Helping Veterans Transition From Military To Civilian Life

Veterans face many challenges during their transition from military life to civilian settings. Some of these military to civilian transition challenges may include finding a job, adapting to a new lifestyle, and dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and substance use disorder.1

Many veterans experience readjustment problems when returning to their homes, families, and communities, which puts them at greater risk of mental health issues and drug or alcohol use. In fact, reintegration challenges post-deployment have been identified as one of the major risk factors associated with veterans and substance abuse. Nearly one in ten veterans seeking care within the VHA system for the first time are diagnosed with a SUD.2

During their transition to civilian life, veterans need to find a support system. There are many organizations helping veterans transition to civilian life, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), American Addiction Centers, and USO Transition Services. These organizations can provide resources and information on how to transition successfully.3

While many programs and services are available to help veterans transition to civilian life, they can still find it difficult to know where to start or what resources are available. This article provides an overview of some of the programs and services available to veterans.

Veteran Transition Assistance Program

What Challenges do Veterans Face During Their Transition to Civilian Life?

The military is an institution that is vastly different from civilian life. It is a world of its own, with unique customs, rituals, and regulations. Adjusting to civilian life can be challenging for those who have spent their lives in the military, which is why veterans may benefit from a transition assistance program.1

In the military, one’s worth is based on one’s achievements and rank. In civilian life, however, one’s worth is not always so clearly defined. This can be a source of frustration for veterans, who are used to a clear system of ranking and achievement.

Veterans often find it difficult to find work in the civilian world because their skills and experience do not always match up with what employers are looking for. Many veterans are used to a world of discipline and order, where they were given specific tasks to complete and were part of a team. In the civilian world, however, things are not always so structured and clear-cut, making veterans’ reintegration into civilian life more difficult.1

Veterans may also find adjusting to the academic environment difficult if they decide to work on their education. They may feel that they are not living up to the standards they set for themselves in the military, and this can lead to frustration and academic difficulties.1

Another challenge that veterans face during their transition from military to civilian life is the loss of structure in their lives. In the military, every day is structured, and there is a clear chain of command. In civilian life, however, there is much more freedom and flexibility. This can be both liberating and confusing for veterans.1

Finally, veterans often struggle with the transition from a life of service to a life of civilian work. In the military, work is often looked at as a noble calling. In civilian life, however, work is often seen as a necessary evil. This can be a hard adjustment for veterans to make.1

One’s personal background can play a role in how challenging the transition to civilian life feels. For example, if someone has been in the military for a long time, they may find it more difficult to adjust than someone who has only been in for a short period of time. The longer one is in the military, the more difficult it is to adapt to civilian life.1

Those who have been in combat may also face difficulty transitioning from military to civilian life. They may struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health issues. They may also find it hard to readjust to a life where they are not on constant alert and do not have to worry about being in danger.1

What are Transition Stress and PTSD Effects on Veterans’ Reintegration Into Civilian Life?

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can occur after someone goes through a traumatic event. A traumatic event is something so scary, dangerous, or upsetting that it causes lasting emotional damage. PTSD can cause people to feel scared, stressed, and angry for months or even years after the event. Many experience flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive thoughts about the traumatic event.4

Transition stress is a unique kind of stress that military veterans experience during a transition from military to civilian life. Unlike PTSD, transition stress does not stem from a single traumatic event. Rather, it is the result of the many changes and military to civilian transition challenges. These changes can include finding a new job, dealing with financial stress, and adjusting to life outside of the military structure.5

Many veterans experience both PTSD and transition stress. The effects of these conditions can make reintegrating into civilian life very difficult. Veterans may have trouble keeping a job, maintaining relationships, and managing their finances. They may also struggle with substance abuse, depression, and anxiety.4,5

What are the Mental Health Challenges Veterans Face During Transition To Civilian Life?

