Common Challenges to a Smooth Civilian Transition

Common Challenges to a Smooth Civilian Transition


Transition. According to, it can be used as a noun or a verb, but in most cases it’s the “movement, passage, or change from one position, state, stage, subject, concept, etc. to another.” According to most of us that have worn the uniform recently, however, it means that we have taken that monumental step of separating from the military. And while the objective is usually to have a smooth-as-velvet transition, there always seems to be…challenges…to that goal.


For the rest of this post, I’m just going to pontificate on a few of those challenges, from my point of view. Many of you know that my perspective is that of a 30-year Army guy, but it’s also one that’s been influenced by dear friends from every branch of the Service. Some of these challenges were faced head-on by many of the strongest-willed men and women I know – with equal parts success and struggle.


And the point of a blog post like this one? Well, it’s doubtful you’ll have the ‘a-ha’ moment you’re looking for or have a revelation to put your struggle into deeper meaning…but maybe you’ll come to the realization that there are loads of warriors out there with the same struggles as you and I. And sometimes it’s good to reflect on the challenges…to a smooth transition…that we have in common.


Challenges within ourselves. Some of our biggest challenges during the transition from active duty to the civilian sector are internal. How we feel, how we cope with the change, how we internalize things…can have a tremendous impact on our new reality. Some of us feel the loss of our sense of purpose. Some struggle with no ‘command structure’ in place to help hold them accountable. Others feel like everything is so boring or ‘blah’ and miss the adrenaline rush that comes with certain assignments. And many of us feel isolated or alone, even when surrounded by family and friends with whom we’re desperately trying to reconnect.


Challenges with employment. Even if we qualify for an active duty retirement or VA compensation, most of us will be looking for our next job. And for sure, the job search can be traumatic enough, even if you’re not transitioning from military service. How a jobseeker goes about finding a job has undoubtedly changed…if you’re looking for your next job, you’ll have to craft resumes and cover letters, navigate applicant tracking systems, and deal with interviewers and talent managers. If you’ve already transitioned from the Service to a civilian employer, there’s a good chance you had to start a rung or two down the corporate ladder from where you should have been able to start, and you’re finding that often promotions come at a different pace and may be few and far between. Finally, if you’re a traditional National Guardsman or Reservist coming off a deployment and returning to your previous employer, you’ll probably face your own unique challenges with your old position, your team at work, and your supervisor. That’s a whole other topic in itself, and one we’ll cover later this year.


Challenges, period. If you aren’t wrestling with your own internal concerns and you have the job thing all figured out, consider yourself lucky (and maybe even among the fortunate few). But that doesn’t mean you won’t face other, just as stressful, challenges. Things you’ll need to take care of won’t be free, and often we underestimate the costs of transition. There’s a decent chance you’ll have to figure out who provides the services you’ll be using, from health care to child care and everything in between. You may still have bouts of post-traumatic stress or depression, for the simple fact that you’re in transition from military service means you’re moving on from one of the most impactful, stressful, demanding, and rewarding journeys a person can take.


At the end of the day, most of my colleagues just assume that this transition will be challenging, but it’s hard to predict how so. The transition between ‘military life’ and ‘life after military life’ will be different for everyone…different for retiring 40-somethings than for 20-somethings getting out after their first or second tour.  What are some things you can do? Take advantage of the DoD’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP) and get smarter on those subjects that will impact you. During the transition, make sure you eat well, get plenty of rest & exercise, and plan your approach to this next stage of your life. Be your own advocate and reach out if you need a hand with the transition – to a battle buddy, a Vet Center, the VA, or a Veteran Service Organization. Until next time…


Philanthropist Pledges $275 Million for Veteran Mental Health Care

cohen veteran

By Debbie Gregory.

Philanthropist Steven A. Cohen has pledged $275 million for a national network of free mental health clinics for military veterans and their families.

The Cohen Veterans Network is the next phase of Cohen’s long-term commitment to help veterans and their families. Cohen’s son, Robert, was deployed as a U.S. Marine to Afghanistan in 2010 and is currently serving in the Reserves.

The Cohen Veterans Network website iterates that every day, many veterans and their families are living with the mental and physical scars from serving their country during military service. The network was created to serve them by providing high-quality, accessible, and comprehensive mental health care to transition them to their next mission: healthy and happy lives.

The billionaire hedge fund investor plans to open 25 clinics by 2020, serving more than 25,000 patients a year, according to Anthony Hassan, executive director of the Cohen Veterans Network.

Cohen got involved in veterans’ mental health while serving on the board of the Robin Hood Foundation, New York’s largest poverty-fighting organization. In 2013, the Robin Hood Foundation’s Veterans Advisory Board raised $13 million in new funding to help veterans and their families.

