Little is known about the factors associated with leaving the armed forces, or what predicts subsequent employment success for veterans. It is likely that there is a complex interaction of adverse social outcomes and mental health status in this group. Analysis of existing data from the King's Military Cohort, a large, randomly selected, longitudinal cohort of service personnel, many of whom have now left the armed forces. The sample consisted of 8195 service personnel who served in the armed forces in 1991; a third deployed to the Gulf (1990-91), a third deployed to Bosnia (1992-97) and the final third an 'Era' control group in the Armed Forces in 1991 but not deployed. The majority of service leavers do well after leaving and are in full-time employment. Those with poor mental health during service were more likely to leave and had a greater chance of becoming unemployed after leaving. Mental health problems appear to remain static for veterans after leaving. Veterans of the Gulf War enjoyed more favourable employment outcomes, provided that they came home well. Only a minority of veterans fare badly after service, even amongst those with active tours of duty behind them. Veterans with mental health problems during service seem to be at higher risk of social exclusion after leaving and therefore these individuals represent an especially vulnerable group of the veteran population.