Post-Military Life: Challenges of Returning as a Civilian


Each year, around 200,000 men and women leave the US military service and return to civilian life. The transition can become rough with 1 in 4 veterans admitting that they find it hard to re-integrate. According to a Pew Research Center survey, several factors play into the difficulty of going back to civilian life. Duty assignment, rank, civil status, and religious beliefs may all influence re-entry to society. In addition, there are practical matters that affect the shift to civilian life such as housing, education, and jobs.

Fulfilling Basic Needs and Necessities

As a military man, you are entitled to live in government-owned housing.  Once you go back to civilian life, this option is not available anymore and you must find your own accommodation. Finding a roof over your head is not as easy as it sounds. Meanwhile, the housing market has exploded with surging demand and a limited inventory. You will have to look at alternatives available to you as a veteran such as Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) loans. They are offered by private lenders and are backed by the government. No downpayment or private mortgage insurance (PMI) is required. By using the VA home loan calculator, you will see if you can afford the monthly payments when buying, building, repairing, or adapting a home.

Another concern when you go back to civilian life is the availability of jobs. The number of roles that are offered out there might be limited if you don’t have additional skills or have not completed your education. However, on the bright side, the Veterans Employment Services Office (VESO) can help you find a job and there are also support services to learn new skills, start a business, or return to a former job. But, the pace of life and work is different because in the civilian world, it can become very competitive compared to the collaborative atmosphere in the military.

Health and Well-Being

In addition to housing and employment, a major constraint when going back to civilian life is your physical and mental health. For example, you may have been injured, experienced a traumatic event, or served in a war zone or with a fellow soldier who was killed or hurt. According to a study, the ease of reintegration into society is greatly diminished if the veteran experienced these variables. More than 50% of all vets who went through a traumatic event had flashbacks or distressing memories while almost half of them said that they suffer from post-traumatic stress (PTS).

Personal relationships are affected as well and even those who were married before deployment found it difficult to readjust to marital life. Deployment puts a strain before and after soldiers are discharged. A veteran may also need to learn how to access a doctor, dentist, or psychologist, services that were previously provided by the military. Hence, it is important that a returning soldier or military staff must be able to learn the process and prepare the paperwork to avail of benefits and services from the Department of Veteran Affairs. Doing so, will make it easier to get back to civilian life without the seemingly insurmountable obstacles ahead.

Returning to a post-military life is not often easy. However, with adequate organization and planning as well as the help of the VA and supporting organizations, it can become a smooth process to live as a civilian after serving your country.