Clinics slated to open soon include: a San Antonio facility in partnership with Family Endeavors; a Dallas clinic affiliated with Metrocare Services; a Los Angeles clinic based at the University of Southern California; and a Philadelphia clinic based at the University of Pennsylvania.

Ninety-six percent of the Cohen Veterans Network budget will go to the clinics, mostly for care, with 16 percent for electronic record implementation, data analytics and training.

Cohen has also earmarked around $30 million for Cohen Veterans Bioscience to accelerate development of biomarker tests and drug-based therapies for post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury. Patients at the Cohen Veterans Network clinics will be able to participate in studies.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Taking PTS and TBI Into Consideration for Military Discharge Rating


By Debbie Gregory.

If a military service member received a good or excellent rating for their service time by exceeding standards for performance and personal conduct, they will receive a military discharge rating of honorable. But there are many servicemembers who receive military discharge ratings that are other than honorable due to behaviors related to post-traumatic stress (PTS) and/or traumatic brain injuries (TBI).

Many of these men and women had multiple deployments, witnessed friends maimed or killed in battle, and were physically and/or mentally wounded themselves. Yet, instead of getting the help they needed, they were booted.

A less-than-honorable discharge severely limits the care and support options available to those veterans, leaving them with decreased medical support and an increased risk of suicide. These veterans are also at risk of family instability, elevated rates of homelessness, and joblessness. But help may be on the way.

In 2014, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that boards for correction of military records or naval records should “fully and carefully consider every petition based on PTSD brought by each veteran.”

And now lawmakers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have introduced legislation that would require military discharge review boards to factor in troops’ mental health issues, and accept a PTSD or TBI diagnosis from a professional as an acceptable rebuttal to a dismissal.

As well as benefitting those currently leaving the military, the legislation could affect past discharges, many for minor offenses related to alcohol use or tardiness.

The bill’s sponsor, Iraq War veteran Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., called expanding treatment for troubled veterans a desperate need.

“In the case of veterans with severe mental health problems, access to these services may be life-saving,” he said. “It is my hope that veterans with questionable, less-than-honorable discharges receive quick access to the mental health care they earned and deserve.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.


Vets 360 and Carry the Challenge Providing a Safety Net for Combat Vets


By Debbie Gregory.

The challenges that our young combat veterans face when they transition back to civilian life, such as readjusting to family life, finding a job or going to school, and in many cases, dealing with post-traumatic stress (PTS) and/or physical injuries, can be daunting. Often times, this struggle is solitary, because the military culture does not allow for failure or weakness, even though asking for help is one of the bravest things a veteran can do.

Today’s veterans perceive a negative stigma of PTS so damning to career, family and friends, the “go it alone” attitude is hard to break down. The majority of traumatized vets return from wars that are safer than those their fathers and grandfathers fought, and yet far greater numbers of them wind up alienated and depressed. This is true even for people who didn’t experience combat. It would be safe to say that much of the problem isn’t trauma related as much as re-entry into society.

Vets 360 and Carry the Challenge are working to provide a safety net for these veterans. Eliminating the stigma will allow those struggling with PTS to raise their hands and be open and honest about the challenges they face. Removing the societal barrier that prevents them from saying “I am struggling with PTS” will allow them to receive focused education and support. This simple first step is critical to reduce the epidemic levels of suicide among those going it alone.

When decorated heroes, such as Medal of Honor recipient Florent Groberg, are joining Vets 360 to speak publicly about their own struggles with PTS, it gives pause to their comrades that the struggle is real, and it is not a sign of weakness.

Groberg said, “We must stand shoulder to shoulder with today’s veterans and Vets 360 to let them know they are not alone when it comes to their challenges with both transition and PTS. Help us get this message out – before crisis kicks in – not after.”

Groberg will be the keynote speaker at the Breaking Silence – Carry the Challenge gala, which will take place on April 16th in San Diego, CA. The gala will be followed by a concert with headliners Madison Rising, America’s number one patriotic rock band. For ticket information, click here.

“One of the biggest challenges we have is to ask/tell/beg todays combat veterans to accept support before cure options are needed or required,” said Vet’s 360 executive director Rick Collins.

For more information as to how you can help support this great non-profit organization, please visit

New Non-profit Focused on Tests, Treatments for TBI and PTSD


By Debbie Gregory.

New nonprofit organization Cohen Veterans Bioscience is looking for ways to cut the time it takes for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress (PTS) research to transform into real-life treatments.

The goal of the company is to speed the discovery of first generation diagnostics, treatments, and cures for PTS and TBI by improving the scientific understanding of the basic biological mechanisms that set the stage for these conditions.

This is the latest endeavor supported by Steven Cohen to address the needs of our nation’s veterans. Cohen, the chairman and CEO of Point72 Asset Management, is a philanthropist who has financed other veterans mental health programs, including the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Veterans Center for the Study of Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury at NYU Langone Medical Center and the Cohen Military Family Clinic at NYU Langone.

