The privilege of service
This week sees a £1.6m advertising campaign to persuade more young people – particularly those from diverse backgrounds – to sign up.
That’s an awful lot of money to get some people to do something meaningful rather than to take up zero hour contracts. But to put it into perspective, it’s the cost of three Jackals and we’ve got about 500 of them.
The debate around the wisdom of this spending will rage for some time, no doubt. What has attracted far less attention in the popular media is the announcement that Veterans will get limited government recognition, for the first time. There has been some debate in the Veteran community about this move; it is generally welcomed, with some reservations.
What hasn’t perhaps been considered is that today’s recruits are tomorrow’s Veterans. And just perhaps, when Veterans re-integrate into society, they don’t hold back with criticism of how they have been treated having given their best years, their dedication and, all too often, their health.
The devil is, of course, in the detail.
The initial concession to veterans is to acknowledge their service with the single letter “V” on their driving licence. Indeed, at this time, it is not only the initial concession; it is all of the concessions. Beyond this, the practicalities – if there are any – are yet to be unveiled, but cursory investigation throws out some difficult issues to be overcome.
Veterans are already special because they are Veterans. How will the government make them more special? If we consider the problems that Veterans often encounter upon leaving their respective service, already we are into deep water.
Healthcare, especially mental health services are very high on the wishlist of things that Veterans wish to see addressed. Take the most simple case, someone disabled out of the Army due to a chronic leg injury, should they receive preferential treatment on the NHS because of their prior service? The answer is probably yes – if the country demands your service, and in the course of that you are injured, then the country should surely pick up the tab to see you back to health again?
However, imagine a scenario where a veteran has contracted mesothelioma – the cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Imagine too, that their exposure was from the service housing that they received during their time in. Should they receive preferential treatment? Again, your answer is likely to be ‘yes’. Now imagine that their partner, who also lived in that accommodation similarly has contracted the illness. Should the lack of that crucial ‘V’ on their driving licence really condemn them to second-class status?
Another matter at the forefront of many service leavers and Veterans, housing in civvy street is a fraught subject. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect good, affordable housing to be available to Veterans. The crucial “V” could be a way of administering this. In the opposite case to healthcare, this could actually benefit the partners and families of those that served, despite the family members not having served themselves.
So far, so good.
But with the council and social housing waiting lists stretching into years, what would stop somebody from signing up knowing that in three years, they would queue jump and even with a waiting time, still be ahead of where they were had they joined the waiting list as a civilian? Even worse, what would be the impediment to them joining up, and then after initial training and posting, picking up a mysterious injury that sees them medically discharged?
Another element of the equation to be considered is that we are already misunderstood and marginalised by society – this kind of preferential treatment will likely only drive a wedge further between Veterans, and the rest of society.
Before we are forced to grapple with these issues, we want to get the issues that you feel need to be addressed for Veterans, we want what you see as the upside of the “Veteran” designation on the driving licence, and also what pitfalls you want to be avoided by the government.
Contact us through Facebook or Twitter to have your say. If you have friends that are Veterans, please pass this on – the government will more willingly listen to us in great numbers, than as individuals.
The Veterans Network team