Extra support should be provided for ex-service personnel going through the benefits system, new research has said.
An academic study that used evidence from Lancashire veterans found government staff had “little understanding” of mental health issues affecting ex-military such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
The report calls for veterans affected by physical or mental health injuries should not have benefit sanctions imposed.
Funded by charity the Forces in Mind Trust, the first-of-its-kind study used evidence from the experiences of 68 ex-service personnel from across the north, including several living in Lancashire.
Project leader Dr Lisa Scullion said: “We found people who desperately did not want to claim benefits and only did so as a last resort, but who found the system baffling and had been given little preparation for dealing with it.
“Allowances are made to veterans who claim benefits as part of the Armed Forces Covenant but until now very little has been known about their experiences within the system.”
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said sanctions are only used in a “small percentage of cases” and support initiatives are already in place
The academics have recommended the DWP reviews its process with greater awareness of the issues facing ex-service personnel. And they have suggested each Jobcentre should have at least one officer trained to provide transitional support to those leaving the Armed Forces.
Research for the “Sanctions, support and service leaders” study was collected over a two year period by the universities of Salford and York.
A DWP spokesperson said they remain committed to its Armed Forces Covenant and Armed Forces Champions "have been put in place as part of Jobcentre Plus’ commitment to supporting veterans and their families."
They added: “This report recognises DWP’s long and distinguished record of supporting the UK’s Armed Forces – and that 82% of veterans are employed within six months after leaving the armed forces.
“We deeply value the service of our armed forces and are committed to ensuring serving and ex-personnel and their families get the support they need, and have extra provisions in place for them.
“Sanctions are only used in a very small percentage of cases when people fail to meet their agreed commitments to look, or prepare, for work.”