Councils failing vets

Returning soldiers say there is little help or understanding coming from local governments

Military veterans returning from fighting overseas say that they are being shuttled from department to department at their local council offices without receiving the help they need. According to a report from the Defence Ministry, vets say the councils lack programmes that meet the needs of those returning from war.

A spokesperson for the enlisted soldier's association, HKKF, said that councils try to treat vets with too broad a brush.

“Most councils only have the programmes that are available to everyone,” HKKF spokesperson Yvonne Tønnesen told DR News. “What they offer to those suffering from post-traumatic stress (PTSD) is not very clear.”

Tønnesen said that vets gain nothing by being forced to attend things like daily workshops with civilians who do not share or understand their experience.

“Veterans need to be with other veterans,” she said. “They understand the types of mental disorders that arise after deployment.”

Tønnesen said that veterans require treatment programmes that allow them the flexibility to come and go when they feel mentally up to it. She also said that short-term treatment did not work for most veterans suffering from PTSD.

“They need continuity, so treatment that disappears after three months causes their world to collapse,” she said.

Although volunteer organisations have stepped up to help the returning soldiers, Tønnesen said that councils need to do more.

“It is too shaky to depend only on volunteers,” she said. “There are volunteer programmes that local governments could draw inspiration from where veterans work together on a garden or just meet in a forest to be together. That is the kind of thing they need.”

A spokesperson for the local government association Kommunernes Landsforening (KL) said that they have no immediate plans to create programmes aimed specifically at veterans.

“We strongly believe that veterans must be included with the general public,” Tina Wahl, KL's head of office, told DR News. “But we do listen to HKKF and try to work with them.

Wahl acknowledged that councils need to do a better job supporting vets with PTSD.

“We can be better,” she said. “It would naive to suggest anything else.”