For those service personnel that have been medically discharged, the transition from military to civilian life can be a daunting prospect. Whether the injury is physical or psychological, the need for some form of rehabilitation or ongoing care is necessary in most cases.
All too often we hear from our clients about their concerns regarding resettlement into civilian life following an injury. For many being a part of the Armed Forces becomes a way of life. The very thought therefore of leaving the familiarity of military existence can seem alien and is all the more frightening and challenging when faced with being medically discharged.
Rehabilitation can be of great assistance and is not just limited to medical treatment. It can include securing employment to help with welfare issues and housing as well as the provision of ongoing healthcare. For the individual involved these factors are not isolated from each other.
What are your rights?
The Armed Forces Covenant, which was enshrined in the Armed Forces Act 2011, outlines two core principles which are relevant here:
- No current or former member of the armed forces, or their families, should be at a disadvantage compared to other citizens in the provision of public and commercial services.
- Special consideration is appropriate in some cases, particularly for those who have been injured or bereaved.
In February 2014 Lord Ashcroft in his report entitled ‘The Veterans Transition Review’ made various recommendations and “recognised that some veterans do experience difficulties with health or quality of life and those in need should be able to access appropriate care…”
In the Armed Forces Covenant: Annual Report 2015 the following goals in respect of healthcare were set:
- Veterans should receive priority treatment (subject to clinical needs of others) in respect of treatment relating to a condition resulting from their Service in the Armed Forces; and
- Veterans should be able to access mental health professionals who have an understanding of Armed Forces culture.
Helpfully, the Department of Health subsequently updated The NHS Constitution in October 2015 stating that:
“The NHS will ensure that in line with the Armed Forces Covenant, those in the armed forces, reservists, their families and veterans are not disadvantaged in accessing health services in the area they reside.”
What help is available?
The first step in making the transition from military to civilian life following medical discharge is for veterans and their families to register with a GP. Where there are ongoing health needs or special requirements, it is important to inform the GP as soon as possible. This will help secure ongoing care through the NHS.
There are also a number of charities, organisations and initiatives that may be able to assist, some of which are listed below:
- The Ministry of Defence in partnership with Help for Heroes and The Royal British Legion have created the Defence Recovery Capability (DRC) initiative. Under the scheme assistance is provided through a full range of recovery activities. Individual recovery plans (IRP) should be put into place, allowing individuals access to specialist support, whether the support is provided by the Ministry of Defence, the NHS or the charitable sector.
- The Veterans Reserves Mental Health Programme (VRMHP), alongside the charity Combat Stress both provide mental health support and services for Veterans. Please see my colleague Gaggan Mawi’s blog on the work of Combat Stress in helping Veterans with PTSD.
- Discharged service personnel are able to access Defence Mental Health Services for up to six months after leaving the Armed Forces. Those approaching discharge can also seek assistance from the NHS Veterans’ Mental Health Transition, Intervention and Liaison Service, introduced at the beginning of this year.
For Veterans accessing this service, they must:
- Be a resident in England
- Have served in the UK armed forces for a full day
- Be registered with a GP practice in England or be willing to register with a GP
- Be able to provide their military service number or another form of acceptable proof of eligibility
- Where Veterans have suffered serious physical injury or hearing loss, assistance is available through The Veterans Medical Funds Programme, run by the Royal British Legion. Veterans suffering with hearing loss can seek assistance under the Veterans Hearing Fund – VHF and those with serious physical injuries that are service-related can apply for assistance under the Veterans Mobility Fund – VMF.
Making a civil claim
For Veterans seeking compensation in relation to service–related injuries arising from negligence, the aim is to put the injured individual back to the position he or she would have been in had the injury not occurred.
Securing a good financial settlement is important to us but this alone is not enough. Whether our clients are suffering from physical or psychological injuries we seek to rely on the Rehabilitation Code and request the Ministry of Defence’s early participation in addressing the immediate needs of our clients under the terms of the Code. This allows us to create a proactive and bespoke rehabilitation plan for our clients.