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Help for Heroes has welcomed a major review into welfare services for veterans, announced jointly by the Office for Veterans’ Affairs (OVA) and the Ministry of Defence (MOD), but called upon the Government to ensure that the medical discharge process is a key focus.  

The review will seek to evaluate the effectiveness of a range of government welfare services available to veterans, and crucially identify any gaps within current provision that prevent ex-service people from living well after service. It is confirmed that several services will be reviewed including Veterans UK’s Veterans Welfare Service, Integrated Personal Commissioning for Veterans, and the Northern Ireland Veterans Support Office.  

Men carry causality towards helicopter
A simulated casualty is rushed to a rescue helicopter during a training exercise, Cyprus in 2009. - SAC Phil Cooke

This review is also set to investigate the Defence Transition Service, which provides help and information to service personnel and their families during their transition to civilian life. However, it is not clear whether the medical discharge process will form part of this inquiry. The MOD conducted a separate review of this service as recently as 2019, but did not look in-depth at those leaving the Armed Forces due to injury or illness.  

In 2018, we carried out a survey to examine the MOD’s current support offering for those being medically discharged. Almost 70 per cent of veterans questioned said they had a negative experience of transition following their medical discharge. More than 60 per cent said they did not receive enough support during the process. 

Whilst we welcome this review, there remains a lack of clarity on whether medical discharge will be a key focus. We must ensure wounded, ill, and sick veterans are not left behind and that much needed reform to the medical discharge process is top of the agenda.” 

James Needham

Help for Heroes CEO

Johnny Mercer with with Help for Heroes staff holding placard
Veterans' Minister Johnny Mercer with Help for Heroes staff - Callum Brown

We identified several gaps within this service including: 

  • Being medically discharged with a physical injury before receiving a full diagnosis for mental health conditions. 
  • Being offered little to no mental health support. 
  • Large variations in the time given to transition after medical discharge between services and individuals. 
  • Being discharged before compensation awards are disclosed. 
  • Not receiving full medical history documents for many months after leaving. 

In October last year, we brought together stakeholders from leading Armed Forces charities, the King’s Centre of Military Health Research, the OVA, the MOD, and the Department for Health and Social Care to discuss a cross-sectoral approach to addressing these gaps. We will continue to work with Government to ensure that improving the medical discharge process remains a priority across veterans’ services.  

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