Councillor Raises £15,000 for Commonwealth veteran’s surgery
Newport councillor and Iraq veteran Thomas Janke has raised more than £15,000 to help a Commonwealth veteran cover the costs of his medical bills for emergency surgery to remove a brain tumour.
Taitusi Ratacaucau, originally from Fiji, served for ten years in the British Army, including tours of Iraq and Afghanistan, and now lives with his family in London. Having been classed as an overseas patient, he was told he must pay more than £27,000 for his NHS care.
Cllr Thomas Janke, who is also the Wrekin Parliamentary Spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, started the fundraiser on the GoFundMe website, after being "incensed" to hear of the veteran's situation.
"Contempt for those who serve our country is palpable. British Army Veteran Taitusi Ratucaucau is faced with the stress and anxiety of having to pay more than £27K for brain surgery, despite two tours of duty on behalf of our country, and years of paying taxes and national insurance. Is this how we thank those who risk their lives for us? This is a grotesque injustice that these veterans face."
Having served with Fijian soldiers in his own regiment, Cllr Janke was able to recruit the help of an old colleague with getting in touch with Taitusi Ratacaucau's family. The fundraiser raised £15,000 in five days, far surpassing Cllr Janke's expectations. A further fundraiser by the charity Veteran's Garage raised £12,000, and agreed to work with Cllr Janke to ensure the full £27,000 could be provided at the earliest opportunity.
"I have a great affinity for all veterans, the majority of us feel that no one should be left behind in any circumstance," highlighted Cllr Janke. "This fundraiser felt entirely instinctive and I just hoped it would go someway to help relieve some of the stress this family were dealing with, I had no idea it would take off so quickly - I'm delighted. I would also like to sincerely thank Veterans Garage for agreeing to come together with their donations raised on their Just Giving page."
"I have worked with a number of Commonwealth soldiers in my career and all of them are top blokes. I was fortunate enough that my old mate Alosio Yamoyamo was already fully aware of the situation and helped put me in touch with 'Commonwealth Neglected Veterans' who represent Taitusi in this particular case and other Fijian veterans in their struggle for indefinite leave to remain status - something that is not yet automatic for Commonwealth soldiers at the end of their term of service."
Indefinite leave to remain status is an immigration status that can be granted to Commonwealth soldiers should they apply for it when their term of service comes to an end. However, Commonwealth soliders are not always made aware of the need to apply for this process, and often cannot affort to pay thousands of pounds for the necessary visas for their family.
"The fundraiser is quite honestly the tip of the iceberg where these Fijian veterans are concerned," emphasised Cllr Janke. Lots more needs to be done with ensuring these guys are welcome in our country for the remainder of their lives. No one who has served and risked their life for this country should ever be treated this way ever again - I will be working with others to lobby the Home Office to request they streamline this process and backdate the offer of 'indefinite leave to remain' status to any veterans currently sitting in limbo - I want to show my upmost respect to these guys and the organisations like 'Commonwealth Neglected Veterans' for carrying the fight to government to help these veterans get the justice they richly deserve".