Soldiers should receive assessment from psychologists before they leave the army to help them avoid prison and homelessness, the former head of the army has told The Telegraph.General Lord Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff from 2006 to 2013, said proposals for mental health assessments for retiring soldiers, sailors and airmen “had merit” and should be provided “as part and parcel of the pre-existing resettlement package.”His comments come as campaigners revealed the combined number of veterans in prison or on probation, or who are homeless, or who are suffering with mental health problems may be as high as 66,000.Harry Fletcher of the Victims Rights Campaign said: “There needs to be a comprehensive medical assessment of the condition of all military personnel prior to discharge from service.“This must cover mental health and addiction issues. Most of those ending up on the streets, in the justice system or mentally ill are male, under 30, working class and from Army regiments. This group must be given coordinated assistance without delay.” Under the the MoD’s Career Transition Partnership, service personnel are provided with help and consultation on housing, employment and training.A higher level of assistance is provided to longer-serving or wounded personnel but the CTP does not include a mental health assessment.A Government spokesman said: “The majority of veterans go on to lead happy, healthy and successful lives, but we are committed to supporting those who struggle. Last year, the MOD launched the Veterans’ Gateway – a 24 hour helpline that acts as a single point of contact for former service personnel to access the help they deserve, from advice on health care to finances and housing.“In addition, the Government is providing more than £1.2bn to tackle all forms of homelessness through to 2020, and veterans have high priority access to social housing to ensure they are not disadvantaged by their service.” General Dannatt told the Telegraph: “To do what is being suggested has a lot of merit, within the context of the overall resettlement scheme.“I think to make it a normal part of the resettlement programme would have benefits, but to give it undue prominence might help some, but have adverse effects on others by suggesting a problem which might not be there for them. “It should be part and parcel of the pre-existing resettlement package.”Government research eight years ago found there were 2,820 former service personnel in prison: around 3.5 per cent of a prison population of just over 81,000. That percentage was confirmed by the MoJ in a Parliamentary answer this summer, and would equate to nearly 10,000 veterans either in prison, or among the 260,000-strong probation population, charities say.The Royal British Legion points out there has been less research on this in the UK than in the US, and warns many detainees do not admit to a service background either for fear of prison beatings or a sense of embarrassment at having let down the regiment. Other research has placed the estimate as high as nine per cent.The Mental Health Foundation has said 25,000 veterans are receiving treatment for mental health conditions, and estimates that only half of those suffering are receiving treatment, suggesting as many as 50,000 veterans have mental health issues.And based on figures from the Government, homeless charities, and veterans organisations, Plaid Cymru – which is calling on the government to provide more joined-up care for veterans – estimates that there are some 6,000 homeless veterans across England and Wales. Soldiers from 3 Company the Coldstream Guards carry a 100kg log during an exercise in Windsor Park. Credit:Sgt Paul Randall RLC Lord Richard Dannatt said the idea “had merit”Credit: David Rose Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.