What is the Veterans Pledge?
On 12th July 2019 it was announced that an agreement had been made for ‘The Veterans Pledge’. At first glance it would appear the Pledge will be a huge step in giving much needed provisions to those who protect and previously protected our freedom. But what does it actually mean?
The main points of this pledge are:
- To create an Office of Veterans Affairs within the Cabinet Office, with a Cabinet level Minister, to ensure world-class care and support for former Armed Forces personnel
- To enshrine the Military Covenant into law, so that no veteran or their family should ever face any disadvantage because of their service for this country
- New legislation to end vexatious investigations into historical allegations against our troops including Northern Ireland – to be passed before the next General Election
My sole focus is on the first point as this relates to so many people that I have encountered during my career
By creating an Office of Veterans Affairs it is hoped that this will be the first of many steps in ensuring that our Armed Forces is looked after and have access to the treatment that they have desperately been lacking on a national basis for many years.
All too often we hear of stories about former military personnel that have not had the correct medical treatment or care and as such have then experienced such devastating hardships, for example homelessness.
It is hoped that the this pledge will help establish world class rehabilitation facilities, provide access to much needed medical treatment, access to housing and other vitally important services to all. These services are currently not available to all due to the current system being similar to a postcode lottery.
The MOD has recently provided a state of the art facility for the complex rehabilitation needs of veterans at Stanford Hall, but this too is not available to all. The pledge suggests that this type of world class facility and treatment may be available to all Armed Forces Personnel which could be fantastic news to injured veterans all over the country.
Many of the military personnel that my department and I have assisted have had some experience with a lack of access to treatment or rehabilitation whilst they were serving, with some having suffered devastating effects on their lives.
This pledge suggests that it will be the cornerstone for which the government can build on the great work that so many important charities and organisations have laid the groundwork for over many years in order to better assist those who need treatment and reduce the MOD’s exposure to negligence to poor or substandard treatment.
How will the Office of Veterans Affairs be established?
It is now hoped that the government will be open to the prospect of seeking consultations with each of the military charities and organisations that are part of the military covenant and seek to have a collaborative approach to building this new department and exploring what it needs to succeed.
This would provide for a mutual exchange of ideas and concepts to build a framework that will not only be easily accessible but could also be sustainable.
Everybody involved in veterans’ affairs wants to see this office firstly materialise and secondly flourish. It has been suggested already that it would have a better chance of doing so under the guidance of someone who has had a working knowledge of the military and understands the nature of the complex issues at hand. This will no doubt be decided when the new cabinet has bedded in but I think it would be good for relationships between the departments and the MOD if it were someone who had served and was not a civvy.
It can work and the USA can show the way
The UK has been sorely lacking in veterans affairs and has fallen well behind our American friends who have a long established ‘Department of Veterans Affairs’. The ‘VA’, which stands for Veteran Affairs, provides access to a large number of facilities and services such as disability and educational benefits, Veterans ID cards, access to military records and access to various healthcare providers and specialists. Clearly it can be done, but it will take time to implement it.
The government has a huge task ahead of it to deliver on this pledge and it may feel it has taken on a Sisyphean one but as they say ‘the task ahead of you is never as great as the power behind you’.
If the Minister in charge of this department adopts the attitude of the people they seek to serve the job will get done.
Matthew Fry is a solicitor in the Military team at Bolt Burdon Kemp. If you feel you may have a claim or are enquiring on behalf of a loved one, contact Matthew free of charge and in confidence on 020 3973 4997 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, complete this form and one of the solicitors in the team will contact you. Find out more about the Military Claims team.