannon fodder'. People to be used and abused at will then discarded without much thought or aftercare.

In 2012, the Royal British Legion announced a 72 per cent rise in former soldiers having their applications to receive Employment Support Allowance (ESA) turned down by the DWP. It discovered that several hundred wounded personnel were being denied welfare benefits on the basis of physical examinations conducted by Atos, the former private company running work capability assessments on behalf of the British Government.

Below is a quote from 'The independent' dated 27th May 2013:

"Thousands of ex-servicemen are being pushed to the breadline after being judged fit for work by the government-appointed company Atos. Severely wounded veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, who were once entitled to incapacity benefits, are being told they no longer qualify under new assessments carried out by Atos on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)."

In 2014, the Charity Help for Hero's found that as many as 75,000 British service personnel had been left wounded, ill or psychologically harmed following the UK's interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan - figures gathered from the UK Government themselves through the freedom of information act. This compares to the 220,000 British personnel who had served in either in Iraq or Afghanistan up to that point. The charity discovered that 21,756 men and women have been medically discharged from the British Armed Forces for health reasons since 2001 and based upon previous studies, estimated that up to another 59,992 may have developed serious mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression. Similarly, senior military leaders themselves put a figure of 1 in 4 soldiers showing clear signs of post-traumatic stress.

Military of Defence (MoD) figures released at the time show that in Afghanistan alone, more than 7,300 soldiers were treated in field hospitals for battlefield injuries, non-combat wounds or disease. In Iraq, 5,800 were treated. The BBC, the traditional state mouth piece for any British Government, particularly in times of national conflict or crisis, even got in on the act, criticising the current Government in 2014 for "failing to abide by its pledge to give injured British soldiers priority for medical treatment in the years after their service".

Quoting information also obtained by the freedom of information act, the BBC stated: "Freedom of information figures obtained by the military charity Help for Heroes show almost 13,000 service personnel have been medically discharged for musculoskeletal disorders since 2001 - those who have lost limbs or have problems with ligaments and joints - with many requiring constant care throughout their lives".

(The BBC, 29th October 2014)

Britain's MoD does not recognise the term 'disability', so we are hard pressed to get an accurate estimate of how many ex-service veterans of working age (aged 16-65) make up the current disabled community. However, MoD figures indicate that it will definitely be in the thousands. Additionally, the numbers of ex-veterans developing mental health issues may actually go right off the Richter scale completely. It is common knowledge that during recent armed conflicts, just as many British soldiers commit suicide after leaving the service than are actually killed in any fighting at the time. For example, in 1982 British forces recaptured the Falklands Islands from Argentine invaders - a conflict that claimed 255 British lives at the time. In the 30 years since that conflict, 378 veterans of that war have been found to have taken their own lives.

Benefit related suicides

The Disability News Service (DNS) two days ago ran an article after the Department of Works and Pensions had refused to release information to the DNS that would show how many secret reviews the DWP has carried out into benefit linked suicides over the past 15 months. The DNS had asked for an update to figures released 15 months ago that showed that there had been 49 such reviews into benefit related deaths since February 2012. The refusal to release the information came after the welfare reform minister, Lord Freud, also refused to monitor the number of new claimants who take their own lives as a result of the £30 reduction to new benefit claimants.

Lord Freud, we should remember, is the Government's resident buffoon who once argued that disabled people should work for £2 an hour in order to make themselves 'competitive' in the market place. A Lord who had also defended the Governments controversial 'Bedroom tax' in the past (a tax that has hit many disabled people harshly) while owning an £2 million, 8 bedroom London mansion that is only used as a weekend/holiday home. Clearly a man who doesn't live in the real world, and clearly not a man best placed to understand why people kill themselves as a result of government policy.

If Gill Thompson is to make any real headway in getting to the full truth behind her brother's benefit-linked death, it is without doubt that it will take an enormous amount of public pressure just to get such an inquest off the ground. Current Government policy is definitely killing British people off, we know that and is guaranteed that they will know that too. But they will fight tooth and nail not to have that fact officially acknowledged in a court of law. Something that would prove to our own citizens, as well as to other nations, the true direction in which the political wind is blowing within Britain at the present time.

Appearing on the BBC today in the Andrew Marr TV show, Chancellor George Osborne was asked to explain his decision to cut Personal Independence Payments (PIP) to over 640,000 disabled people, in a current bid to save £1.2bn of taxpayer's money. These cuts come as the Chancellor of the Exchequer is also set to raise the threshold at which people start paying 40p income tax in the pound, to 50p in the pound - thereby reducing the amount of income tax paid by thousands of well-off families in the UK. Despite his efforts, Mr Osborne struggled to justify why disabled people who are unable to wash themselves, clothe themselves or use a toilet without help, face losing up to £150 a week simply in order to give tax cuts to Britain's well to do.

Mr Osborne struggled to answer and blushed. That blush is self-explanatory and speaks volumes.

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