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Unemployment and benefit claims by UK veterans in the new millennium: results from a record linkage study
  1. Howard Burdett1,
  2. Nicola T Fear2,
  3. Deirdre MacManus1,
  4. Simon Wessely1,
  5. Roberto J Rona1,
  6. Neil Greenberg1
  1. 1 King's Centre for Military Health Research, King's College London, London, UK
  2. 2 ADMMH, King's College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Howard Burdett, King's Centre for Military Health Research, King's College London, London SE5 9RJ, UK; howard.burdett{at}


Objectives In the first study of its kind in the UK, we linked pensions data on benefit claims with data from the King’s Military Cohort to assess uptake of unemployment and disability benefits in military veterans of the UK Armed Forces.

Methods Benefits data were matched with data on the mental health, demographics and military-related variables for 7942 veterans who had previously served as regulars and transitioned to civilian life between 2003 and 2016. Associations between demographic and service-related factors and benefit claims were assessed using Cox regression to take into account period at risk.

Results Around 20% of veterans claim unemployment benefits (UB) shortly after leaving, but this proportion drops rapidly to around 2% in the first 2 years post service. Receipt of disability benefits (DB) is less common (1.5%), but longer-term. The most consistent predictors of postservice benefit usage were: low rank (a proxy for socio-economic status while in service) (HR 1.42 (95% CI 1.23 to 1.65) for UB and 1.59 (95% CI 1.11 to 2.27) for DB); leaving service (HR 1.29 (95% CI 1.07 to 1.56) between unplanned leaving and UB, and 7.51 (95% CI 5.31 to 10.6) between medical discharge and DB), and having a history of claiming benefits before joining the Services (HR 1.62 (95% CI 1.34 to 1.95) between preservice and postservice UB, and 2.86 (95% CI 1.09 to 7.47) between preservice and postservice DB).

Conclusions Benefit claims by veterans are largely driven by socioeconomic, rather than military, factors. Additional employment-focused support to Service leavers may be particularly useful to lower-ranked personnel and those leaving in an unplanned way. Continuity of care and medical oversight is a key concern for those with medical discharges.

  • data linkage
  • defence force personnel
  • disability
  • employment
  • unemployment

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  • RJR and NG are joint last authors.

  • Contributors HB wrote the manuscript. NG oversaw the data linkage with the Department of Work and Pensions. NTF, DM, SW, RJR and NG contributed to the writing and revision of the paper. HB performed the analyses and all authors discussed the analysis and interpretation of the data.

  • Funding This project was funded by Forces in Mind Trust, award number FiMT16/0204K.

  • Competing interests Dr RJR and Dr HB report grants from Ministry of Defence (MOD), grants from Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), during the conduct of the study. Dr NG reports personal fees from King’s College London, during the conduct of the study, and is the Royal College of Psychiatrists Lead for Military and Veterans Health and also a trustee for two military charities. He was not required to act in any particular way by these organisations in relation to the paper. Professor NF and Professor SW have nothing to disclose.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval The Ministry of Defence Research Ethics Committee (reference 448/MODREC/13), and the King’s College London Psychiatry Nursing and Midwifery Research Ethics Subcommittee (reference PNM/12/13–169) granted approval for the cohort study.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement No data are available.