By now, it is no secret that America’s soldiers can experience a difficult transition after leaving the military. For some, it is an expected end to a decade-long career. For others, it may be triggered by medical discharge or unwarranted circumstances. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding their exit, the transition for veterans can be daunting, long-winded, and sometimes even jarring. From contemplating their next career move after the military to thinking about their finances and homeownership, there are several things veterans need to think about and plan for to make the transition go easier and smoother.
Do You Have a Support System In Place For The Initial Transition?
Surrounding yourself with a reliable circle of support can make the transition much easier. A significant percentage of the 200,000 veterans that transition each year admit that accessing the right support makes all the difference in how well the transition process goes. While the Department of Labor has a Transition Assistance Program Support aimed at both veterans and their spouses, other organizations can help including GallantFew, Boots To Shoes, and The Veterans Mentor Network.
Can Your Finances Handle The Transition?
One of the largest hurdles veterans face during transition is coming to terms with the financial implications of civilian life such as securing a mortgage for homeownership and dealing with the disruption to a stable income. To ensure your finances are ready for the transition, the best tip is to plan ahead. Start putting away money at least 3 months before you leave the military. Having an emergency fund or savings can provide a useful cushion during the transition while you look for another source of employment or retrain.
If you do choose to retrain after the military, you could access financial aid through the Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty, which provides up to 3 years of educational assistance including tuition and housing. Finally, spend time researching your financial options in the lead-up to your transition from the military. For savings, calculate how much you would need for monthly expenses and how long you expect to be transitioning to new employment. If you are thinking of buying a home after the military, a good question to ask would be am I eligible for a VA loan? Consider whether you meet the criteria for these types of programs. Similarly, if you are looking to rent as a veteran, it may be difficult to secure rental references or credit histories to support your application. Look for non-profits that will work with veterans in a similar situation.
Are You Employment Ready For The Civilian World?
Another challenge faced by veterans in finding employment to match their skills after leaving the military. For years, reports have shown that veterans are often underemployed or find it difficult to secure employment in the civilian world. Preparing your resume and thinking ahead in terms of retraining is the best way to get ready for employment in the civilian world. Other tips for veterans entering employment include translating your credentials with the help of an occupational specialty translator and securing copies of your DD214 (Report of Separation) and DD2586 (Verification of Military Experience and Training).
What Does The Transition Look Like For Your Family?
Lastly, think about what the transition process will look like not just for yourself but for your entire family. Many military families will have to make decisions on relocation, school enrollment for their children, employment, and financial preparation for retirement. If your spouse is employed, you will have to factor in a job search and notice period for them if you plan to move to another state after leaving the military.
If you were living on base, it may be time to start thinking of where you want to live as a veteran. In 2020, some of the most affordable cities for veterans included San Antonio, El Paso, and Jacksonville. In 2021, Tampa, Florida took the top spot as the best place for veterans and was ranked highest based on employment, quality of life, and health. Choosing where to live after leaving the military should incorporate your career goals, the cost of living, affordability, educational opportunities, and retirement plans.
Don’t forget to take care of your insurance needs. Those who have served for 20 years or more are eligible for overage by Tricare. However, if you do not meet the 20-year criteria it will be up to you to secure private insurance. While you do look for suitable insurance coverage, you can extend your active duty coverage through the Continued Health Care Benefit Program.
A final tip: remember that the transition from the military is a process and is best approached gradually. Start these preparations in the year before you leave the military to give yourself time to tick all the boxes and make the adjustment go smoothly.