Veteran transition to civilian life presents many mental health challenges. There are several types of mental health disorders veterans are often faced with, including anxiety, depression, and alcohol or drug abuse. In addition, 63% of veterans diagnosed with SUD stationed in Afghanistan or Iraq are also suffering from PTSD.2

Suicide rates among veterans and active duty personnel far exceed those of the suicide rates among the civilian public. Over 20% of national suicides in 2014 were attributed to veterans, which means that 20 veterans take their own life every day. Because of this, veteran transition assistance is essential.2

Veterans and Substance Abuse During Transition From Military to Civilian Life

Substance abuse is a problem that plagues many veterans as they make the transition from military life to civilian settings. Alcohol, drug, and opioid abuse can all be serious issues, leading to a wide range of negative consequences.6

Some of the causes of substance abuse among veterans include the stress of transition to civilian life, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression. The effects of drinking can include job loss, financial problems, relationship difficulties, and health problems.6

There are different levels of drinking that can be problematic. Warning signs of problem drinking include missing work or other obligations, drinking more than intended, and having legal problems due to drinking.6

It is difficult to determine the levels of drug abuse among veterans as most of these surveys are voluntary and self-reported. However, according to a government report, 3.5% of veterans reported using marijuana, and 1.7% reported using other illegal drugs. Close to 4% of veterans reported abusing prescription drugs, while the rates of opioid overdose rose from 14% in 2010 to 21% in 2015. However, those were mostly attributed to other illegal opioids such as synthetic opioids and heroin. Finally, veterans are more likely to abuse alcohol than civilians, with 65% of veterans who enter rehab reporting alcohol as their primary misused substance.2

What are the Best Ways of Helping Veterans Transition To Civilian Life?

Many veteran rehab centers across the United States offer mental health and substance abuse treatment services to veterans transitioning from military to civilian life. These centers can provide a variety of services, such as individual and group counseling, medication management, vocational rehabilitation, and more.3

One such facility is the VA Desert Hope Treatment Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. This facility offers various services and Veteran Transition Assistance for veterans struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues, including individual and group therapy, medication management, and case management. The staff at Desert Hope is dedicated to helping veterans make a successful transition into civilian life.

Additionally, community care providers are organizations that provide support to veterans outside of the VA system. These providers can offer various services, such as mental health and substance abuse treatment, job training, and placement.3

What does a Transition Assistance Program Entail?

A Veteran Transition Assistance helps military personnel make the transition from active duty to civilian life. It provides counseling, courses, and training sessions to help service members adjust to life outside the military.3 

The transition assistance program can be a valuable resource for military personnel who are making the transition to civilian life. It can help them adjust to life outside the military and provides guidance and support as they search for a new career.3

Pre-separation counseling is an important part of the veterans’ Army Transition Assistance Program. The counseling helps veterans prepare for life after the military and can provide guidance on issues such as finding a new career, financial planning, and health care.3

The transition assistance program can also help service members who face financial difficulties, reconnect with family members, or adjust to a new school or education.3

What is the Role of the Family in Veterans’ Reintegration Into Civilian Life?

While the family plays a significant role in the transition from military to civilian life, it is important to understand that each veteran will have unique needs and challenges that must be addressed. In some cases, veterans may find it difficult to communicate with their loved ones about their experiences during combat or military service. Additionally, many veterans struggle with readjusting to life outside of the military, which can put a strain on relationships.7

Families must understand and support their veteran loved ones during this time. Patience, open communication, and a willingness to help with readjustment are the main ways of helping veterans transition to civilian life. Additionally, families can connect veterans with resources and support groups, which can be beneficial in the reintegration process.7

If you have a loved one who is a veteran, it is important to be understanding of the military to civilian transition challenges they may be facing. Showing patience, offering support, and connecting them with resources can make a world of difference in helping them readjust to civilian life.7

What are Some Helpful Resources for Transitioning Veterans?

Listed below are all the employment resources available to veterans. Your transition to civilian life should be easier with a little help:

Veterans Employment Center: Provides jobs and career opportunities to veterans, transitioning service members, as well as their families.8

USAJOBS: Federal job openings on the official site.9

VetNet: An online platform helping service members find meaningful careers after leaving the military.10

Office of Veterans Business Development at the US Small Business Administration: Helps veterans start, grow, and succeed as entrepreneurs.11

Department of the Treasury: Offers internships to veterans and wounded service members.12



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