Veterans are finally being granted some of the support they deserve following the establishment of the government’s office of veteran affairs. Whilst this is a much overdue and welcome addition to the government’s portfolio, to address the neglect that veterans have endured under previous administrations, some would argue that it’s policies do not tackle some of the core injustices that veterans endure.
Take for example the UK’s MOD commonwealth intake, which accounts for around 7% of the entire workforce. Those that accrue 4 years or more service are entitled to apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILF) in the UK following discharge; however, this comes at a cost of around £10,000 for a small family in visa fees. A hefty bill on top of the other costs that are incurred during transition.
The prospects for transitional employment are not that healthy either. Of the 15,000 service leavers that exit the military each year, 16% are either unemployed or economically inactive within the first 6 months of discharge; caused in part by the long notice period of 12 months on an open engagement contract.
Perceptions have also been an issue. The stigma of PTSD and the negligible risk that it poses to businesses that employ veterans is clearly a misnomer and a misleading categorisation of a wide ranging condition that is not exclusive to the veteran community. PTSD and CPTSD manifests in a number of different ways and is not the chattel of the Armed Forces; notwithstanding the fact, that much progress has been made in addressing the issue of mental health in the workplace.
There is no doubt that progress is being made when it comes to a fair deal for veterans, but these improvements are long overdue. Much more effort is needed to mitigate against the apparent discrimination that veterans endure when transitioning into civilian life. The Equality Act 2010 aims to prevent protected categories of individuals from being discriminated against in society; is there a case to add veterans to this list? Particularly in relation the disproportionate struggles that many veterans face in civilian transition – suicide rates and homelessness being the main discussion points in this argument.
So how can veterans obtain a better deal than they do now? Well the good news is, that there are a number of organisations that are recognising the diversity that veterans bring to the workplace, in terms of their leadership skills, operational experience and their overall resilience. This can be seen in a number of military engagement programmes that are starting to bare fruit for companies that invest in these schemes.
Satisfaction of veterans in the workplace is high, but employment rates remain disappointingly low, particularly for soldiers from a BAME background. So what can be done to ensure that this rare, valuable and hard-to-imitate resource gets the opportunity to put in to effect the many skills that they offer the job market and what further support can the government provide to make this happen?