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Medical discharge process

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Between 1st April 2019 and 31st March 2020 there were a total of 1,578 medical discharges from the armed forces, broken down as follows:

  • Navy: 366
  • Army: 1,043
  • RAF: 169

For all three services, the main causes of medical discharges were Musculoskeletal Disorders and Injuries and Mental and Behavioural Disorders.

What is the procedure for a medical discharge?

If you are injured or develop a medical condition whilst serving that affects your ability to perform your duties, and this does not resolve within a matter of months, then you will usually be referred to a medical board for a medical examination and a review of your medical grading.

If it is clear that your injury or illness means that you fall below the service employment and retention standards then the board will recommend a medical discharge.

Before you go to a medical board it is likely that you will be medically downgraded to allow you time to complete your treatment and to try and prevent your injury or illness from getting worse.

Going to a medical board does not mean that you will automatically be medically discharged. A decision might be made that you can continue serving but with either temporary or permanent medical restrictions.

You can find more information about the process and how medical conditions are graded here.

What happens once you have been medically discharged?

You should be provided with a record of your medical board (FMED23) and told when your last day of service will be. You may end up serving for another 6 to 12 months after your medical board hearing.

It is important that you continue to attend any medical appointments you have, and carry on with any treatment. You should also speak to your medical officer about the treatment you will need once you leave and how you should access this treatment. You can find more information about this here [Link to page on accessing medical treatment after leaving the military].

You can also find out more here about adapting to living with an injury.

There has been criticism about the support provided to veterans and those going through the transition from military to civilian life. In response, the government launched a strategy to support veterans in 2018 to try and smooth this transition.

The Defence Transition Service now exists to provide support and guidance for those leaving the armed forces with in relation to areas such as:

  • health
  • accommodation
  • relocation
  • drugs and alcohol misuse
  • finance and debt
  • benefits
  • children, family and relationships
  • training and education
  • employment
  • supporting agencies.

Details for how to access their services can be found here.

Going through resettlement

Resettlement starts up to 2 years before you are due to leave the armed forces and continues for up to 2 years after discharge. In the case of wounded injured and sick (WIS) personnel this timeline can be longer, depending on the nature of their condition and their medical pathway.

Resettlement is delivered in 3 stages:

  1. You will need to make contact with a Resettlement Information Staff Officer, who will give you information about what help is available, offer administrative support and direct you to where you need to go to access the services that are available.
  2. A Service Resettlement Adviser will give you advice and guidance on the resettlement package which will best suit you according to your employment/vocational needs.
  3. Tri-service support is then provided by the Career Transition Partnership.

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