Leaving the Armed Forces and returning to the community is a significant and sometimes difficult life change.
Life inside the Army is rigorously structured with a strict daily routine and life in the general UK population can feel very strange.
Not only this but depending on how long ago they enlisted, ex-military individuals may find that their friends, families, and even society have changed a lot by the time they return.
Research from SSAFA has found that service leavers aged 25-64 often need the most support, facing complex challenges including life-changing injuries, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder as well as low incomes.
But there is help available for veterans struggling to reintegrate into society after leaving active service.
Successful resettlement requires income support, help with education and help finding jobs.
Veterans also benefit from support with building networking skills and finding housing.
Below are some of the forms of helps available for veterans in 2020.
Finding Employment as a Veteran
Research undertaken by the Royal British Legion found that working age veterans in the UK are twice as likely to be unemployed as their peers despite often having the same levels of skill and education.
So why are employers so put off by the CVs of ex-military personnel?
There are a few reasons but the main one is that it can be difficult to translate the work done in the military into civilian terms.
So, even though an individual has the skills and experience necessary to do a job, the employer may not understand this from the information on their CV.
Service members do often work in roles which mirror those of civilians so this is a hurdle that can be resolved – with help.
Hire a Hero is a charity that is dedicated to helping service leavers and veterans to find a career after leaving the Armed Forces.
Initially focusing only on housing, the charity has grown over the years to include training, housing and care plans.
In a recent study commissioned by the charity, they found that:
- 91% of the public believe those who have served have been mentally, emotionally or physically damaged, but
- 92% of service leavers leave in good health.
In fact, with the right help, training and resources, the majority of ex-service members find themselves in successful and fulfilling careers in time.
Some of the best resources for ex-service personnel in 2020 include:
- Troops to Teachers, a government programme that helps Armed Forces veterans to use the skills learned during service to retrain as teachers. Successful applicants can also benefit from a tax-free bursary of £40,000.
- CTP (Career Transition Partnership) is a partnership between talent and career organisation Right Management and the Ministry of Defence. The service is designed to find appropriate vacancies, promote the benefits of hiring ex-military personnel to employers, and train and support these members to find success in their applications.
- Civvystreet is a helpful web-based magazine that provides job openings, news, support and training for veterans in the UK.
What financial help is available?
While the military does provide a pension for those who have worked until retirement, or who are discharged from active duty due to illness or injury, financial difficulties are still common.
Personnel who resign may not be entitled to a pension or financial help from the military but there are grants and other forms of support available from a variety of charities and non-profits.
The British Legion, a charity providing financial, social and emotional support to people at all stages of service, can provide help to families struggling with debt.
The charity also provides rehabilitation for currently serving and ex-service personnel who are wounded, injured or sick.
Registered UK charity Turn2Us can also offer practical help and advice to those requiring financial help.
They have a section on their website devoted to veterans, helping them to find benefits, grants and other resources.
The Veterans Charity offers a lifeline to veterans in the UK, providing direct and immediate support that includes food shopping, clothing, household goods, furniture and even mobile phones to those in need.
Debt relief for veterans
There are lots of reasons why veterans may leave the military with debt.
Although pay is regular during military service, it is not extravagant and often pay cheques need to stretch far enough to take care of families at home as well.
Some military personnel move home quite often and relocation is an added expense that can also make it more difficult for partners and spouses to find well-paying jobs of their own.
For those leaving the military there are many charities who can give debt advice.
Most of the organisations listed here will be able to help, in fact.
The British Legion is often the first port of call for those looking for debt advice for veterans but there are dedicated debt relief organisations that can help.
StepChange, for example, is a major debt advice charity in the UK providing support with managing debts and creating repayment plans.
StepChange has joined forces with military charity SSAFA in rolling out more bespoke support for service personnel.
Benefits for veterans
While there is employment and education support available to help veterans get back into work, some will require support from the benefits system first.
Recent analysis suggests that there are 50,000 veterans struggling with mental health conditions after completing service – many suffering from post-traumatic stress or depression.
The benefits system can be difficult to navigate so some veterans require extra support to help them to find the right options for them and their families.
The Royal British Legion has asserted that disabled ex-Armed Forces personnel find it particularly difficult to access social security benefits, experiencing significant stress and anxiety because of the social stigma and complex application processes related to the welfare system.
The charity says that a major barrier to welfare access is that many front line Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) staff are not aware of their obligations under the Armed Forces Covenant – this requires them to give special dispensation to injured ex-military personnel.
- The Citizens Advice Bureau is always a great source of advice and can provide direct support through its physical premises.
- Government-sanctioned Military Pensions are available to ex-service members on their exit from the military.
- CTP provides a useful list of all of the state benefits available to ex-Armed Forces personnel.
