By Rhicha Kapila, military claims specialist at Bolt Burdon Kemp.
The Government has made a step in the right direction this week by announcing that military leavers can keep their ID card, also known as Ministry of Defence (MoD) Form 90 when they return to civilian life.
This move will help veterans retain some sense of belonging to the force long after they have left, with the government hoping these individuals can maintain an ‘emotional connection with the service by keeping their ID card’.
This news also follows Theresa May’s promise at the end of last year to give 2.5 million veterans new ID tags in recognition of their time in service.
People will either receive an updated driving license where a ‘V’ will be marked, or a separate identification card if they don’t drive.
Whilst this latest announcement is good news for many veterans, the decision has placed a spotlight on key issues that military personnel face when they decide to leave the armed forces, which many have so far been overlooked.
On leaving the armed forces, personnel have to show some form of paperwork identifying them as a veteran before they can get access to many public services.
For many, this can be very difficult as they might not have the right documentation and are therefore forced to rely on family and friends to see them through the first few months, and in some circumstances, years.
However, this can place a huge strain - both financially and emotionally - on many households.
Lots of individuals decide to leave the Army because they have had an injury, or are suffering from a mental illness like PTSD or depression.
These individuals need to have access to particular services to get the help they need and, without this support, many find it difficult to hold down jobs, they argue with family and friends, and in some instances find themselves on the streets.
Of the 13,000 homeless veterans, nearly all were found to have symptoms of PTSD or other mental illness, which when left untreated, has prompted drug and alcohol addictions.
In my experience, I have no doubt those military personnel who decide to leave the forces and re-join life back on civvy street need far more support than they are currently getting.
Whilst the introduction of the new ID cards seems positive, the Government needs to outline exactly what services will be more easily available for veterans with these new cards, and provide clarity on how they can get access to public services and rehab - only then will the ID cards help better transition them into civilian life.
The Minister for Defence People and Veterans Tobias Ellwood has said that the latest initiative is a ‘small change that I know will make a big difference’.
By retaining their military identity on a card, individuals can retain an emotional connection to the armed forces, and feel like they remain in that community.
Importantly, the card also promises to make it easier for military personnel to have access to public services, which prioritises veterans under the Armed Forces Covenant.
Administering cards to veterans is not going to make the above issues disappear and the government needs to do more to combat homelessness and provide greater support for those leaving the military.
But by issuing these cards to many veterans it does prompt a hopeful start.