The new Veteran Card - a blind veteran's experience
The Ministry of Defence, together with the Office for Veterans' Affairs, recently announced that anyone who has served in the UK's Armed Forces can apply for a HM Armed Forces Veteran Card. This marks a significant step in fostering a sense of belonging among our veteran community, and streamlining access to support.
Blind veteran Simon, who helped test the application process before it was released, shares his thoughts on what it means to him.
“When I was in the military, I had the same ID card for 13 years. You find yourself emotionally attached to that bit of plastic. You build up a connection to it because it’s goes everywhere with you, and you’d be seriously disciplined if you misplaced it. And when you leave the military, for that to just be discarded and taken from you, it’s almost like being served divorce papers.
“When I got my Veteran Card, it made me feel part of something again. And I know lots of veterans who are applying for one, because they feel it represents being part of something. It’s important. It’s saying: I’ve had this family and here’s that evidence that I’m part of this community.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s a privilege to be able to apply for it because I’ve earned that status as a military veteran. Veteran is a term that you had to work hard, and meet certain criteria, to earn. That card means that I don’t have to justify myself. It means that all that time I spent in the military, all that service, is recognised.
“Being a veteran is something that joins us all together. Having known colleagues that didn’t make it to be a veteran, the term ‘veteran’ is really important to me."
Simon's role in testing the application process
Simon assisted with testing the application process and shares his thoughts on his experience and how accessible the application was:
“The Ministry of Defence asked for a few veterans from Blind Veterans UK to help them test the process. I said I was happy to help, and they came round and watched me try to navigate the system.
“They looked at where I was struggling, and what I was doing to overcome any problems, to see if there was an easy fix they could make.
“It’s very user-friendly I’d say. There’s a level of competence with IT that you’ll need to apply online, but for accessibility and interacting with it, it’s pretty good.
“The buttons are different colours, so it’s easy to identify that you’ve got to move on to the next section. It works well with the magnification that I use too.
“Since the application has gone live, I’ve even helped an 86-year-old veteran apply for his card online. The only thing he struggled with, was that he didn’t know how to transfer his photograph from his phone to his computer. Once I showed him how to do that, he got on fine with it.”
The benefits of a Veteran Card
Simon shares how a Veteran Card could help veterans access support:
“If you have a Veteran Card, you can show it to a service, whether it’s a charity, local authority or the NHS, and it can streamline you into the correct pathways for support. It’s an easy way of saying: ‘I’m a veteran, can I get help?’ and to prove that you’re eligible for those services.
“It’s also something discreet, it’s not a badge that you have to wear on your jacket. It’s something you can keep it in your wallet, and only show to the people you want to see it. So I hope it will encourage veterans to access the support that’s available, and to help those supporting our community to identify and streamline appropriately too.”
How to apply
It's free to apply for a HM Armed Forces Veteran Card. You can apply online or by post. To apply online, or find out more information, visit: www.gov.uk/veteran-card
If you need help with your application, you can contact the Veterans UK Helpline at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 0808 1914 218.
How we help veterans
We support vision-impaired ex-Servicemen and women for life, regardless of how or when they lost their sight. We recognise Veteran Cards as proof of service, and having one at the point of application could help veterans access or be signposted to our support.
Use our eligibility checker to find out if you, or someone you know, could be eligible for our support.