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Unique Challenges Veterans Face When Returning to Civilian Life

Returning to Civilian Life, Civilian Life, Returning Veterans, Challenges Veterans Face, veteran outreach programs

Returning to Civilian Life

From securing work to dealing with health concerns, veterans face a variety of unique challenges when returning to civilian life. Many civilians aren’t even aware of the difficult circumstances that former service members have to overcome.

During their service, veterans likely experience situations that people with only a civilian background would find difficult to understand. These situations make communication and relating to people hard which, in turn, spawns feelings of isolation. Feeling misunderstood and alone is frequently the base layer for the unique challenges veterans are forced to confront when trying to transition to civilian life.

For all the training and structure the military provides active-duty members, many veterans report that they feel underprepared for their return to civilian life. One study revealed that 34% of respondents had absolutely no training for post-military life.

To better support veterans and cultivate an environment where they can thrive, civilians must take it upon themselves to understand the challenges facing veterans. Increased awareness is vital, as is recognizing and backing invaluable resources that aid veterans in their transition to civilian life and beyond.

Finding New Work

Because service members frequently enter the military immediately after high school, many don’t have certifications, degrees, or prior work experience that employers can use to determine whether or not an applicant is qualified for a position. With many veterans having never compiled a resume or sat for a job interview, finding work is one of the unique challenges they must face.

To apply for a job, veterans must translate the qualifications, training, and experience detailed on their Field Service Record into a resume. Deciding how to best explain their military duties in civilian terms can be complicated as is coming to terms with the new skills they will need to master. Despite having the prerequisite skills and knowledge, veterans often have to repeat training for jobs and tasks they already know how to do. State licensing boards, among others, don’t recognize military training.

Even veterans returning to a job they held prior to deployment face challenges. They will likely need to be brought up to speed on anything that has changed in their office or company. The process of learning new skills and reacquainting themselves with coworkers is often stressful. Some veterans worry about losing their job if they can’t catch up fast enough.

Going To College

Considering that the military might not have put them in a position to pursue their desired career, some veterans decide to go back to school. If veterans think they might want to seek higher education, there are a variety of resources and programs to help them pay for school. Educational grants for veterans include the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the Montgomery GI Bill, and the Tuition Assistance program.

When choosing a higher education institution, veterans should look for schools with specialized orientation programs, and for groups that connect former service members on-campus. These services, along with financial aid and other counseling, are essential for helping veterans adjust to college life. Typically, veterans are older than the average college student, and that, coupled with their vastly different background, means they could have trouble integrating into campus culture. 

Unfortunately, surveys show that many schools have inadequate veteran outreach programs, and many of these programs have been rolled back or underfunded like the Lifeline Program, which provided affordable phone and internet options to veterans.

Managing Their Health

At the same time that some veterans are trying to figure out the next step in their careers, they are also dealing with unique challenges related to their health. For many veterans, these challenges include simply finding a doctor or dentist. While in the military, these services were provided for them. 

Veterans with disabilities and other serious health concerns such as mesothelioma have an even more complex situation. Navigating the paperwork and process of obtaining benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs can be confusing and time-consuming. Furthermore, over the years, reports have surfaced documenting sub-par care at VA facilities including uncleaned endoscopes.

Health concerns force some veterans to juggle multiple VA appointments every month. For veterans with disabilities, just getting to these appointments can be a challenge. Fortunately, programs like TrueCar’s Driven to Drive are stepping in to help address veterans’ mobility issues so they can get back to being independent and self-sufficient.

Establishing A Routine

Like the ability to drive, civilians often take their routine for granted. After years of the military providing structure and a clear chain of command, it can be difficult for veterans to establish a routine of their own. When faced with establishing their own routine, many veterans feel overwhelmed. In the military, there are few choices. You’re even told when to eat and how to dress, but upon returning to civilian life, veterans must decide these things for themselves. When you’re used to receiving orders, it’s sometimes difficult to make decisions on your own.

As part of establishing a routine, veterans must adjust to a different pace of life and work. After returning to civilian life, many veterans struggle to find a sense of purpose and community. While serving in the military, they had camaraderie, well-defined roles, and missions to work toward. It will take time for them to identify with the civilian equivalents. For each veteran, the time it takes to find their purpose and adjust to civilian life is different. By understanding the unique challenges veterans face when returning to civilian life, you can provide better support during the transition.


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