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Common Challenges to a Smooth Civilian Transition

Common Challenges to a Smooth Civilian Transition

 

Transition. According to Dictionary.com, 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…

 

Push To Improve TAP Program Endorsed by Veteran Service Organizations

Push To Improve TAP Program Endorsed by Veteran Service Organizations

Push To Improve TAP Program Endorsed by Veteran Service Organizations

By Debbie Gregory.

Life after military service can be a smooth transition for some, but for many servicemembers, the struggle is real. That’s why there is the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), which aims to get servicemembers ready for their next step in their lives, be it education, employment or entrepreneurship.

TAP reform has been a hot topic on Capitol Hill in recent months. Rep. Jodey Arrington, R-Texas, introduced The Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William “Bill” Mulder (Ret.) Transition Improvement Act of 2018, named for a friend of the congressman’s who committed suicide.

Mulder retired from the Navy in January 2017 after a distinguished twenty-year career as a US Navy SEAL. He was a highly decorated combat veteran with numerous awards throughout multiple overseas deployments. His awards included three Bronze Stars with Valor.

“If we do a better job equipping our servicemen and women on the front end of their transition, we can reduce the number of veterans who struggle with unemployment, homelessness, and suicide. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of intervention,” said Arrington.

The legislation, if passed, would specifically restructure TAP to require servicemembers to choose specific career-oriented tracks that best suit their post-service plans and would require them to take part in one-on-one counseling a year prior to separation.

Furthermore, it would also authorize a five-year pilot program that would provide matching grant funds to community providers that offer wraparound transition services to veterans and transitioning servicemembers.

Finally, the bill would restructure five days of TAP to devote one day for service-specific training, another for employment preparation, two for the service member’s track of choice — either employment, higher education, career and technical training, or entrepreneurship — and the last for a briefing on Department of Veterans Affairs benefits.

The bill has support from Student Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Military Order of the Purple Heart.

The Transition Assistance Program is a joint program administered by the U.S. Departments of Defense, Labor (DoL) and Veterans Affairs (VA).

 

Can Transition Stress Be A Bigger Problem Than PTSD?

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By Debbie Gregory.

Stress is the enemy of mental and physical health. It is believed that most veterans experience high levels of stress during the transition to civilian life, however transition stress has received very little attention in the shadow of post-traumatic stress disorder.

While PTSD has become a much-discussed affliction, transition stress, a seemingly more prevalent problem, is going largely overlooked.

The crucial role of transition stress in the lives of military veterans is examined in a recent essay by George A. Bonanno, a professor of clinical psychology at Columbia Teachers College, and former Army officer and Ph.D student Meaghan Mobbs.

In their abstract, Bonanno and Mobbs say that the wider range of challenges, rewards, successes, and failures that transitioning veterans might experience contribute to transition stress, which can be mistaken for PTSD.

While serving, there is the mission, the job, the camaraderie and the bonds. When servicemembers transition to civilian life, that sense of purpose and fulfillment can be lost, leading to anxiety, depression, and other behavioral difficulties.

“For our generation of veterans, for us being an all-volunteer force, we all go in during a period of emerging adulthood,” said Mobbs. “We’re typically asking ourselves the existential questions: Who am I? What do I want to do? What’s the meaning of life? And the military provides a really ready answer for that. They tell you: You have purpose. What you’re doing is meaningful. You matter.”

The Transition Assistance Program (TAP) provides information, tools and training to ensure service members and their spouses are prepared for the next step in civilian life whether pursuing additional education, finding a job in the public or private sector or starting their own business.

But often times, this week-long class doesn’t check all of the boxes.

Bonanno thinks that a mentor-based approach, with mentors assigned to veterans as they leave the military to just help with the daily things of life and understanding the transition process would provide great value.

“Some of the difficult things are just reintegrating with friends and families and managing those relationships.”

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.

Military Connection: Planning a Successful Transition

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By Debbie Gregory.

The skills that Veterans gain while they are in the military, such as organization, discipline and problem-solving, should translate well into the private sector. So then why do they face employment obstacles and civilian disconnect after they transition?

One of the main barriers to employment for Veterans include lack of preparation for finding civilian jobs, and unrealistic expectations for the kind of work and salary for which they qualify. For those in supervisory positions, having led troops in battle, often on multiple deployments, doesn’t always translate to a similar civilian position. Many of the boots on the ground service members are trained just for the jobs they do in the military, which don’t translate well in the civilian job market.

Another barrier is unaddressed mental health issues, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Many employers are wary of hiring veterans with mental health disorders, viewing them as “broken.” Although many civilian employers want to do the right thing and reward those who have served, they struggle to understand them.

So how do we fix this? According to a report produced by the University of Southern California and Volunteers of America “civilian basic training” is needed as troops transition out of the armed services.

Study co-author Anthony Hassan, an Army and Air Force Veteran, feels that an honest discussion regarding the challenges Veterans face and what they need to succeed needs to be had. While the DoD had put the focus on training troops for war, civilians need to help our troops after they leave the military.

Hassan, the director of the University of Southern California’s Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans and Military Families said, “I don’t say veterans are all broken but I don’t say all Veterans are employment ready, either.”

Perhaps what is needed is an expansion of the Transition Assistance Program, aimed at giving troops a crash course in the civilian world. Because the program is the last step between exiting the military and entering the civilian world, many of those participating are just looking to get it over and done with as soon as possible. If the program was expanded, elongating the process so that it wasn’t something to just rush through, it just might prove to be more beneficial, with a better outcome.

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. Militaryconnection.com 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 Militaryconnection.com, the go-to site.

Military Connection: Planning a Successful Transition: by Debbie Gregory