veterans

Outsourcing is the way forward

In 2010 the Danish parliament decided that the 32,000 Danish war veterans should have a veterans ID card, which would give veterans reduced prices on goods, events etc. But the veterans card has failed badly with only 66 discounts online and no one using it. That is why the Danish Ministry of Defence has now chosen to outsource the veterans card to LogBuy, thus providing the veterans with immediate access to several thousand discount agreements. LogBuy has already been security cleared by Defence Command Denmark and has a well established website, which other employees of Defence Command Denmark already use.

 

An article in BT, one of Denmark’s leading daily newspapers, says:

The worst thing about fighting in a war is not when the enemy are shooting at you. In that situation, you know exactly where you stand.

It is worse when they are not shooting. When you are wandering round in a state of emptiness. Because you know that the enemy might be lying in wait, ready to attack you. But you don’t know where they are, or when it’s going to happen.

‘You get totally paranoid. It’s a kind of psychological terror. Everything in your body gets stressed out,’ Martin Aaholm told the Danish newspaper, Berlingske.

In 2009, at the age of 22, he was deployed to Afghanistan as an infantryman in the war against the Taliban. At the time, the awareness that every day might be your last was just something you took for granted. And 1 July 2009 might easily have been the last day for Martin Aaholm.

During Operation Panther’s Claw, one of the biggest western military operations since D Day in World War II, he stepped on a mine field concealing 50 kilos of buried explosives.

The explosion hurled him several metres out into the Afghan desert sand. But he was alive when he landed, and his instinct told him to get up and run for safety.  But he could not. Because there, where, only a few seconds before, his legs had been, only a pair of bloody stumps of flesh remained. Half of his fingers and large sections of his lower arms had also been blown away by the Taliban mine.

I immediately fainted. The pain knocked me out,’ he remembers.

Martin Aaholm is a war veteran: like thousands of other Danes, who together accommodated the political desire for Danish presence in the world’s conflict zones.

A great number of politicians at Christiansborg believe that these men should be acknowledged for their efforts. That is why, in 2010, they adopted a new veterans policy, the provisions of which included a strengthening of the acknowledgement and appreciation of the veterans. In this respect, the so-called ‘veterans card’ was an essential point.

The card was supposed to be a recognition in itself, but even more importantly, it was intended to pave the way for a ‘completely new kind of recognition’: in the shape of discounts, events and benefits, which civil Denmark would offer the country’s veterans card holders as an appreciation of their efforts.­

The sky’s the limit. And I hope that private initiative will flourish,’ the then Minister of Defence, Gitte Lillelund Bech (Liberal Party of Denmark) said at the time.

Today it is clear that the hope has not yet been fulfilled. This embarrassing state of affairs almost started before, when they sent out the first 27,000 cards to the country’s veterans. For example, no one in Defence Command Denmark or the Ministry of Defence had actually taken the initiative to create a website, which could provide the veterans with an overview of what they could use the card for. So it was left to a veteran, in his leisure time, to get this website up and running and to take care of operating it.

After close examination, this website, now the official veterans card site, makes it clear that, since the inauguration in 2011, only 66 businesses throughout the country have entered the scene with offers for veterans. These offers include free access to Fort Langeland and cheap admission to Southern Jutland’s premier league home matches.

These are not things that Martin Aaholm has made use of.

As he puts it: ‘As far as I’m concerned, the veterans card is just a piece of plastic. I can’t use it for anything. No. That’s not exactly true. It’s great for scraping ice off the car windscreen.’

Instead of the veterans card, he makes much greater use of the so-called ‘LogBuy scheme’, to which his continuing status as a Defence Command Denmark employee entitles him. The LogBuy scheme, to which not only Defence Command Denmark, but also 300 other Danish companies subscribe, is much more comprehensive, providing access to more than 2,000 discounts throughout the country: everything from travel, treatments, restaurants, electronics, insurance, spectacles, concerts and lectures to lawyers, children’s clothes and groceries.

Therefore, because of the failure of the veterans card, the government, with the Minister of Defence, Nicolai Wammen (Social Democrat) leading the way, will ensure that not only Defence Command Denmark’s own employees such as Martin Aaholm, but also every one of the 32,000 veterans card holders, will in the future be given access to the LogBuy scheme.

That means, for example, that in future any veteran, upon presentation of a veterans card will get up to 12% discount on Apple products, 20% at all Scandic hotels and up to 20% discount with several travel companies, who have subscribed to the scheme. They will also be entitled to 20% discount on a membership at Fitness World and up to 60% discount on a G4S private alarm.

Unfortunately, we have to admit that the veterans card is inefficient. That is why I want to guarantee that our veterans will really benefit from it in their everyday lives and acquire access to the extensive range of discounts provided by the LogBuy scheme. It is a very straightforward and concrete way of letting the veterans know that we appreciate their efforts and are proud of them,’ says Nicolai Wammen.

