Helping Someone Transition Out of the Military: 5 Tips

By Dylan Bartlett


Each year, thousands of military personnel retire and begin their transition into civilian life. Naturally, this transition can be incredibly difficult for both new veterans and their families.

However, there are ways in which you can prepare and help the entire process go far more smoothly.


1. Prepare Financially

Depending on how long and in which branch someone serves, they may receive an annual base pay between $20,000 and nearly $190,000. Regardless of how much your military member makes now, they won’t be receiving that pay once they transition out.

Moreover, they likely won’t find a civilian job the day after they leave the military. Therefore, it’s imperative you have a stable financial plan in place before they leave the military.

Save at least six months’ worth of expenses in an emergency fund in case your member can’t find a job soon after the transition. It’s also a smart idea to pay down as much debt as you can before they leave the military. This will help keep expenses to a minimum once they leave. Additionally, create a budget to help save money and stick to it even after thy transition out.



2. Ramp Up Your Own Job Search

Roughly 37% of post-9/11 veterans couldn’t find a job for six months to more than a year after they retired. Moreover, 6% never found a job. Therefore, it’s a good idea to begin searching for a job if you don’t already have one.

If you do have a job, look for ways to work more hours or up your game to receive a raise. This will ensure you have a steady source of income to assist your transitioning service member financially as well as your family.

Ramping up your job search will also demonstrate to them how to go about finding and applying for jobs. Update your LinkedIn and social media profiles to present yourself as a professional. As you send your resume and cover letter, include information about your transitioning member to see if anyone can point you in the right direction and land them a job.


3. Revisit Parenting Roles

If your transitioning service member also happens to be your spouse, it’ll be beneficial to discuss your roles as parents. What may have worked while he was in the military may not work now. For instance, if you were mostly a stay-at-home mom before, you might have to transition to working part-time or full-time while your husband looks for a job.

Openly discuss the positives and negatives and explore every possible solution to find one that works best for your family. While this conversation may be difficult, it will help to define your parenting roles and establish who will be the breadwinner — at least for the time being.



4. Find a Home and Move

After years of military mandates determining where you were to live, it’s finally time to choose a place yourselves. So dream big and choose a place the whole family will love. The military may even cover moving expenses if you relocate within a year of retiring. Moreover, your spouse may qualify for a VA mortgage, which can help you save money on mortgage expenses and rates.

Finding a new place to call home will also allow your veteran a smoother transition. Moving will give both you and them something to look forward to — a new life in a new place. This positive change will help establish an optimistic mindset as they continue to transition to civilian life.


5. Take Advantage of Support

Roughly 18.8 million veterans live in the U.S., as of 2017. Subsequently, there is a plethora of programs and support systems available to your transitioning veteran — take advantage of them!

These programs may help support their mental and physical health, help them find a job or connect them with others who are also transitioning. These support systems may also help them overcome trauma and live a more fulfilling life.

Cases of both post-traumatic stress disorder and military sexual trauma are very real and alarmingly common. Your veteran shouldn’t have to process past trauma on their own. Enroll them in a program or attend a support group with them to help them find the help they need. This will allow them to confront their trauma in a healthy way and transition into civilian life more easily.


Focus on Your Veteran

In the chaos and excitement of welcoming home your veteran, it can be easy to overlook your loved one’s actions, emotions or unusual tendencies. In fact, you might not notice them struggling to transition unless you consciously pay attention to them.

Therefore, in the days and weeks following their return, focus on your veteran and try to help them cope with this huge life adjustment. Be their biggest fan, support system and shoulder to cry, no matter what the future holds.

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