Leaving out anything that might sound inappropriate on a forum, I would urge you to claim anything you are entitled to. That most certainly is not giving up, or allowing anyone to see you as a 'write off'. It's as simple as this : you and your OH put in to the system for just such an eventuality. And claiming while you need it doesn't mean you'll be on it forever.
Simple and fair (like me really lol).
As for your final point...