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21 Jul 23. Continued progress has been made towards the new digital verification service to apply for a HM Armed Forces Veteran Card.
The Ministry of Defence and the Office for Veterans’ Affairs are jointly delivering this service as part of ongoing improvements in veterans support.
The OVA led the initial Discovery and Alpha phases, establishing how the Veteran Card can be delivered in the most simple and effective way. The MOD has now taken on its development and will deliver the service. It is a significant technical project and has required highly skilled support from Defence Digital and Government Digital Service (GDS) experts.
The new verification service to support applications will include:
- online applications via GOV.UK
- identity checks using GOV.UK’s new One Login service
- automated service checking to confirm veteran status for most applications using MOD service records databases
- increasing MOD’s secure card printing capacity to deal with the expected applications using a new high-capacity card printing machine
The HM Armed Forces Veteran Card will allow veterans to quickly and easily prove their veteran status where required, thereby granting them simpler access to key support from government, charities, local authorities, and other organisations.
Roll-out will be in phases according to service years to manage the volume of requests and prevent any potential delays resulting from demand exceeding capacity.
With around 1.8 million veterans in the UK, we are focused on building the technology and processes to deal with large volumes of card applications accurately and securely.
Testing started this summer, and we expect cards to become available to veterans later this year. A paper-based application process will also be made available for veterans who are unable to use the online service.
Since December 2018, all Service leavers automatically receive a Veteran Card from the MOD as part of their discharge process and so do not need to apply. The new verification service will address how to replace a lost Veteran Card. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
19 Jul 23. Government apologises to veterans for egregious historic LGBT policy in the Armed Forces. The PM and Defence Secretary apologise to LGBT personnel and veterans impacted by the historic ban. The government has today apologised for the treatment of LGBT veterans, following the publication of an independent review into the military’s pre-2000 ban on LGBT personnel.
The review, published in Parliament today, follows a formal apology by the Government, delivered by the Prime Minister and Defence Secretary. The independent review, chaired by Lord Etherton and co-commissioned by the Ministry of Defence and the Office for Veterans Affairs, examined the experiences of personnel between 1967-2000 who were impacted by the ban on homosexuality in the Armed Forces.
The Government has previously said that the treatment of LGBT personnel and veterans in the Armed Forces prior to the year 2000 was completely unacceptable and highly regrettable. Lord Etherton’s report found that investigations in an individual’s sexuality were intrusive, invasive, and for some caused long-lasting and severe impacts to the lives of veterans and their families.
The review highlights the Government’s unwavering commitment to understanding how best to support its veteran and LGBT community and acknowledges that it fully accepts that their treatment prior to 2000 was not acceptable. In recognition of this the Prime Minister and Defence Secretary have formally apologised in the House of Commons today to all those who were affected and mistreated in the enactment of the ban.
The scope of the review focused on three main areas, with the primary one being the effect the historic policy may have had on those impacted by the ban, including the consequences for their future lives. It also looked at the accessibility of veterans’ services for LGBT people and how to ensure that LGBT veterans are recognised and fully accepted as members of the armed forces
Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak said: “The ban on LGBT people serving in our military until the year 2000 was an appalling failure of the British state – decades behind the law of this land. As today’s report makes clear, in that period many endured the most horrific sexual abuse and violence, homophobic bullying and harassment while bravely serving this country. Today, on behalf of the British state, I apologise, and I hope all those affected will be able to feel part of the proud veteran community that has done so much to keep our country safe.”
Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace said: “I am pleased that this review has shone a much needed light on a shameful and unacceptable historical chapter in our Armed Forces history. It is heart breaking that the very tolerance and values that we expected our soldiers, sailors and aviators to fight for, were denied to many of them. I am pleased we now have the opportunity to right those historic wrongs so that LGBT Veterans can once again take pride in their service. Within the review are 49 recommendations, these include the restoration of medals that were required to be handed back on dismissal or discharge, the awarding of campaign and other medals that were withheld, the clarification of pension rights and the presentation of the Veterans Badge.”
The Government has accepted the recommendations in principle whilst acknowledging that some may be delivered by different means. It is committed to working with LGBT Veterans to ensure that all restorative measures delivered are appropriate.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Johnny Mercer said: “This is a historic moment where we can reflect on the wrongs of the past but also recognise the extraordinary service of LGBT veterans who have bravely served this country. The apology today is an important part of addressing the historic hurt that many LGBT veterans feel. We’re also looking to the future as we learn from the past, including stepping up support services for veterans affected by the issues raised in this review.”
Minister for Defence, People, Veterans and Service Families ,Dr Andrew Murrison said: “What happened was wrong. I want to thank people who testified for their courage in coming forward with evidence. Our job now is to study the review’s recommendations and say what we will do in response. Since 2000, the Government has made great strides to remove barriers and deliver initiatives that improve the experience for LGBT personnel These initiatives include a guide for parents of LGBT children, delivering LGBT allies training and the provision of PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis). And in establishing the Office for Veterans’ Affairs, the government has done more than ever before to ensure all veterans have the support they need when they leave the Armed Forces. The review is an important part of the Government’s Veterans Strategy ActionPlan, where we committed to learning and addressing with compassions the historic hurt or disadvantage that sections of the veteran community have experienced.”
The Government has also recently launched the extension of the Home Office’s disregard and pardons scheme to ensure that all those who were convicted of same-sex sexual offences can have their convictions wiped.
To support those affected by today’s announcement and the historic ban the Office for Veterans’ Affairs is awarding £250,000 to LGBT organisations to provide support services for impacted veterans. This is in addition to the £45,000 funding provided to organisations last year to help them gather evidence for the review.
