RETIRED soldiers and sailors have welcomed the immediate rollout of a new veterans’ ID card, hailing it as a ‘massive step forward’.
The card, announced by the Ministry of Defence this week, will give service leavers the chance to access specialist support quicker and easier than ever before.
Defence chiefs said the new ID would allow veterans to easily verify their service to the NHS, their local authority, and charities, helping them to access support and services where needed.
Lieutenant Colonel Chris Parker, chairman of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment Association, represents hundreds of veteran soldiers in Hampshire and was delighted by the move.
He said: ‘This is a brilliant step forward. One of the biggest problems with veterans when we do leave the forces is the adjustment reaction.
‘We have left the mother ship or brotherhood of that military family. Suddenly nobody else cares about you. You feel like you’re nothing.
‘So this new veterans ID is a massive thing. It means we can go from one military brotherhood to another.’
Lord Alan West, a former head of the Royal Navy, said: ‘I think that this is good news. It reflects society thinking well of our military and appreciating them.’
Any personnel who have left the military since December 2018 will automatically be given one of the new ID cards.
All other veterans will be able to apply for a new ID card by the end of this year, to mark their time in the armed forces.
Stephen James was a former Private with the Second Battalion of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment
The dad-of-six, who lives in Portsmouth, said: ‘This is a great step forward in what has been a fundamental issue for too long.
‘If you go to even the biggest charities in hard times and request help, they'll have to confirm your service history first, a process that can take two weeks, and that's before anything happens.
‘This ID card is more than a recognition of service, it has the potential to ensure that immediate needs care is finally immediate.’
The new ID card is one of three that are available to service leavers.
Personnel leaving the armed forces are also able to keep their military IDs, allowing them to maintain their emotional connection with their service. Additionally, veterans can access a range of discounts through the Defence Discount Service, the official MoD-endorsed service for the armed forces.
Councils, service charities, NHS and GPs and Veterans UK – which manages pensions and compensation payments for the armed forces – will also benefit from the change, as they will not have to conduct time-consuming checks to identify individual veterans.
Veterans minister Tobias Ellwood said: ‘We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the ex-forces community, and we are working hard to ensure they receive the support they deserve.
‘These new cards celebrate the great commitment and dedication of those who have served this country, and I hope they can provide a further link to ex-personnel and the incredible community around them.’