The Government estimate that there are about 2.5 million veterans in the UK.  Thirty percent of whom live in the south of England. We represent a large proportion of the population. We have significant needs as we age or on leaving our respective Service with related injuries or medical conditions.

The Government has committed to support us through the Armed Forces Covenant. Sadly many veterans and health care professionals are unaware  how best to get the medical support we need and deserve.

The most important thing YOU can do is ensure your GP  knows that you or a relative is a veteran. If this is your first GP registration since leaving the Armed Forces, give the surgery a copy of your summary medical record. You should have received this on discharge.  Your surgery should then code you as a ‘Military Veteran’.  This is especially important if you have a service-related injury or illness.

Many hospitals and GP practices are now doing extra training to become ‘Veteran Aware’. This programme will improve the knowledge of healthcare professionals of the needs of veterans.  In the case of a mental health referral, you might be referred to services that understand armed forces culture. Once again it also helps if you remind them you are a veteran!

In many cases, your medical condition due to service may not manifest itself until after discharge. This is particularly true for hearing and mental health issues. If this is your situation discuss with your doctor and consider contacting either Veterans UK or Veterans Gateway for advice.

Veterans UK is run by MOD and administers the pension schemes and compensation payments for those injured or bereaved through service. They also provide welfare support for veterans of any age, and their families through the Veterans Welfare Service and the Veterans UK helpline. You cal call the helpline on 0808 1914 218. They also have an excellent website.

Veterans’ Gateway is a signposting resource, and the first point of contact for veterans seeking support. You can ask them about anything from healthcare and housing to employability, finances, personal relationships and more. They put veterans and their families in touch with organisations that can provide the information, advice and support they need. For example, Armed Forces charities, including the Royal British Legion, SSAFA, Poppyscotland,  Combat Stress and Connect Assist. You can contact Veterans’ Gateway at 0808 802 121 or via their website.

In recent months, as Chair of my surgery Patient Participation Group, I have spoken with veterans who have paid for hearing aids. However, their service duties clearly had a detrimental effect on their hearing. In all likelihood, they would have received them for FREE from Veterans Hearing Help; a charity supported by the Royal British Legion. Another veteran had a cancerous growth removed from his ear. It is a recognised fact that wearing a military cap did not afford sun protection to his ears when serving in hot overseas theatres! So please, take advantage of the support that is available to you or your relative– we deserve it!

In a sentence, make sure your doctor knows you are a veteran, understand and learn about the support that is available to you or your relatives and, if you haven’t already done so, get a veterans badge and wear it with pride!

We are currently reaching out to veterans to understand what they think of local services. If you would be interested in having us talk to a group of veterans you know, please get in touch with Robert.

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