In the last 20 years, almost 40,000 men and women have had to leave the Armed Forces due to injury or illness1. This number grows daily, with an average of four people medically discharged every day2.

We have been supporting ex-service personnel since 2007, many of whom will be living with the impact and consequences of their injuries for life. We often hear how, for many, the medical discharge and transition process was not satisfactory, and that they did not feel adequately supported or prepared to re-enter civilian life.

That is why, in 2018, we carried out a survey to examine the Ministry of Defence’s (MOD’s) current support offering for those being medically discharged. Almost 70 per cent of veterans we support said they had a negative or very negative experience of transition following their medical discharge. Furthermore, more than 60 per cent of our respondents felt they did not receive enough support while transitioning out of the Armed Forces3.

Our findings revealed major inconsistencies and gaps in the MOD’s support for those being medically discharged. Specifically, we found that:

• Men and women are being medically discharged with a physical injury before receiving a full diagnosis for mental health conditions

• There is little mental health support through transition for those being discharged

• Those being discharged are not properly signposted to the courses available to help them

• The time given to transition after medical discharge varies hugely between services and individuals

• Compensation awards are often not being disclosed until after service personnel have left the military

• Individuals who are medically discharged often do not receive their full medical history documents for many months after leaving the military4.

Since then, we have been fighting to ensure these gaps are filled and are continuing in our efforts to campaign for the Government to commission an independent review and audit of the medical discharge process. The review should view the process from the experience of serving personnel and consider consistency across all three military services. This will ensure that those forced to leave the military as a result of their injury or illness are provided with the best possible opportunity to transition well into civilian life.

As the coronavirus pandemic further exposes the scale of need for those seeking mental health support, the need for a review of the discharge process is becoming ever more critical. Social isolation and loneliness have led to a significant rise in the number of veterans who feel their mental health is suffering. This highlights the urgency for the provision of more support for those leaving the military, to help prevent the progression into more complex and chronic psychological conditions later in life5.

1 Data gathered from Ministry of Defence publications, Ministerial responses and Freedom of Information requests: 1999–2001; 2001–2003/4; 2004/5; 2005/6–18/19.
2 Ministry of Defence Medical discharges among UK service personnel statistics, financial year 2022/23: https://assets.publishing.serv...Results of survey by Help for Heroes conducted between 19 and 30 August 2019 using a sample of 403 veterans who have been medically discharged from the British Armed Forces and are supported by Help for Heroes.
4 Ibid.
5 In 2020, Help for Heroes carried out a beneficiary survey to ask them about their experiences. 

Read our Medical discharge policy paper

Download PDF 9.2 MB