Northumbria University has joined forces with the charity, Fighting with Pride, to carry out the first ever research into the health and social needs of LGBT+ veterans.
It will particularly focus on those veterans who were discharged from the military under a ban, which was only lifted 21 years ago, to assess the impacts it had on their lives.
Under the ban, anyone found to be gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender would be discharged from the Army, Royal Air Force or Royal Navy, lose their pensions and have their service medals confiscated. Some even faced being criminalised.
It is hoped this new research will not only establish data on where the main support areas need transforming, but could also provide a "body of evidence", potentially supporting Fighting with Pride's calls for reparations for thousands of LGBT+ veterans. So far the government has compensated 157 veterans.
When you listen to them you can’t help but be moved, but when you want to shape policy, when you want to look at the wider impact on a community, we have to bring those stories together, because that then with Fighting for Pride as a charity, builds a body of evidence that they can then go back to the Ministry of Defence with and say these are the key concerns, these are the key areas of loss.
The lives of potentially thousands of LGBT+ veterans have never recovered from the ban, with many suffering blighted career paths, homelessness, living estranged from families, mental health issues and being denied their pensions.
The University's work aims to raise awareness of the hidden history of this veterans community to address gaps in knowledge surrounding issues like health services, housing, and jobs.
Building on the work of the ‘Map of Need’ project being led by the Northern Hub for Veterans and Military Families Research, Fighting with Pride will be able to ascertain what type of support is needed and where across the country it is required. It can then help to influence national policy and potentially secure reparations for veterans.
The government needs to look at the wider impacts on the LGBT veterans and those were, they lost pensions and gratuities, they need to look at pardons for those people who were given criminal sentences and a proper apology, a genuine apology.
Military charities, who support veterans on the ground, like SSAFA will benefit from this in-depth research.
It will help them map out geographically where the greatest needs are for any one social or health issue impacting on the LGBT+ veterans community and then they can adapt their response to such needs locally.
The chief executive of SSAFA and also a patron for Fighting with Pride, Lt General Sir Andrew Gregory, told ITV News the groundbreaking research is much needed.
Many of them are suffering financial hardship, emotional distress and a sense of humiliation. This is an agenda that’s important and if all we can collectively do to address the wrongs and the fact that I and many others am and should be ashamed of what happened to these people who had put themselves forward to serve this country, is the least they deserve.
Jacqui De La Maziere served in the Royal Navy as a radio operator between 1989 and 1992. She toured the Falklands as part of her service and was on officer training when she was discharged.
She told ITV News that when the "knock on the door" came from military police officers with dogs at her barracks, they "dragged" her out of bed and searched behind posters on her wall, books, inside her duvet.
They went through all of my address book. They were asking me if my friends were gay. They asked me if I fancied people, what I do in bed, do I watch the other wrens in the shower? I had board rubbers thrown at me, they were spitting at me, they were shouting in my face.
She said the impact on her life after being discharged still haunts her today.
She said "I’ve had mental health issues, depression, I’ve been made homeless. I had to come out to my parents or risk being rejected. I remember breaking down in the job centre, having to sign on and being asked in an open job centre why I’d left the Royal Navy. You know, I hadn’t even come to terms with my own sexuality at the time so I was still questioning myself".
Jacqui De La Maziere
The Ministry of Defence would not comment on individual cases, but released the following statement:
"Work is underway across the UK Government to examine and understand the wide ranging impact of pre-2000 practices in the Armed Forces in relation to sexuality.
This will ensure that beyond the return of medals, the impact of this historical wrong is acknowledged and appropriately addressed.
"The NHS in England has dedicated mental health support for veterans, including for those with complex treatment needs, and we encourage anyone struggling to come forward and access the help they deserve."