DFLA & Stormin Norman McGuigan visits PTSD veteran on hunger strike

Yesterday I accompanied  Stormin Norman McGuigan of MINDS AT WAR organisation, champion of veterans suffering PTSD that have been let down by our government and ministry of defence, to visit Paratroop veteran Gus Hales a PTSD patient who is on hunger strike and camping outside charity Combat Stress’s Audley Court treatment centre in Newport Shropshire.  Norman was intending to talk down Gus who has vowed to hunger strike until Remembrance Sunday on November 11th if he survives that long in this bitterly cold weather on the Welsh borders. Gus is risking his life in order to raise awareness of the treatment of veterans suffering PTSD, and in particular the failings of veterans charity Combat Stress, who are annual recipients of tens of millions of pounds of government and private funding. There have long been question marks over the efficacy of how Combat Stress is being operated despite the good work they do still provide in helping some veterans.


Unfortunately there does appear to be huge inconsistencies in the levels of support given, which was highlighted today when at least three veterans and former patients of Audley Court visited Gus to show their support and give us their account of how they were also failed by Combat Stress.

Talking to Gus though it quickly became apparent that this hardened warrior still has a fire burning and he was polite but resolute in refusing Normans attempts to talk him down. “This is not about me” Gus stated “This is for all the lads coming home from the theatre [of war] now,  in recent years, and from during my time who are still suffering and being shafted by Combat Stress, the government and the MOD. I don’t care what happens to me I am prepared to lose my life if that is what happens, but I want to take this all the way to Remembrance Sunday if I can. I want to tell the world that we are being treated abysmally”
After talking more to Gus he explained that Combat Stress after 20 years of ongoing treatment, had 2 and half years ago unceremoniously discharged him with a totally unprofessional doorstep visit at his home, without any discharge report and with no discharge package put in place, which are both legal requirements and without which a patient is effectively lost in no mans land. What was Gus to do? Where could Gus continue his treatment? after 2 years of writing to Combat Stress for answers and help, the communication stopped and CS refused any further communication. 6 months later Gus has been reduced to demonstrating in his own way by risking his life on hunger strike outside their so called treatment centre in his home town.
AT one point in the afternoon Paula Berry, Regional Operations Manager at Combat Stress came out and tried to convince Gus to come inside away from his supporters and “discuss a resolution”, but Gus was adamant that he did not want to go inside to get “soft soaped” and unless they were prepared to give him his discharge report he was not in any mind to be bullshitted or bullied any further.  – “They call you cruel !” – During the somewhat heated conversation, bordering on an argument, Gus told the manager  “former Combat Stress workers were here overnight, I won’t name them, they call you cruel“, and Paula did or said absolutely zero to give any confidence that Combat Stress either had or were going to produce a discharge report and care package for Gus, even though this is against the law and a serious breach of the charity’s duty of care to it’s patients.
Upon talking more to Gus I asked him the question “so what in your opinion is behind this disgusting treatment of you and other veterans Gus? It seems you are just a burden that is of no value to them any more.”
Gus went on to explain his take on his situation which is backed up by research and date recorded events in the history of British military foreign engagements, government Acts of Parliament and terrorist atrocities.
Pre the 1987 Crown Immunity’s Act you couldn’t sue the government as a veteran or serving personnel, so veterans of Gus’s service experience including The Falklands and Northern Ireland who were suffering PTSD were without legal recourse for the mental health injuries they suffered from and had to put up with whatever treatment came there way.  After 9/11 however and the ensuing battles in Iraq and Afghanistan, veterans suffering PTSD were then able to sue the Government for failing to treat the condition and they became the new priority for financial reasons. Therefore 1000’s of vets pre 9/11 now became a burden, so  the dead wood as Gus says he and others became, were got rid of.  Falkand Island and NI veterans were discharged in the most cavalier manner with a total abdication of any moral or legal duty of care.
NICE guidelines stipulate both discharge report and an aftercare package must be in place. In effect Gus alleges Combat Stress charity with NHS funding, became a clearing house for the MOD from being sued, and then when that was apparently achieved and the government were in the clear, the NHS pulled the funding and thousands of veterans were left untreated and suicide became the biggest killer of the Falklands war.  This year alone we have lost 53 British military service veterans to suicide so far.
Gus is already starting to achieve one of his objectives in as much he has been featured today on the front page of the Daily Express but he does have a prepared statement with 5 major objectives that he also wants to achieve before he finishes or dies from his hunger strike.
Here is his prepared statement / open letter and 5 key objectives or demands to Combat Stress charity….
“It is with regret that 100 years since the end of WW1 veterans psychological and mental health needs are still not taken seriously. COMBAT STRESS charity advertise themselves as the ex-services leading mental health charity. However they are anything but that claim. I have been left with no support since a non medically trained ‘Combat Stress’ welfare officer visited my home uninvited and discharged me on the doorstep of my home two and half years ago. I have and am in possession of all the relevant paperwork. Despite many letters Combat Stress have refused a truthful explanation for my discharge and have openly lied to me. In addition I have personal accounts that this has happened to many other veterans. Therefore I feel I have no choice other than to protest by hunger strike outside your organisation.
1) Why was I discharged on the doorstep of my home by a Combat Stress welfare officer? was he acting alone or was he under orders to discharge me? 
2) On what grounds was I discharged?
3) Why do you keep denying me a discharge medical report, and why have you not made recommendations for my future medical welfare?
4) Hundreds of NI, Falklands and other veterans have been discharged in a similar manner, what provisions have you made for them? 
5) I request / insist on a review of all those veterans that you have discharged illegally, to identify their needs and to assess their current health and welfare requirements. As an organisation you have a duty of care to myself and all those veterans you treated.

NICE | The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence

MINDS AT WAR –  Recently founded by long time activist and supporter of veterans Stormin’ Norman McGuigan who is himself a British military veteran, Minds At War are on a mission to support our veterans failed by the system, PTSD, complexed combat stress disorder, and substance abuse sufferers, we are suicide prevention negotiators, and campaigners against homelessness.

Minds At War have an emergency network covering the UK to give immediate support to struggling and suicidal veterans. We are connected to a national beacon organisation for missing veterans All Call Signs, and when an alert goes out there are literally thousands of eyes looking up and down the UK including NI. We operate a suicide watch where intensive support is given to those closest to the darkness.
We are part of an alliance of veteran groups all working together to make a difference to the lives of former and serving military personnel and their families.
We are developing a national directory of volunteer tradesmen who will renovate derelict or run down properties to be used to give a new start for homeless veterans, backed up by support from experts in social security and benefit system.
MINDS AT WAR – Fighting for & Supporting veterans – PTSD | CCSD | Homelessness | Substance Abuse | Mental Health | Poverty | Families | Helpline 0800 031 4368
We work voluntarily and need your financial support as well as your moral support. Right now to help us we need to raise £1000 just to help us with our immediate travel expenses and subsistence when we are travelling around the country to give support where needed. Please donate what you can as every £5 helps us to make a difference.
COMBAT STRESS DEMO – PHOTO GALLERY – click on any photo to open gallery…..

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