The change from military to civilian life may be an anxious time for your family. If your soldier’s exit from the Army is sudden and unplanned, because of medical discharge, the uncertainty can significantly increase. AFF Health & Additional Needs Specialist Karen Ross explores the support available during and after the process…
OFTEN the spouse or partner not only takes on the organisation of the resettlement process, such as education, employment, healthcare and housing, but also supports their loved one who is unwell or injured.
Becky’s husband has PTSD and they also have two daughters who are still in education. They’ve recently gone through the medical discharge process. Becky explained: “It’s hard work juggling a marriage, family, work and the looming PTSD dark shadow, which is like an additional unknown person who needs 24/7 attention. Because my husband is so unwell I am doing the bulk of the organising.”
Who decides that a soldier should be medically discharged?
The decision is made by a full medical board (FMB), which is an opportunity for your soldier’s medical history and reports from their unit to be considered. The FMB president will recommend a medical discharge either on a temporary (where the condition may improve) or permanent (where the condition is unlikely to improve) basis. A copy of this recommendation is given to your soldier and sent to their chain of command.
Can family members attend the FMB and can they ask questions?
Soldiers are encouraged to bring a family member to the FMB. It’s useful to consider what questions you may want to ask and to write them down.
What happens next?
Army Personnel Centre (APC) will make the final decision on when your soldier will be medically discharged. They will write to them with a formal discharge date, which takes into account any annual leave they have owing, resettlement leave, invaliding leave and terminal leave. The discharge date will be around four to six months from the time they receive their letter, but it can vary. The FMB will make APC aware of any treatment requirements that will interrupt or delay your soldier’s resettlement. The Service Personnel and Veterans Agency will also write to your soldier separately within the last six weeks of service regarding their pension. Becky said: “I wasn’t fully aware of all the benefits and allowances we would be entitled to, so we’re now getting support from Veterans UK to help us navigate through the financial aspects of medical discharge.”
Does the soldier get any extra help with resettlement?
JSP 534 states that: “All personnel subject to medical discharge, both those who are wounded, injured and sick and those who are likely to be discharged from the Services on medical grounds, are able to access resettlement entitlements at an earlier stage than for other Service leavers.”
If the soldier is too unwell to take up resettlement courses, can these be deferred or passed on to an entitled family member?
If there are exceptional circumstances, resettlement courses can be deferred to after discharge or transferred to the spouse, civil partner or a nominated proxy. These can be taken up to two years after discharge or longer at the chain of command’s discretion.
Becky’s husband has had his resettlement entitlement deferred for two years because he wasn’t well enough to take it prior to his medical discharge.
Is there any ongoing care or treatment after the soldier has been medically discharged?
Your soldier can still use all military medical and dental facilities up to their final day of service. If they have ongoing care with military specialists this will continue until it’s handed over to the NHS (or equivalent outside of the UK and NI). It’s important that your soldier books a final medical with their military medical centre in the last few weeks of service and that they register with an NHS GP to ensure that the transfer of treatment or care happens smoothly. Encourage your soldier to tell their GP that they’re a veteran, so that any medical provision can be continued and the information is recorded. If your soldier is under a Personal Recovery Unit their personal recovery officer will guide them through their medical discharge pathway.
What support is offered to soldiers once they have left the Army?
There are a number of initiatives, charities and organisations that provide specific support. You may require help with employment, finances, healthcare and housing – you can find information in the transition section at aff.org.uk
Becky has had problems with trying to access social housing and having a local connection. “Our local MP and Veterans UK have been assisting us,” she said. “There is so much legislation and local agreements that it’s hard to keep track of who’s in control of what.”
If you have a question about your soldier’s medical discharge, contact Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org