Johnny Mercer On Veteran ID Cards

This week Mr Mercer pledges to finally deliver the Veterans Digital ID card this year (2023) – but is it just more promises?

Official portrait of Johnny Mercer (cropped)

Johnny Mercer released an albeit minor update to give veterans a bit more hope on the Veterans ID Card this week.

Mr Mercer is the current Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and has decent military background compared to most politicians. He served as a commissioned officer in the Royal Artillery for roughly 10 years – carrying out three tours of Afghanistan where he was attached to a Special Forces unit, completed his All Arms Commando Course and finally left his military career behind in 2013.

Whilst this is a very quick summary of his military career and as we all know, he has experience and is often seen as a great choice as the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs by politicians and veterans alike.

Now he focuses much of his time and resources dedicated to helping veterans through housing, health and employment. He and his team works alongside veteran charities which we can all agree is a noble cause.

His latest statement is around the review of veterans welfare and in that statement he briefly mentions the Veterans ID Card.

First, because we have a moral duty to give our former service personnel the best help we can. They risk their lives for this country. The least we can do is make sure the support they’re given meets the needs of today. Yet for too long veterans services have suffered from under-investment, and been over-reliant on paper records and outdated tech. This is 2023. We live in a digital age – and it’s time our services reflected that. That’s why I have personally pledged to finally deliver the Veterans Digital ID card this year, to make it easier for ex-service personnel to access services across the country.

If you read his latest announcement, it mentions the digital ID card and not a physical one.

The History Of The Veterans ID Card

Now, originally the Veterans ID Card was announced back in 2018 with rumours of a “V” would be marked onto your driving license if you were a veteran – which we all know is not the case as of today.

Then the Veteran ID card was made available to service personnel leaving the forces as of 18th February 2019. This meant that only those leaving would get the card and not veterans who left prior to 2019.

Fast-forward 4 years and we’re still no closer to having an ID card issued to veterans that left prior to 2019.

Over the course of the 4 years, the MOD, Leo Docherty and Mr Mercer have released statements, answered hand-picked questions and provided “updates” which never truly answer the questions at hand. All of which can be seen here: Veteran ID Card Updates.

Why is It Taking So Long?

There are roughly 2 million Armed Forces veterans right now with around 44,000 who have been issued the card in 2022.

That figure is only for those who left after February 2019 by the way.

The reason it is taking so long is due to the amount of red-tape it takes to get a scheme like this launched and then to cater for everyone they had previously forgotten about (existing veterans).

The Government and Mr Mercer have been working on a 14-point plan to go through and triple-check the scheme so it can cater to the other 2 million ex-forces personnel.

They have to trawl through potentially millions of different data sets, build a working framework that is essentially infallible and get it tested and launched.

Is It An Issue With Walter Mitty’s?

Honestly, we’re not sure. This topic gets mentioned every time the issue arises.

Surely, it can’t be easy for a Walt to get their hands on an ID card if the MOD asked a few questions. Even knowing someone’s service number, their date of birth and N.I number would be difficult.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was duped by a Walt quite recently so it’s entirely possible for people to believe a Walt however most of them don’t have a clue about some of the most basic questions. A few simple questions and proof is all that’s needed.

In fact, any veteran can request a veterans badge, their service records, pension records or even their medical records with just a few details such as your service number, national insurance number, date of birth, date joined, date left, a current photo I.D, recent bank statement (proof of address) or where you were posted etc so why isn’t it a feasible option for the ID card?

To get things rolling, they could have easily issued the cards to those who are collecting their pensions, then worked their way down and once the digital scheme was ready, they could issue the cards to remaining veterans.

Now obviously there’s a bit more jumping through hoops in order to get that off the ground but it could have been done instead of delivering half-assed answers that don’t actually answer people’s concerns.

Is This Enough By Mr Mercer?

Now, his latest statement states he plans to get this done within the year (2023) and if he genuinely can, then fair play – keep him in as Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. He does put the work in and has even recently helped a struggling veteran after celebrity Nick Knowles posted this tweet:

He is also working to “end veteran homelessness” which does seem like a difficult task.

The Government announced their latest scheme which sounds more like they are giving £8.5 million to a few well-established charities that house veterans. The only issue is those charities often charge them rent to stay in the accommodation (Riverside and Stoll). We’re not saying these charities don’t help, but we think the money could be funded into smaller charities that don’t have extremely large outgoings.

Now, in regards to the veterans ID card, this statement is only mentioning the digital version.

As previously mentioned, the ID card has been in place since the beginning of 2019 with many statements and updates leading nowhere.

Is this just another political move to bolster support from the veteran community?

Is the digital ID card enough for veterans?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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