Decades after the United States established the Department of Veterans Affairs, United Kingdom veterans are to have their own dedicated office for the first time after an announcement by the government Monday.
Newly installed Prime Minister Boris Johnson has created a new Office for Veterans Affairs which will operate under and draw staff from the Cabinet Office and Ministry of Defence. Coordinating resources and government initiatives to benefit veterans , veterans right campaigners and charities have hailed the announcement as a positive step.
In an announcement typical of the new Westminster language, a statement by the government on the launch said the office would be overseen by a minister for “defence people” and that it would allow a “holistic” approach to veterans’ affairs.
Speaking Monday, the Prime Minister referred to the previous state of affairs where veterans have complained of the difficulty in getting adequate support after leaving the forces and in areas like getting access to housing when he said: “The brave men and women who serve in our military truly represent the pinnacle of British character. We are rightly admired throughout the world for our Armed Forces, and it is a stain on our national conscience that any veteran who has served should be abandoned by the country they have fought so courageously to protect.
“It is absolutely right that the government should do all it can to support our armed forces from the day they enlist and for the rest of their lives. Veterans have given so much to the UK. They have so much to offer our workplaces and wider society and it would be a dereliction of duty not to harness that potential.
“By taking responsibility for the full gamut of veterans’ civilian lives – from ensuring they get the medical treatment they require, to further training and skills after they have transitioned from service to keep them in good jobs, to targeted interventions to prevent the scourge of veteran homelessness – Oliver Dowden, Johnny Mercer and our brand new Office for Veterans’ Affairs will do just that.”
The launch of the new department comes just months after it was revealed veterans were being excluded from care at a state-of-the-art military rehabilitation centre where serving soldiers are able to get treatment. A spokesman for charity Help for Heroes told British newspaper The Times that: “Many of our veterans feel let down at being excluded, especially after giving so much to their country.”
A major issue facing veterans in Britain in recent years has been the threat of legal action for actions carried out under orders while serving. In a system of persecution of retired soldiers by foreign combatants and others under the British legal system that has come to be known as ‘lawfare‘, soldiers who served in Northern Ireland have been hauled through the courts while terrorist fighters were immune from prosecution.
One firm that hounded hundreds of British troops, allegedly with false allegations about their conduct in Iraq, closed down in 2016 after it was stripped of public funding. Breitbart London reported at the time that the boss of Public Interest Lawyers Phil Shiner had come to be known as the “scourge of the army” and that his company had been criticised by the then Prime Minister and the Ministry of Defence before it had its tax money taken away.