The moment of discharge from the military is cause for celebration in the eyes of most service members. All the gruelling training, the hard work, the personal sacrifice and the rigorous shaping of a whole new identity culminate to make discharge day one of great emotion and, often, unbridled joy.
But for many, the day after, and the day after that, can be anticlimactic, to say the least. Suddenly, the rules and structure that were part of everyday life no longer apply. Veterans who were formerly recognized and respected by their peers for their particular skill sets and accomplishments are tasked with proving themselves all over again, in an environment with completely different customs and practices.
It’s not as if veterans don’t remember what it’s like to be a civilian, but many enter the service before ever setting foot in the job market or on a college campus. Even those who enlist when they’re older tend to come around to the military way of thinking, eschewing previously learned procedures and habits they may see as illogical or less organized.
The truth is, no matter what servicemembers’ pre-military experiences were, any one of of them may be subject to severe “culture shock” upon re-entering civilian life.
What Researchers Say
According to a 2011 survey by the Pew Research Center*, 27 percent of the 1,853 veteran participants indicated that re-entry was difficult, with that number surging to 44 percent among veterans who served post-9/11.
Although many variables factor into a veteran’s probability of transitioning smoothly, highly influential determinants that adversely affect returning vets include exposure to traumatic events while serving, serious injury, serving in a combat zone and serving with someone who was killed or injured.
That same year, the National Survey of Student Engagement** found that veterans enrolled in college often experience “significantly lower peer interaction, faculty interaction, and perceptions of high quality relationships,” which may contribute to the fact that only 51.7% of veterans complete a chosen field of study.***
No matter the reason, the fact is that veterans who find it hard to acclimate to civilian life are at higher risk for depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, mental illness and homelessness.
Where to Turn
Thankfully, there are several excellent resources available to veterans in search of civilian careers, college degrees, social opportunities, physical fitness programs and mental health support.
- Vets.gov (in partnership with the U.S. Dept. of Labor): Offers free educational and career counseling, small business support, online job search, resume assistance, etc.
Veterans-only job boards: Reputable job sites like Hire Our Heroes, Hire Heroes and the CareerOneStop Veteran and Military Transition Center not only lt vets search tailor-made jobs, but often provide training, support and even financial assistance.
- Free Veterans Entrepreneurship Training: Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families offers the “Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities”, while “Bunker in a Box” and VetToCEO’s “Entrepreneurship for Transitioning Warriors” are both no-cost online alternatives.
- Franchise Buy-In Incentives: Veterans can find out which franchises offer the best deals to veterans by using their favorite search engines.
- The G.I. Bill and other types of training, scholarships and assistance offered by the government: The best place for vets start is https://benefits.va.gov to find the programs and benefits for which they’re eligible.
- Military and veteran scholarship websites: Vets can also search sites like College Scholarships.org, Scholarships and Grants.us and Nitrocollege.com for financial help that’s only available to vets and their families.
- Vet-friendly colleges and universities: Any good search engine can lead veterans to the scores of U.S. higher learning institutes offer financial breaks and special programs to veterans.
- Traditional Veterans Clubs: Tried and true organizations like the American Legion, the VFW, Disabled American Veterans, etc. have been a mainstay for veterans, young and old, for decades. Not only do they give vets a chance to connect with peers, but they also provide excellent opportunities for community service and activism.
- Newer Veterans Clubs: Although traditional veterans clubs serve the needs of many, some younger vets feel they can be generationally out-of-touch. Organizations like Team Rubicon (emergency and disaster relief) and Team RWB (connecting veterans through physical and social activity) can lend some vets a greater sense of purpose and belonging.
- Veteran Message Boards: The web is full of places for veterans to connect, chat, vent, commiserate and support each other. Notable message boards include Reddit (general or branch-specific threads), RealWarriors.net, Military.com and MilitaryTimes.com. And, lest we forget, there’s also Militarycupid.com, a dating site for active military and veterans.
- VA Health & Wellness: With programs like “Gerofit” and “MOVE!”, the VA has made great strides in helping older veterans stay fit and healthy, while also promoting the wellbeing of disabled vets through the Office of National Veterans Sports Programs & Special Events and providing state-of-the-art physical therapy.
- Nonprofits for Veteran Fitness: Organizations like Catch a Lift and Lift for the 22 advocate for veterans health by providing them with free gym memberships, support and, in some cases, home gym equipment.
- Local Gym Search: Veterans can use their search engines or merely pick up a phone to find out which gyms (like participating Gold’s Gyms and YMCAs) offer veteran discounts.
- www.mentalhealth.va.gov: Provides a comprehensive list of veteran and military crisis lines and outreach centers, as well as statistics, condition overviews, self-help resources and a guide to the VA’s mental health services.
- Non-government assistance: Organizations like The Soldier’s Project and Give an Hour offer veterans free, confidential counseling and support for a variety of issues.
- www.benefits.gov: Veterans can reference this page to see if they are eligible and to apply for the VAs Alcohol and Drug Dependence Rehabilitation Program.
Check of local rehabilitation facilities: Some drug and alcohol treatment programs may offer veterans a discount.
Make Sure You Have Your DD-214
In order to access many of the benefits, organizations and services above, you’re going to have to provide a copy of your DD-214, especially if you’re not registered with the VA.
But if you’re one of the thousands of veterans who’ve misplaced, lost or never received your discharge papers and you’re dreading going through the waiting process of ordering through eVetRecs, never fear.
Just contact DD214Direct.com to have your records delivered easily, discreetly and more rapidly than any other service in existence; much more quickly than eVetRecs, which requires you to print out, sign and mail or fax in a records request form, after which you’ll wait weeks, maybe months for processing before they finally “snail mail” your records.
With DD214Direct.com, the entire transaction, from ordering to delivery, can be carried out on your device (yes, we can email your records to you!)
Our three-tiered pricing allows you to choose your preferred delivery speed and our seasoned, courteous staff goes to work for you immediately, chasing down every lead and negotiating the National Archives’ labyrinthine network of agents and repositories until they find what you sent them after.
Why pay in worry, frustration and time? Reach out to DD214Direct.com today to get started.