“Are You a Veteran?” Understandings of the Term “Veteran” among UK Ex-service Personnel

July, 2012

The term ‘veteran’ does not have universal meaning; connotations very depending on context and,  for example, whether the term is being used by military personnel, national governments, or the general public. When applied to a military population, the term is often used to describe those who have left the Armed Forces, but the specific qualifying characteristics of each person may vary. The official definition – from the UK government – for a veteran is the most inclusive of any country; everyone performing military service for at least one day and drawing one day’s pay is termed a veteran, and their dependents also qualify for certain benefits as part of the ex-service community. Other countries, in comparison, may determine veteran status on the basis of completion of a minimum period of military service (e.g. the United States) or deployment to a conflict zone (e.g. Australia).


Different countries have varying definitions of the word ‘‘veteran,’’ which in turn influence the benefits that ex-Service personnel receive. However, public opinion does not necessarily reflect official definitions. This article seeks to identify whether characteristics by which UK ex-Service personnel self-identify as veterans are aligned with official policy/public opinion, and which factors are associated with self-identification as a veteran. This article utilizes data from a structured telephone interview survey of UK Armed Forces personnel. All those who had left the military by the time of interview (n = 202) were asked whether they considered themselves to be a veteran. Their responses were recorded and analyzed. Only half of the sample considered themselves to be veterans. Definitions used by UK ex-Service personnel do not align with the official UK government definition or public perceptions of "veterans," which tend to focus on older veterans and/or those who served in both World Wars.

Full Reference

Burdett, H., Woodhead, C., Iversen, A., Wessely, S., Dandeker, C., and Fear, N., 2012. "'Are You a Veteran?' Understanding of the Term 'Veteran' among UK Ex-Service Personnel", Armed Forces & Society. 39 (4), 751 - 759. Armed Forces & Society Vol 39, Issue 4, pp. 751 - 759

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