About 1.7 million Americans experience head injuries each year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Such injuries are not uncommon in the military; 327,299 troops were diagnosed with a TBI from 2000 to March 2015.

Additionally, more than 138,000 active-duty members who deployed in support of combat operations were diagnosed with PTSD from 2001 to 2015.

“Our veterans have come back from Iraq and Afghanistan facing PTS and TBI, and we owe it to them to find better diagnostic tools and treatments,” Cohen said. “PTS is often misdiagnosed or undiagnosed, and our service members don’t receive effective treatment as a result.”

Cohen Veterans Bioscience President and CEO, Dr. Magali Haas, said, “Despite significant investment by the National Institutes of Health and the Defense Department in basic science, there is still a huge unmet need for these individuals. There are only two approved medications for PTS and nothing for TBI. The fact that this gap exists despite these investments indicates that more work needs to be done.”

Haas says she hopes to shorten the development for diagnostics and treatments from the average 11 to 13 years to five years, and, for a diagnostic test, perhaps as little as three years.

“It is sometimes disheartening to hear it’s going to be another three, five, 10 years until we have that first-generation diagnostic test, but I think it’s actually going to be sooner than that because the investments are right,” Haas said.

“I’m proud of what we’ve done to address the mental health needs of our veterans. But we haven’t done nearly enough,” says Mr. Cohen. “With Dr. Haas’ leadership, Cohen Veterans Bioscience will advance the science and availability of new medical treatments and we will be able to help more veterans tomorrow than we did yesterday.”

Cohen Veterans Bioscience is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit

Dropping the ‘D’ in PTSD: Military Connection


By Debbie Gregory.

Does the “D” in PTSD cause individuals suffering from it to shy away from treatment? There’s been a subtle shift in the way politicians and advocates talk about veterans struggling with post-war mental illness.

It has been called shell shock, battle fatigue, soldier’s heart and, most recently, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Now, there is a debate as to whether to change the name of this condition that is as old as combat. The proposed change: either just post-traumatic stress (PTS) or post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI).

The little known semantic battle in the military has garnered considerable attention over the last year. Proponents believe that changing the current disorder to an “injury” will change the perception of the American public, leading to greater acceptance of the traumatized men and women who reintegrate back into their communities after combat.

“When we’re losing on average more than 20 veterans a day to suicide, combating the stigma around mental health-care issues could save lives. Hopefully using the term Post-Traumatic Stress without adding the negative connotation that ‘disorder’ brings will lead to a greater utilization of the mental health-care services available,” said Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.)

Gen. Peter Chiarelli, former vice chief of staff of the Army and current CEO of One Mind, was the first to advocate for dropping the “D” from PTSD several years ago. Chiarelli said, “No 19-year-old kid wants to be told he’s got a disorder.”

Those arguing against the change bring up the possibility of unintended consequences that could be dire. Comparing PTSD to a physical injury such as a broken leg could minimize the seriousness of the disorder. As a result, troops may be embarrassed to seek help, considering they live in a culture that embraces a “suck it up and get on with it” mentality.

But the name reference has been slowly gaining acceptance, and it’s starting to become more mainstream.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their families. We are the go-to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit, the go-to site.

Dropping the ‘D’ in PTSD: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Operation Engage America Holds 2nd Annual Community Event


By Debbie Gregory.

The death of a child is the most devastating loss. Ever. You mourn not only the loss of life, but also the loss of their potential and their future. Your life is forever changed. But sometimes that loss can be the catalyst to set into motion actions that honor the memory of your child.

That is exactly what Howard and Jean Somers did. Following the suicide of their son, CA Army National Guard Veteran Daniel Somers, they channeled their grief into a call to action, founding Operation Engage America (OEA).

When Daniel transitioned back to civilian life after serving in the Iraq war, he was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Gulf War Syndrome. He was in constant pain, both mentally and physically, and found significant obstacles to seeking care for himself.

Operation Engage America is Howard and Jean’s mission to ensure that no other Veteran or family suffers as they have. They are now armed with information and resources that they want to share in an attempt to reduce the alarming suicide statistics for those suffering with PTSD and TBI

With some 46,000 volunteer organizations dedicated to helping those who serve, past and present, as well as their families, the most important job is getting the right information and resources to those who need them. To that end, on the 20th of  June, as part of PTSD Awareness month, OEA will have their second annual OEA community event, currently held in San Diego and Des Moines. It is their  hope that this grassroots event will begin to spread to communities throughout the U.S.

Here is your opportunity to join the effort.  As an attendee, you could be the resource that saves the life of a Veteran.  If you are an organization whose mission is to help Veterans and their families, click here. For more information about OEA, visit them at

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their families. We are the go-to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit, the go-to site.

Military Connection: Operation Engage America Holds 2nd Annual Community Event: By Debbie Gregory