The Transition From Military Life To Civilian Life

By Jennifer Noble | Jan 10, 2018

Every year, some 200,000 Americans exchange their military uniform for the regular, civilian clothes. When they come back home, they are welcomed by their friends and families, a grateful nation, and — plenty of problems. More than four out of ten veterans who served after 9/11 said they had trouble reintegrating into civilian life.

The Troubles of Civilian Life

There are roughly twenty million of war veterans in the United States. At some point, after their service has ended, each of them had to face the strange realization that the civilian life they are coming back to is much different than the military life they were leaving.

Families who welcome back veterans, for example, have to adjust their dynamics to accommodate a newly-returned family member. The veterans who return home have to work to find their place in their own families, as well as the wider community.

The people who enlisted right after high school or college may have never had to look for a job. They might also find it difficult to discern which of the skills they have learned during their service are transferable. Those who return to a job they left in order to serve might be faced with a completely different environment than the one they knew. They might also find themselves starting work within days of coming back home and without time to get their bearings.

The society they're coming back to is very different from the one they're leaving. Military service provides structure that doesn't exist in the civilian society. Veterans are also finding themselves in a society that's not as tight-knit as the units they were assigned to, and the lack of close connections can cause real issues.

Health Issues

Coming back can be tough even on the veterans who managed to get out without any physical injuries or mental health issues. A lot of veterans weren't as lucky. More than one of every five veterans who are receiving disability have post-traumatic stress disorder, a poorly-understood mental health issue. And the number of veterans with PTSD has been climbing in recent years.

Loss of hearing, musculoskeletal issues, diabetes mellitus, migraine, and paralysis of the sciatic nerve are among the most common causes of disability among veterans. Between 2001 and 2010, there were 1,300 service members who had their limbs completely or partially amputated due to combat injuries.

A Helping Hand

Those who suffered the worst during their service can expect the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, the VA, to lend a hand. "Veterans may not be aware that they are eligible for a number of benefits as a result of their service," said attorney Rick L. Moore. "Veterans face a number of social, health and financial issues," he added. In 2016, almost a half of U.S. veterans used at least one benefits offered by the VA.

Veterans are also likely to find employment when they come back. In fact, some signs suggest that the unemployment rate among veterans might even be lower than among the general population. And in 2015, four out of ten veterans with service-related disabilities had employment.

Access to benefits, services, and employment is a good start for helping service personnel transition into civilian life. And there's plenty of work being done to further help veterans, especially those who suffered from the worst mental and physical injuries. New and improved prosthetics are being developed, and new ways to treat PTSD are being researched.

But integration can still be difficult, and much of that work is on the veterans themselves to perform. Creating a structure in life, learning new skills, and adaptation to a less strict way of living are only some of the things veterans have to work on. But if there's someone who can rise up to the challenge, it's the people who answered the call when their country needed them.


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