Leaving the military is a process full of excitement, anxiety and sometimes, downright fear. There are milestones to be met, hurdles to jump and obstacles to navigate, all of which can greatly impact your path during this crazy time in your life. Let’s take a look at three categories most Veterans run into during the transition from the military.
From a social perspective, things may not change very much. If you get a job at a company with a noticeable amount of Veterans, it could help ease the sudden change in your social surroundings. Even if you find yourself in a workplace that doesn’t have many Veterans, settling down in a city that has a large Veteran population could prove helpful. On the other hand, things may change drastically. Depending on where you land job-wise, you may be surrounded by people who’ve never been in the military and know nothing about it, except for what they see in movies and TV shows. If you served a considerable amount of time and got used to certain people or personalities, a significant change like this could lead to times of loneliness and isolation. If this happens, it may be a good idea to keep a core group of military friends in your phone contacts or even find a local group in your community. Most towns have some type of Veteran organization, such as the VFW or DAV. If you find this part of the transition taking a toll on your mental health, you may want to visit a therapist at your local VA healthcare facility.
Another factor that could weigh heavy on you is the emotional aspect of leaving the military. It can be especially difficult if the decision to separate or retire was not by choice. Like the social impact, the emotional aspect of this process can ebb and flow depending on where you work and live. Veterans usually miss the camaraderie of their military pals, which is a natural feeling to have. It can be difficult to recognize the emotional toll that the transition is taking on you because you’re trying to square away so much during this time. You may notice that as you settle into your post-military life, those emotions may start to manifest. You may start missing your buddies and the good times you had. In some cases, eligible Veterans will rejoin the military within five years of separating because they miss it too much. The best advice I can offer is to try to engulf yourself into your new life. Make new friends at work, spend quality time with your family or take on new hobbies that you didn’t have time for while you were in the military. These things can help you get over the emotional hump.
This one can sneak up on you, if you let it. You should pay close attention during the financial literacy briefing at TAP because it can help build a solid foundation on your understanding of money as you transition. In your post-military job, you may find yourself making more money. If you don’t properly plan for that upswing in salary, you could end up spending money carelessly. If you’re able to secure a job that pays more, try to live on the same amount of money you did in the military, while putting the difference in savings. “Rainy days” do come and if it’s a big enough “rainy day,” you can still end up in financial trouble even with a bigger salary. Another option is to put the difference toward any outstanding debt. This can help clean up your credit if you plan to buy a home at some point. If you secure a job that pays less, you should definitely be careful with your money. You may even want to think about reaching out to a financial counselor or advisor to help you prepare a detailed money plan.
Work the Problem
Bottom line, you’re likely to be impacted by at least one of these three concepts when you leave the military. Whether it’s a social, emotional or financial issue, there are resources available that can help you get through these obstacles, many of which can be found with a quick online search. Understand that experiencing any or all of these obstacles is not a hit against you. Seek out those resources and work the problem. Lastly, if you find yourself in crisis for any reason, reach out to the Veterans Crisis Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 to talk to someone or text 838255. The Veterans Crisis Line is a free and anonymous resource that is available to any Veteran in need.