Craig Jones MBE, Executive Chair, and Caroline Paige, Chief Executive of Fighting With Pride, said: “Finally the voices of those who have lived for decades in the shadow of this abhorrent policy have been heard and their truth told. Today’s apology from the Prime Minister recognises the suffering of veterans who met the challenges of service life but faced many cruel treatments from those in whom they placed their trust.
Lord Etherton’s report is a visceral account of the damage done and the opportunity for this Government to put in place substantial reparations. We must wash away the shame felt by these veterans and bring a just and honourable end to this unjust and dishonourable war.” (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
17 Jul 23. British Army veteran with debilitating health conditions prepares for extreme one month mountain trek to scale all the Wainwrights this Autumn to raise £214,000 for Combat Stress.
Major Simon (Sip) Powers is not letting his physical injuries stop him from embarking on an extraordinary endurance challenge – the self-supported scaling of all 214 Wainwright mountains in the Lake District – from 1 August 2023 – to raise awareness of the hidden mental health issues a significant minority of UK veterans have – and to raise funds for the UK’s leading mental health charity, Combat Stress.
We believe Sip will be the first person with serious health issues to attempt this expedition. He has Type One diabetes, a stoma and autoimmune syndrome as well as having undergone major surgery on his intestinal tract to eliminate IBD and prevent the possible spread of rectal cancer. If successful, he will only be the seventh person to have scaled all the Wainwrights in one attempt. But we believe he is the first person to attempt this expedition with such serious physical health issues. Sip will attempt this challenge carrying full expedition gear weighing approximately 20kgs and remain in the hills for the entire duration.
He’s set an ambitious fundraising target of £214,000, which is £1,000 for each peak he climbs. Sip will set off on his month-long expedition from Keswick town square on 1 August and plans to hike a minimum of 22kms (the equivalent of a half marathon) every day so that he can conquer all 214 mountains within a month. He will be joined at various points by veterans and wounded soldiers, to challenge themselves in the great outdoors and at the same time assisting with their personal health and wellbeing. There are 214 Wainwrights situated in the Lake District, all of which are over 1,000 feet (304.8m) in height.
On the 1 August 2023, Sip Powers will attempt a self-supported round of all 214 summits, a total of almost 600km with an ascent of 36,000m. This is four times the height of Mount Everest from sea level. Living in the wild for nearly 4 weeks is challenging enough but thanks to Sip’s thirty-four years in the military, he is well-prepared. He is stashing essential food, medical supplies and other equipment around the Wainwrights but the expedition is not without risks.
Commenting on the challenge; Sip said: “This challenge is designed to represent those of the 2.4m UK veterans, who carry their troubles on their shoulders and break boundaries to prove what is possible. I have never let my physical condition be a barrier to achievement and keeping physically active and being outdoors helps me tackle my own demons. I have lost friends, comrades and soldiers to suicide, and I know there are veterans who find it hard to transition to civilian life. Raising funds and awareness for Combat Stress by pushing myself to my limits is a way to encourage other people to take the first step and ask for help with their mental health.”
17 Jul 23. Armed Forces Compensation Scheme and Veterans Welfare Reviews published today. The reviews have offered recommendations to improve the experience of those requiring veterans’ welfare or compensation services.
Today, the long-awaited publication of the Quinquennial Review of the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (QQR) and an independent review of the UK Government’s welfare services for Veterans is being announced by the government.
The recommendations of both reviews, which include strengthening the way we make decisions and communicate outcomes around compensation claims, and strengthening the delivery of veterans services, will be considered in full – with the Government’s response to each published later in the year.
The reviews were commissioned by the Ministry of Defence and The Office for Veteran’s Affairs to improve the way we support our serving personnel and veterans in a range of services and compensation claims.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Johnny Mercer MP said:
These reviews offer a real opportunity to make a difference to veterans’ lives, many of whom have made real sacrifices for their country. I will be considering the recommendations carefully and will work with the MOD to provide a response in due course.
Minister for Defence, People, Veterans and Service Families, Dr Andrew Murrison MP said:
I welcome the completion of these important reviews to help the Government understand where we can do better. It is essential that we appropriately support our Serving Personnel and Veterans who have served our country with courage and honour. The government will consider the recommendations and respond in due course.
The recommendations of the reviews will build on the support the Government has already committed, including the newly announced pay award and financial support for serving personnel and a £40m digitisation project of pension and compensation services.
The Armed Forces Compensation Scheme provides compensation for injury or illness caused or made worse by service, with the Quinquennial Review assessing the effectiveness of administration and processing claims and to ensure, as time passes, the scheme remains fit for purpose.
Alongside this, the Veteran’s Welfare Review examines the effectiveness and efficiency of welfare services provided by the Ministry of Defence to support veterans.
The recommendation from both reports includes the following:
- The Armed Forces Compensation Scheme Quinquennial Review recommendations focus on six broad areas including; communications with applicants, case-working, and policy changes.
- The recommendations of Veterans Welfare Review focus on the roles, Governance and delivery of services by Government.
Government’s support for veterans is wide-reaching which includes free support for veterans and their families, the Veterans Welfare Service, Defence Transition Services and injury/bereavement compensation scheme payments. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, has been providing lifelong support to our Forces and their families since 1885. In 2020, our teams of volunteers and employees helped more than 79,000 people in need, the currently serving (both regulars and reserves), veterans from the Second World War and those who have served in more recent conflicts, as well as their families. SSAFA understands that behind every uniform is a person. And we are here for that person – any time they need us, in any way they need us, for as long as they need us.