Summary of report content
Healthwatch Essex undertook engagement with military veterans about the support available to them as they transitioned from military to civilian life. They spoke to 28 veterans via interviews and focus groups during the period November 2020 to February 2021.
Transition to a civilian life was seen as less daunting if planning and preparation had been put in place before leaving the forces. There was a lack of understanding of what occupation to apply for when leaving the forces, as people felt they didn’t have many transferrable skills. Few had the knowledge and skill to manage their finances.
Access to healthcare was very different in civilian life. They now had to wait for appointments and treatment. Veterans felt that GPs didn’t have much understanding and empathy with their experience.
The impact of transitioning to a civilian life also has an impact on the veteran’s family. The impact on family members in relation to veterans experiencing PTSD or other mental health issues can be distressing.
Veterans felt that the public didn’t understand what the term “veteran” meant – that it means anyone who has served in the armed forces, not just someone who has been on the battlefield. There is a strong sense of pride from having served in the military and many veterans disclosed that their families shared this view. Many people felt there was a camaraderie between people who had served.
Transitioning to a civilian life can mean that veterans feel that they are abandoned as it is so different from military life. In particular they missed the camaraderie. The report explores why some veterans become homeless.
Although there are many charities supporting people in the forces and veterans, it can be difficult to know which one to turn to. There appears to be a lack of direction to help guide veterans towards the most suitable support to meet their needs. Veterans often distrusted support provided by people who had not served in the forces, or which hadn’t engaged with them about tailoring the support to their needs.
Physical symptoms of mental trauma weren’t recognised, and some veterans felt that there was a stigma about talking about poor mental health. The support currently available is deemed by veterans as unsuitable, due to the lack of understanding by healthcare professionals or mental health specialists. There is a strong sense that the mental health services are not fit for purpose due to professionals having insufficient experience of dealing with military veterans.
The report contains five recommendations about preparation for resettlement, having a dedicated welfare officer, veteran friendly GP surgeries, veteran breakfast clubs and the need for further research on the impact on families and women as veterans.