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War veteran 'gobsmacked' over alleged discrimination at Specsavers

PUBLISHED: 14:06 26 February 2019 | UPDATED: 14:09 26 February 2019

The Woodbridge branch of Specsavers has suspended a staff member in connection with the incident Picture: GOOGLE MAPS

The Woodbridge branch of Specsavers has suspended a staff member in connection with the incident Picture: GOOGLE MAPS

Archant

Specsavers have launched an investigation after a Suffolk war veteran was allegedly accused of "invading countries" and "killing innocent people" at the chain's Woodbridge branch.

Fellow Suffolk veteran Trevor Coult defended his friend over the alleged incident on Twitter Picture: ARCHANTFellow Suffolk veteran Trevor Coult defended his friend over the alleged incident on Twitter Picture: ARCHANT

Specsavers have launched an investigation after a Suffolk war veteran was reportedly accused of “invading countries” and “killing innocent people” at the chain’s Woodbridge branch.

Steve Leale, who served in the army for 32 years, visited Specsavers in the Thoroughfare with his wife earlier this month – where he claims he was refused a priority appointment.

When he asked to be listed as a veteran, Mr Leale claims a staff member accused him of “killing innocent people”.

He said he was left “gobsmacked” by the alleged comment.

Specsavers have since suspended an employee pending an investigation into what happened.

“The trip started with a pleasant conversation with a separate member of staff who helped put my disabled wife at ease,” the veteran explained.

“I chatted with my optician through my appointment. Afterwards, the optician approached me and recommended I was referred to the hospital as my eyesight had deteriorated.

“I asked if they could kindly annotate the paperwork to state I was a veteran, as is part of the Forces Charter.”

Mr Leale alleges he was then accused of “invading countries around the world” and “killing innocent people” during his visit on Friday, February 15.

Mr Leale added: “Service personnel are not the enemy.

“The moral of this chapter is we do our duty to allow us to live together as a nation and we do not expect to be verbally insulted as I was.”

A Specsavers spokesman said: “An employee has been suspended pending a disciplinary investigation into comments made to a customer at the Woodbridge store.

“The alleged comments do not represent the views of Specsavers, who are active supporters of Blind Veterans UK, a charity which cares for former military personnel with sight problems.”

Veterans are entitled to priority access to NHS care (including hospital, primary or community care) for conditions associated with their time within the armed forces.

These include physical injuries from the line of duty, and mental health support for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Mr Leale filed an official complaint to the store on Monday, February 18 and was reportedly contacted by the branch to say the matter will be handled by their head office.

Fellow veteran and Military Cross recipient Trevor Coult showed support for his friend on Twitter following the incident.

Mr Coult, from Rendlesham, said the treatment Mr Leale allegedly received was “a disgrace” – but not uncommon.

“Veterans get discriminated against in pubs, in shops, it happens everywhere,” he said.

“You have to remember that these people are walking about, keeping themselves to themselves, looking for jobs in civilian life, often with physical or mental injuries.

“They don’t need abuse on top of that.

He added: “Veterans don’t get much – this isn’t the way Steve deserves to be treated after giving 32 years of his life for his country.”

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