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How to Transition From Military to Civilian Life

Military service poses many challenges, as it's strenuous, demanding, and dangerous. However, transitioning to civilian life can be almost as challenging and demanding as the time people spend serving in the military.

military to civilian life transition

The civilian world has its own rules, and oftentimes military personnel cannot easily transition to this reality, and have problems with, for instance, finding a job. For many men and women who served in the armed forces, returning to civilian life can be fraught with challenges that may seem insurmountable.

There are many factors contributing to the way veterans readjust to civilian life. Some of these include experiencing a traumatic event, being seriously injured, serving in a combat zone, having a college degree, being married, or the time of being on active duty.

Sometimes, the activities that are the everyday reality for civilians, like commuting to and from work, paying the bills, or spending time with family, are what’s causing the most problems to the military veterans.

There is no easy way to transition back to the life one has led before military service. However, there are some steps that should be taken and challenges to consider in order to have a smoother military transition back to civilian life. Thankfully, veterans have resources that can help them with their post-military life.

veteran ending his military service

Finding a Civilian Job

Obtaining a dream job can be a difficult task for civilians, not to mention military personnel, who are transitioning back to civilian life. Job hunts are a headache and securing your first civilian job will take time. The job market can be brutal, and some employers may not appreciate military service enough to understand your true value.

So, get an early start by researching your options well before your service is complete. Take advantage of the resources available through the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) that provides information, tools, and training to ensure service members and their spouses are prepared for the next step in civilian life.

finding a job

Transitioning service members cannot easily translate their military experience in a cover letter when seeking many civilian jobs. Emphasize how your transferable skills, comparable work experience, and work ethic will be of benefit to a potential employer.

Be smart and persistent. Look for opportunities with vet-friendly employers. When you find your dream job or company, don’t give up after an initial rejection, find ways to build and maintain a solid relationship and they may present you with similar opportunity to join them down the road.

Military Families

Readjusting to your family life can be a long-awaited moment and incredibly joyful one, but it can pose many challenges as well.

Coming back from military service to civilian life can affect both the family and the veteran. Your family members may not understand you or your experiences completely, so they most probably will ask you questions on the topics you'd rather not talk about.

military family

They are not doing it out of ill will. Still, it can be frustrating at times. Veterans transitioning to a civilian life may face troubles adjusting to their new life situation, even though they're happy to be back home.

Some families may expect them to adjust just in a few days, while others will treat them in a special way, as if they were made of glass meant to shatter at any moment. Both ways can have detrimental effects on the mental health of both the family and the veteran, as well as on the family dynamics.

Overall, military spouses may be too considerate or not considerate enough. However, it should be kept in mind that the military spouses must also adjust to their partner's transition, and they may face difficulties as well.

Both the veterans and their families should give themselves some time to readjust to the new situation, and be extremely patient, as it will only facilitate the process.

Mental Health

Many depart from their military service scarred, not only physically, but also mentally. Too many have experienced a traumatic event, like being injured or seeing someone they were close to die. These are devastating to one's well-being.

Mental health is one of the most delicate and still stigmatized issues. Veterans who suffer from PTSD, moral injury, anxiety, and depression, often need professional help and advice when it comes to their mental health.

mental health

However, often, veterans don't know whom to reach out to when facing mental health issues or simply they are uncomfortable discussing their problems. For some veterans, these issues can pose a barrier on the way of successfully transitioning to civilian life and obtaining a job or creating better relationships with their family and their community.

Mental health issues that are unresolved may lead to another problem, such as homelessness, alcohol or drug abuse, or even suicide attempts. That is why it is essential for friends and families to support veterans when they need to seek professional help.

Being a Part of the Community

Coming back to one's family is one thing – they know you and understand you more than other people. However, returning to civilian life among your community is a completely different story. They may not be as patient as your family or understand your experiences and what you're struggling with.

The problems that you're facing may seem trivial to them, like your struggle with job search. Your military experience may seem so different, odd, and incomparable that they won't know how to approach you and how to talk to you.

Even so, the veterans should try their best to come back to their community, through local events or even by engaging in small talk in the morning with their neighbours.

veterans community

Some veterans may also want to keep in touch with their military community. It can be a great idea because they know exactly what the veterans have been through, and they share the same experiences. Because of that, they can share advice on how they approach transitioning to civil life.

Service members may know how you feel, so it's easier to confide in them about your challenges rather than with complete strangers. Other veterans know military terminology and culture, as well, which can be of assistance when you're out of military settings.

Financial Security

Financial security is just as important for military members as for the civilians. This is another thing that they need to shift their focus to when transitioning to a civilian life. Often, financial concerns are a factor contributing to the veterans' list of problems.

Although the military usually pays for the first move and helps financially during the first months of transitioning into civilian life, paying the bills remains a necessity. In order to do that, one needs to find a job.

Military career may have provided you with some money, however, you still need a job. Monthly housing allowances, bills, shopping, and other necessities are only some expenses that you’ll have to deal with pretty soon.

If veterans manage to find a job soon after leaving the military, it would be a good idea for them to create an emergency plan and investment account rather than spend all the money.

The veterans also need to think about their retirement plan, what they're going to do after successfully transitioning. The veterans want to provide a good living to their family and make sure that they have absolutely everything they need.

The pillars of financial security include savings, insurance, and planning for future expenses. These are just as important to men and women who served in the military, as they are to the civilians.

Obtaining Benefits

Service members who stay in the army for 20 or more years, earn a pension based on their years of service. However, many of them don't serve for that long.

Service members can opt for a Survivor Benefit Plan, which is essential to providing necessities and protecting their families. Their pension will be paid to their beneficiaries even after they die. This benefit is free for those on active service, while veterans have to pay for it.

veterans respect


There are many issues that the veterans have to deal with when they return back home. While some of them readjust without many issues, others face serious problems, such as financial struggle, mental health issues, reconnecting with their families or reintegrating into their community.

Because of their unique experiences, combat veterans may have mental health challenges caused by their service that can be detrimental to their family dynamics or being able to find a civilian job and secure their financial future.

It is important to remember about one's future, and plan for it, considering all the resources and programs that are available for the veterans, and that will facilitate the process of transitioning from the military to civilian life.

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