Your legal rights when being discharged from the UK Armed Forces on medical grounds

Leaving the Armed Forces by medical discharge can be stressful, disorienting, and leave you feeling unsure about your income and future.  Our military solicitors can help you to ensure that the process has been followed properly and help you to put together an appeal against any award as appropriate.  Below we consider the circumstances that could result in a medical discharge and what compensation you may be entitled to so that you can best position yourself for a future beyond the military.

Topics to be answered in this article

What is military medical discharge?

If you have been injured or made unwell in the course of service that affects your ability to perform your duties, a decision to medically discharge will officially put an end to your time in the military. While a medical board will assess your physical and mental health, the final decision regarding discharge rests with Occupational Health. 

Before making any decision to discharge, adjustments and all reasonable attempts should be made to return you to service. This is often a long process to ensure that all avenues have been exhausted as medical discharge is not taken lightly. The Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force each have their own medical discharge policy to allow them flexibility in how to deal with medical issues in their individual environments. Therefore, each branch will likely approach any medical concerns differently.

Common causes of military medical discharge

Across all three military branches, the two most common principal causes of medical discharge are musculoskeletal disorders and injuries and mental and behavioural disorders. 

Examples of musculoskeletal disorders and injuries include:

  • Knee, back, ankle and foot injuries;
  • Non-freezing cold injuries (e.g. trench foot).

These are most often caused by accidents in training.

Examples of mental and behavioural disorders include:

  • PTSD;
  • Depression; and
  • Adjustment disorder. 

Other common injuries resulting in discharge include hearing and sight loss.

It is also important to consider that 2 out of 5 military personnel are discharged due to having multiple medical conditions.

What benefits do you get if you’re medically discharged?

The Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) will compensate for any injury, illness or death caused by service. 

The two main types of awards are:

  • A tax free lump sum payment; and
  • A tax free monthly Guaranteed Income Payment (GIP). 

The GIP is a monthly payment you will get for life based on your salary, age and how severe your injury is.

The rules of the scheme and amounts of payments are determined by Parliament and can be subject to change. 

You must ensure that you keep any evidence in relation to your injuries available as this will help to determine your eligibility for such an award.

Can you claim further compensation?

You may be entitled to receive terminal benefits.

This includes AFPS 05 ill-health benefits. You must have a minimum of two years qualifying service. The amount you will receive is based on a three-tier system:

  • For less serious conditions, Tier 1 provides a tax-free lump sum only;
  • For serious conditions, Tiers 2 and 3 provide an ill-health pension based on your actual service;
  • For Tiers 2 and 3 you will also receive a tax-free lump sum of three times your annual ill-health pension.

The Reserve Forces also have their own RFPS 05 ill-health benefits. You must have a minimum of two years qualifying service. The amount you will receive is based on a two tier system. Both tiers relate to serious conditions. You will receive an ill-health pension based on your actual service, plus a tax-free lump sum of three times your annual ill-health pension.

If you are medically discharged and are entitled to an ill-health pension from AFPS, Veterans UK will automatically consider your case without the need for a claim. Payment of your termination benefits and pension will be made within 30 days of your termination date provided the correct forms have been completed. 

You can appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (War Pensions and Armed Forces Compensation Chamber) if you disagree with a decision about your pension or compensation. 

The AFCS also does not affect your rights to make a civil claim in relation to any injury, illness or death caused by the forces’ negligence. 

How much are military medical discharge claims worth?

AFCS claims range from £1,236 to £650,000. They are categorised by tariffs, starting at tariff 15 as the least serious of injuries and ending on tariff 1 being the most serious.

Ill-health pensions are calculated based on a number of factors including your salary and length of service.

How long do you have to make a claim?

There is a strict seven-year time limit for claims to be made. Your claim must be made within seven years of sustaining the injury. However, if you are not aware of an injury or illness until after the seven years, you still have three years to claim from the date you first became aware of it.

How can you make a claim?

Claims are made through Veterans UK. If your claim is rejected, you can appeal to Veterans UK through an Application for Reconsideration. This application requires you to give reasons for your request, explaining why you think it is wrong and providing any additional information relating to your injury or illness to be taken into account. Veterans UK will either uphold their decision or change it.

If this application is rejected, you can appeal to The War Pensions and Armed Forces Compensation Chamber (WPAFCC) but must do so within 12 months of the Veterans UK decision. This is an independent tribunal which specialises in these appeals.

The system is designed to be used by non-legally trained personnel, and because most claims are small in value, it is not always cost effective to use a solicitor

What is the cost of a claim?

We can offer an initial consultation to discuss your options regarding any compensation claim. We will look at the merits of your case and options for funding any claim.

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Author Bio

Mark Hood

I completed a twenty-year Army career in the Royal Logistic Corps as an officer gaining particular experience in delivering training, recruiting officers, project management, advising governments, operations and planning, and even running a string of British Forces Post Offices. Changing tack to pursue a career in the law, many of the skills learned in the Army have proved directly transferable to this role.

I studied for my Graduate Diploma and Legal Practice Certificate at the University of Law in Bristol, completing the latter with distinction. I trained at a full-service law firm in the South West before starting at Goughs in the Family department. I specialise in Armed Forces pensions on divorce, advising clients on the best way to protect their pension. I understand the effect that life in military has when facing a relationship break down or other related family law problems.

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