How US Military Veterans Can Re-Adjust to Civilian Life
Revised 16 May 2016
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War and deployed military veterans sometimes face challenges when re-adjusting to civilian life as they return to U.S. soil. If they are not suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), there are ways to help veterans successfully rejoin the civilian population.
Here are some suggestions for military veterans to overcome these challenges. This is not an all-encompassing list, but covers the most common issues, with tips to achieve civilian success. Common Veteran Challenges and How to Overcome Them
• Relating to those who lack understanding of what military personnel go through while deployed.
Act as normal as possible to relate to people on a “civilian level.” Civilians have a different focus and different issues than you’ve had while on active duty.
• Reconnecting and re-establishing your role in your family.
At first adapt to their new routine they’ve created while you were away. Focus on adjusting to their changes before attempting to re-establish your role.
• Difficulty rejoining your community.
Remember when you moved to a new post and the military provided help in adjusting to the new location. If your civilian community doesn’t offer any formal help, become proactive and find creative ways to rejoin your former community (without making unnecessary “waves”).
• Prepare yourself to enter the civilian workforce, whether you are returning to your former job or need to search for a new one.
Learn job search and interviewing skills just as you learned your military skills. Polish up your resume or create one, if you don’t have one. Be sure not only to list your former tasks, but focus on your civilian and military job achievements. There is the VA and other private and government run resources that are out there to help you. You can always reach out to them for employment resources. Remember, the chain of command, quite clear in the military, may be a bit more “fuzzy” in the civilian sector.
• The military provides basic necessities (food, shelter, and clothing) for you; civilian life requires you to provide for yourself and your family.
Try not to become overwhelmed by the number of choices (unlike the military) you have in civilian life. Just as some visitors to the United States from closed or developing societies (e.g., from foreign countries with communist or developing governments) cannot process all the many choices for food, clothing, and housing, overcome this challenge and enjoy making your own decisions for a change.
• Adjusting to the different life and work pace of civilian life.
This issue sometimes poses the greatest obstacle to readjusting to civilian life, particularly if you recently returned from a war zone where completing your mission was the sole focus. Commit to adapt to the “foggy” communications (unlike the military clear commands) and slower pace of civilian life. Try to enjoy this quality of life, instead of becoming confused and/or resentful of the change of pace. Find a place of employment that highlights your skills.
Resist the temptation to demand more clarity from your family, friends, or workplace. Focus on being adaptable and flexible to this initially very different daily pace. You’ll be very happy you just rolled with the new freedom to make pleasant choices for yourself.
Don’t forget to reestablish connections with health professionals, e.g., doctors and dentists, and health insurance plans. Also, establish a plan for tax deferred retirement funds. Remember, the choices are no longer dictated by your commanding officer or branch of the military – but you!
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