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30 March 2018 | Comment | Article by Simon Ellis

Life after the military: Carving out your career in the civilian world following service

The majority of military personnel will, at some point in their working life, need to consider a career in the civilian world. This could be shortly after joining if they realise military life is not for them. It could be decades later after a successful military career when they retire from the military after many years serving their country. In some unfortunate cases, it could occur following a discharge on medical grounds, when the decision of when and how to leave the military is effectively removed from them.

On the 25 January 2018, the MoD published their Career Transition Partnership Annual statists: UK Regular Service Personnel Employment for 1 April 2012 to 31 March 2017. Within the published report it is documented that 82% of service personnel who left the UK Armed Forces in 2016/2017 found employment within six months of leaving service, with as little as 9% reported as being unemployed six months after leaving service. Whilst on the face of it unemployment figures appear low, military and ex-military personnel often find themselves unable to secure their desired employment or securing any form of employment as a result of injuries or illnesses sustained during service.

There are a range of illnesses and injuries that affect military and ex-military personnel. A common injury sustained during a military career, which often impacts on the ability of veterans to work in some types of civilian employment, is Noise Induced Hearing Loss (commonly known as NIHL).

NIHL can be caused by what medical staff would term acoustic trauma. This is a single exposure to an excessively loud sound, such as an IED or flash bang. NIHL can also result from daily exposures to loud sounds such as the noise of jet aircraft or SA80 rifle rounds being fired. Both causes of NIHL form part of everyday life for a large number of army personnel, with common sources of military noise including gun/artillery fire, power tools, aircraft and vehicles.

Once an individual has developed NIHL, the effects of this are permanent and there is presently no cure. Their hearing will never return to the level it was before they developed NIHL and clearly, the impact of this in more serious cases can be life changing. On a day to day basis such individuals may struggle to hear conversations, particularly in background noise, which can affect their ability to work in particular areas. It is easy to see, for example, how someone hoping to work as a covert surveillance operative might have difficulty operating in a public area such as a football ground, where background noise levels are significant and an ability to hear what is being said through an earpiece is critical.

One life changing impact can, therefore, be the loss of a chosen career with the reduction in future earnings. With career paths being cut short, these individuals may be unable to secure desired roles as a result of NIHL.

Here at Hugh James we have seen a significant increase in military NIHL claims and have witnessed first-hand the impact our clients tell us NIHL has on their military and ex-military employment. Furthermore, with many of our NIHL clients aged between 25 and 55 years old, the impact employment issues have can be financially life changing and have a detrimental effect on their earning capacity.

It is essential to certain occupations that employees possess strong listening skills and exceptional hearing. From speaking with our clients we know that following the end of their military service, many ex-personnel attempt to join the Police Force, Fire Service, Railway Services and NHS. Many look at this as the natural progression for their career following service. Unfortunately, in order to be successful in obtaining such roles, the application process frequently requires applicants to complete a hearing test. Military and ex-military personnel suffering from NIHL as a result of their service may find themselves unsuccessful for such roles due to failing the hearing test, even if they are ideally suited in every other way. Failure of such hearing tests can result in the loss of opportunity to work in these roles.

If you are military or ex-military personnel who suffers from an injury or illness as a result of service such as NIHL, and have faced employment issues such as being unsuitable for certain roles due to hearing loss, you may wish to obtain legal advice in relation to a possible civil claim for the injury or illness and any losses resulting from this, such as loss of earnings.

Author bio

Simon Ellis is a Partner with Hugh James and has worked with the firm for more than 25 years, having trained and qualified here. Simon heads up the Military Department, advising and assisting current and former military personnel with various health conditions and injuries. He specialises in claims such as hearing loss, non-freezing cold injuries, compartment syndrome and military injury cases. He is often asked to advise on more unusual claims in the military context.

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