In order to ensure that the veteran card, in itself, can achieve success, so the country’s veterans can get a number of benefits reserved specially for them, in the coming months Nicolai Wammen will also convene the parliamentary parties and various business organisations to discuss what else can be done to encourage a situation, in which Danish civil society seizes the opportunity to acknowledge Danish war veterans.

I am experiencing no resistance from the corporate world in terms of assuming responsibility. But I think we need to re-emphasise the importance of the veterans card for the business community. I would like to put it on their agenda,’ says Nicolai Wammen.

The Ministry of Defence estimates that 18,000 of the 32,000 veterans, who today have a veterans card, will benefit from being granted access to the LogBuy scheme.  The remaining 14,000 are still employed by Defence Command Denmark, so they already have access to the thousands of discounts.

Last Sunday, the Berlingske revealed that, up until now, the armed forces, on account of a technicality, have denied a veterans card to war veterans, who were deployed on behalf of the Danish Emergency Management Agency. As a result of this, Nicolai Wammen, the Minister of Defence, immediately gave Defence Command Denmark a dressing down and changed the practice. That means that these approximately 500 emergency workers will also benefit from the significant expansion of the opportunities offered by a veterans card.

That comes as a pleasant surprise to Jeppe Jensen, who is one of the emergency workers, who will now get a veterans card.

It is very positive that we are now part of the discount scheme. But I think it is also absolutely essential for the authorities to make the veterans card a success in its own right. The scheme, to which the veterans will now have access, is also used by other companies. The idea of the veterans card was that it should only be for veterans. That it should be something in its own right, without any need for intervention from the Minister of Defence,’ says Jeppe Jensen.

When, in 2010, a broad majority of parliament came up with the idea of a veterans card, they were following in the footsteps of the Americans. Poul Høi, writing in last Saturday’s Berlingske, describes how in the USA veterans have access to at least 235,000 discounts throughout the country. The card is so successful that every month there are tons of cases, in which Americans attempt to pose as war veterans in order to get card benefits. But the veterans card’s lack of success in Denmark reveals that Danish civil society has not, to any significant extent, exhibited the same desire to acknowledge its veterans.

Nicolai Wammen finds this annoying. So, in November, in a meeting with Chuck Hagel, the American Minister of Defence, he will discuss, not only veteran policy in general, but also, more particularly, how to make the veterans card successful.

Historically speaking, the USA has a different tradition of acknowledging veterans from that in Denmark. I hope that we can draw inspiration from the USA in terms of getting private companies and society at large to start taking responsibility for acknowledging our veterans, so it is not only a matter for Danish officialdom,’ says Nicolai Wammen.

Question: There are, of course, many weak groups in society, who might benefit from help. Why do you think it is important to focus just as much on veterans?

We are talking about men and women, who put their lives on the line to perform an important task for Denmark. Selflessly, they make a great sacrifice so that the rest of us can live in safety and that children in other countries can grow up with democracy and freedom. It is a task that we ask them to undertake, so we also have a responsibility to acknowledge them: before, during and after their deployment,’ says Wammen.

Originally, the veterans card was a result of proposals from various bodies: for example, the veterans’ interest organisation, the Blue Berets. The organisation’s chairman, Niels Hartvig Andersen, is not exactly over the moon as a result of the Ministry of Defence’s guaranteeing all veterans a number of discounts. He is annoyed that the veterans card has not been successful in its own right.

We are up against Jante law. People are asking questions about why veterans should be entitled to this. I don’t know whether our society is yet geared to giving these discounts and benefits to veterans on their own initiative,’ he says.

Nor, when questioned directly, does he believe that you can compare veterans with other groups of weak people in society.

Our veterans have accomplished something quite extraordinary. They are just something special, whether you like it or not. They do something that no one else does,’ he says.

Christiansborg would seem to be of the same opinion. There is broad support for the government’s desire to strengthen the veterans card. Lene Espersen, political spokesperson for the Conservative People’s Party thinks it is ‘absolutely fantastic’ to connect veterans to the LogBuy scheme.

In a society such as Denmark, where we have chosen to pursue an activist foreign policy, we should dare to acknowledge our veterans as something special. They aren’t just a handful of the overall Danish workforce. They deserve very special treatment,’ she says.

Troels Lund Poulsen (Denmark’s Liberal Party) also praises the initiative. He calls it a ‘U-turn’ on the part of the government in terms of acknowledging the veterans, but believes that, during the upcoming discussions about strengthening the veterans card, ‘much more’ needs to be done.

Meanwhile, Jørgen Arbo-Bæhr of the Red-Green Alliance believes that more effort should be made to get veterans back into employment, at the same time emphasising that he has nothing against the initiative to give the veterans a variety of discounts.

No date has yet been set for when veterans card holders will acquire access to the LogBuy scheme, but the Ministry of Defence expects it to become a reality quite soon.

 

 

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