31 Oct, 14 | by Iain Brassington
The “Military Covenant” is in the news again:
The government is failing to abide by its military covenant, medical experts who treat injured soldiers have said.
Leading professors in psychology and orthopaedics say the healthcare system is not providing veterans with the service they have been promised. […]
The moral obligation to treat veterans should not stop when service ends, the covenant states, saying veterans should receive priority healthcare from the NHS when they are being treated for a condition dating from their time in the armed forces.
The Covenant is set out here; most of it is pretty vague, and what isn’t vague is largely predictable in its tone. In respect of healthcare, the relevant part is on p 6:
The Armed Forces Community should enjoy the same standard of, and access to, healthcare as that received by any other UK citizen in the area they live. […] Veterans receive their healthcare from the NHS, and should receive priority treatment where it relates to a condition which results from their service in the Armed Forces, subject to clinical need.
This, at first glance, seems to be saying that members of the forces, and ex-members, should be treated in the same way as everyone else, except that they shouldn’t. (There’s a fuller version of the statement here.) The Government repeats this confusing attitude elsewhere: its own website explains that
[i]t’s not about getting special treatment that ordinary citizens wouldn’t receive, or getting a better result. For those that have given the most, such as the injured and the bereaved, we do make an exception
But maybe that’s just a terminological infelicity.
The Covenant itself does not have the status of law (and even if it did, that wouldn’t make any moral difference, unless you happen to think that all law is de facto good law). However, the Armed Forces Act (2011) does state that the Secretary of State must prepare and present before Parliament every year a report on the covenant; and, according to §343A(3), more…