Military service is difficult, demanding and dangerous. But returning to civilian life also poses challenges for the men and women who have served in the armed forces, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey of 1,853 veterans. While more than seven-in-ten veterans (72%) report they had an easy time readjusting to civilian life, 27% say re-entry was difficult for them-a proportion that swells to 44% among veterans who served in the ten years since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Civilians may not be aware of the unique challenges that separating from military service and returning to civilian life can present. In this handout, we highlight some of these challenges. Veterans may find difficulty:

  • Relating to people who do not know or understand what military personnel have experienced (and many civilians don’t know that they don’t know!).
  • Reconnecting with family and re-establishing a role in the family.
    • Families may have created new routines during absences and both the family and the Veteran will have to adjust to changes.
  • Preparing to enter the workforce.
    • Veteran learning to look for, apply for, or interview for a civilian job, especially if he or she had a career in the military. These are new skills he or she will have to learn and master.
    • In applying for a job, a Veteran will have to determine how to translate his or her military skills and duties into civilian terms and create a resume.
    • During the transition back to work, some Veterans also experience worry and fear about possible job loss.
  • Creating structure.
    • The military provides structure and has a clear chain of command. This does not naturally exist outside the military. Veteran’s learning to create his or her own structure or adjust to living in an environment with more ambiguity.
  • Adjusting to a different pace of life and work.
    • In the military, personnel do not leave until the mission is complete. In a private sector business, an employee might be expected to stop and go home at 5pm, whether the “mission” is complete or not. This may not be apparent to all Veterans.
    • Given the direct nature of communication in military settings, there may be subtle nuances in conversations and workplace lingo that are unfamiliar to Veterans.
  • Establishing services.
    • Veteran’s learning how to get a doctor, dentist, life insurance, etc. These services were previously provided by the military.
    • Veteran’s learning to navigate the paperwork and process of obtaining benefits and services from the Department of Veteran Affairs.

Whether you are separating after your first-term enlistment or retiring with more than 20 years of service, transitioning from the military to civilian life can feel overwhelming. But you do not have to go through this transition alone.

If you’re interested in learning about how we can work together to make this translation make sense, reach out today so we can schedule an appointment.