- A British Veterans Recognition Card offers a valuable form of identification for men and women leaving service, allowing them to access a range of support options, discounts and products.
Help with housing
Some veterans will retire already having a family home to return to but others will be returning from abroad or moving out of Service Family Accommodation.
If this is the case, then it is recommended that personnel look for a new place to live before they leave the services.
This will ensure that they have somewhere safe and comfortable to return to in the early weeks and months after they leave, when they may feel the most unsettled.
Veterans about to leave the military and still living in Armed Forces housing can get help through the Joint Service Housing Advice Office (JSHAO).
This organisation can provide housing information for any military and ex-military personnel but it is especially effective for those about to return to civilian life, helping them to move out and find a civilian home.
Other housing support options include:
- Haig Housing, which is a housing association specifically for veterans,
- Shelter , a homeless charity that has a section of its website dedicated to support available to homeless veterans, and
- STOLL, which provides affordable, high-quality housing and support services designed to empower disabled and vulnerable veterans to live independent lives.
Help with injuries
Being injured in conflict can have wide-ranging consequences on the lives of those who have served in the military.
Life changing injuries could make it difficult to reintegrate into the community as well as causing financial difficulties.
The mental health impact of these injuries could also be difficult to recover from without support.
- SSAFA provides direct support to ex-military personnel in need of personal or emotional care as a result of their service. The charity is committed to helping ex-service personnel to overcome these problems, and rebuild their lives.
- Blesma is a charity committed to providing lifelong support to soldiers who have lost limbs during service.
- Help for Heroes is one of the best-known charities for ex-military that have been wounded in action.
Mental health concerns for veterans
While most British military personnel can readjust to civilian life quite quickly, the trauma and experiences of their military life can mean that many require additional mental health support.
Often, veterans are discharged from regular service without presenting mental health issues (in fact, just 0.1% of military personnel are discharged for mental health reasons) but these conditions can develop after leaving service.
The mental health problems suffered by ex-service members are often the same as those suffered by the general population, although they are brought on by different experiences and thus have different triggers and recovery patterns.
The most common mental health conditions for veterans to have include:
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),
- anxiety, and
- substance abuse.
Sometimes, veterans’ mental health problems are caused by situations post-service if they are struggling with the transition to civilian life or the loss of their service support networks.
Thankfully, today’s society is more understanding of the issues facing ex-service personnel so there are plenty of resources available.
- The NHS can help to provide treatment for PTSD, anxiety and other mental health conditions.
- Mind is a mental health charity that offers excellent resources surrounding PTSD, including what it is, what the symptoms are, what treatment is available and even a section providing advice to friends and family.
- PTSD Resolution is a registered charity that provides direct support in the form of its PTSD Resolution program.
Veterans may be entitled to compensation for any accident or injury sustained during the time they were serving.
The Royal British Legion has an Armed Forces Compensation Scheme for any serving or ex-serving personnel who has suffered an injury or illness related to their service on or after 6 April 2005.
Thanks to this campaign from the British Legion, injured ex-military individuals will not have to surrender any compensation owed to them in order to pay for their social care back in the community.
Claims can be made for injuries resulting from one specific accident or incident, or for injury caused over the course of service.
There are also a great number of independent compensation lawyers available online, many of whom work on a no win no fee basis.
Before you begin looking into compensation, it helps to get advice from professionals.
- Gov.uk has an excellent collection of resources for ex-military individuals looking for help with compensation claims.
- offers a wide range of advice and has access to excellent resources.
On leaving the Armed Forces, we owe veterans a comfortable and easy transition from active service to civilian life.
Thanks to the resources listed here, they should be able to achieve their goals and move onto a successful and enjoyable retirement from the military.
Here is a handy list of the links included in this guide.
- Citizens Advice Bureau – citizensadvice.org.uk
- Turn2Us – turn2us.org.uk
- The British Legion – britishlegion.org.uk
- StepChange – stepchange.org
- UK Government – gov.uk
- Hire a Hero – hireahero.org.uk
- CivvyStreet – civvystreetmagazine.org
- Help for Heroes – helpforheroes.org.uk
- Troops to Teaching – getintoteaching.education.gov.uk
- CTP – ctp.org.uk
- British Veterans Recognition Card – britishveterans.co.uk
- Military pensions – gov.uk/guidance/pensions-and-compensation-for-veterans
- British Legion Insult to Injury Campaign – britishlegion.org.uk/get-involved/things-to-do/campaigns-policy-and-research/campaigns/insult-to-injury
- Haig Housing – haighousing.org.uk
- Shelter – shelter.org.uk
- JSHAO – gov.uk/government/collections/joint-service-housing-advice-office-jshao
- STOLL – stoll.org.uk