Coming out of the military and into civilian life can be quite shocking, whether you served overseas in conflict or enjoyed a peaceful stateside tour. Although you may feel highly qualified and confident for anything that comes your way, the reality is that unemployment for you as a veteran may be more likely than if you were a civilian with no prior service, more so, depending on your age and what you went through during active duty. Adjusting to "regular" life means a lack of the order you're accustomed to and a lack of purpose, in some cases. All of a sudden, you don't have a specified itinerary for each day, with time-sensitive duties and predictable outcomes.
For many reasons, it's important that you avail yourself to all the perks and benefits you're entitled to as a United States military veteran, as you make the transition to what will hopefully be a productive and fulfilling civilian life.
1. Put Your Military Portfolio Together
Your military paperwork is a lifeline, connecting you to a wealth of possible benefits. One of the most important documents, your DD214, explains when and why you were separated from active military duty and so long as you weren't dishonorably relieved, this document may open many doors for you. Keep it at the forefront of your military portfolio, along with the rest of your service record. If you're missing any important elements, contact the National Archives for replacements. No matter what, though, you need all your records and identification, in order to get the most help available.
2. Make Sure You Are Getting All The Health Care Benefits You're Eligible For
Even if you're young, healthy and have no immediate threats to your health, it's imperative that you verify your eligibility and receive adequate medical coverage. Get regular checkups to ensure optimal health and always be prepared with a VA health ID card, in case of an emergency. Even a minor mishap involving an ankle sprain could set you back considerably, if you have no health care coverage.
3. Get Involved Socially With Other Vets
It's also healthy to get out and enjoy life, no matter what your individual employment or other status may be. If possible, try and keep in touch with your military buddies; if not, hook up locally with an organization that welcomes vets, particularly those founded and run by your fellow vets. Finding friends who know what you've been through in the military and what you're facing in civilian life can be very beneficial, especially during the tough times.
4. Qualify For A VA Or Small Business Administration (SBA) Loan
As an honorably-discharged veteran, you may be eligible for a number or loans, such as one to improve your home or even one to start or expand a business. If you're having trouble finding a civilian job, perhaps because your military position doesn't have an equivalent outside of the armed services, why not put your leadership and other skills toward starting a company? The SBA offers training and classes for would-be entrepreneurs, along with a host of other potentially life-changing opportunities, specifically for you as a veteran. While it may take time and involve shuffling a lot of paperwork around, the rewards for you personally and professionally will be well worth it.
Despite the challenges of entering the civilian world, with so many supportive services and benefits to help you out, you should have all you need to succeed, and then some. If you still find yourself experiencing difficulty or if you face unique obstacles, such as a physical or mental disability, keep contacting the VA until you find the help you need. Even if it sometimes doesn't feel like it, everyone is rooting for you.