Resources for Transitioning from Military to Civilian Life

December 10, 2013 by MPA@UNC Staff

Moving from the carefully regimented lifestyle of a military service member to the unstructured world of a civilian is challenging for many people. After returning from a deployment, military service members may find it tough to adjust to a barrage of changes all at once: new living situations and jobs, friends and relatives who may not understand their experiences, and military-related health issues. In addition, some may experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from time spent in a combat zone.

Fortunately, there are many organizations that can help military service members and their families make a smooth, healthy transition. Here’s a look at five resources to get started:

1. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs—Veterans Affairs (VA) offers a variety of services to veterans including career and educational resources and health care. The VA also offers guaranteed home loans (with no down payment, in many cases), refinancing assistance, and special grants for disabled veterans who need to buy or adapt a home for their needs. VA medical centers across the country and in U.S. territories offer affordable health care including surgery, physical therapy, radiology, and mental health services. At a VA vet center, veterans or family members with military-related issues can speak confidentially with a fellow veteran outside of traditional clinic hours.

2. The Soldiers Project—Through this private nonprofit organization, licensed mental health professionals volunteer to provide free counseling and support to military service members who served or will serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom. Services are also available for family members. Participating therapists have undergone special training on combat-related issues like stress, PTSD, and traumatic brain injury. The Soldiers Project also published a list of books and other resources that can help veterans and their families better understand—and cope with—the challenges of re-entry into civilian life.

3. Veterans’ Employment and Training Services (VETS)—The purpose of VETS is to provide veterans and separating service members with employment resources and information on their employment rights. It also provides resources for employers who may want to hire veterans and data on monthly veteran hiring. VETS is not the only organization helping veterans find jobs—here is a list of 13 more employment resources for veterans.

4. Military OneSource —Funded by the Department of Defense, Military OneSource provides free information and resources to service members and their families. This includes non-medical counseling that can take place face to face, online, or via phone on topics including reintegration concerns, financial management, marital problems, grief, parenting, and more.

5. Military Pathways —Launched through a partnership between the Department of Defense and Screening for Mental Health, Military Pathways provides free, anonymous mental health and alcohol self-assessments for service members and their families. After completing the self-assessment, the individual may receive a referral and information on services available through Veteran Affairs and the Department of Defense. Military Pathways also published a guide for families of military members who may be coping with PTSD as their loved ones return from a war zone.

From career advice to mental health counseling to financial planning, a variety of government organizations and nonprofits are working to address the needs of military service members. It takes time to readjust to a civilian life and restore bonds with friends and family, but there are support systems available to help facilitate the process.