Veteran Transition from War to Home
Since the terror attacks of 9-11, approximately 2.6 million men and women have voluntarily served in our nation’s Armed Forces. As these service members compete their time in uniform and attempt to re-enter civil society and find gainful employment, too many are not succeeding. A Pew Research Center study in December, 2011 indicates that post 9-11 period veterans are reporting more difficulties in returning to civilian life than those who served in Vietnam or the Korean/World War II era. Most find themselves unequipped to successfully navigate the enormous psychological implications of such a dramatic change in self-identity and the unfamiliar challenges of finding gainful employment in the competitive, profit-oriented private-sector work force. As a result, our veterans are experiencing unprecedented levels of unemployment, low GI Bill utilization rates, and a growing resilience on entitlement benefits in lieu of self-sufficiency. Failing to effectively transition this generation of veterans from military service to productive private citizens will yield consequences that are strategic in nature and national on scope. Severe damage will be done to the American civil-military relationship, the viability of our Armed Forces, the Post 9-11 Era veteran population, and society at large for decades to come.
To investigate this phenomenon, I analyzed the relevant internal dynamics of the three groups involved: the U.S. Army as an institution, Post 9-11 era veterans as a group, and our society at large, as well as the relationships between them.
The U.S. Army, as the largest employer in the Nation according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2012), bears an enduring institutional obligation to its departing veterans to prepare them to re-integrate into society at the conclusion of their military service. The Army has committed significant resources to well-intentioned efforts to meet this responsibility. Unfortunately, a preponderance of empirical data and anecdotal evidence indicates that its current models and programs of transition assistance, Post 9-11 GI Bill benefits and educational advisement, and job placement efforts are proving inadequate. An improved understanding and treatment of departing veterans’ human capacity and willingness to accomplish the necessary steps to make these major life changes must be obtained. Without willingness and commitment from the veteran to be successful in transition, even the best designed institutional program will fail.
The Army and departing veterans must gain a better understanding of the expectations and requirements of private-sector employers and human resource professionals to improve transition outcomes. In today’s economy, uncertainty about pending legislation and regulations lead employers to be tentative to hire full-time employees, and large numbers of individuals with several years of private-sector work experience find themselves unemployed or underemployed. Understanding these contemporary circumstances and how to respond to them are critical to success in assisting veterans to transition to gainful civilian employment.
Returning warriors from the streets of Iraq or the hillsides of Afghanistan to Main Street USA undergo a profound transition. Many experience considerable difficulty in returning to a civilian lifestyle. The National Guard’s soldier’s transition time is extremely limited. Unlike Active Duty soldiers, Guard soldiers return home from combat almost directly; they must transition to civilian life in a matter of days. U.S. soldiers have traditionally faced significant readjustments when returning from war. Since the Vietnam War, many returning veterans have been diagnosed with the invisible wounds of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). These veterans’ coping skills have become drastically impaired. Guard soldiers are particularly vulnerable. They do not return to an...
References: 1.) “One In Five Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Suffer from PTSD or Major Depression,” April 17, 2008 Rand Corporation http://www.rand.org/news/press/2008/04/17
2.) Bannerman, “Iraq Reservists Face a Perfect Storm”
6.) Kirk, Norman, Surgeon General “Prevention of Loss from Psychiatric Disorders,”
7.) Lyke, M.L., “The Unseen Cost of War: American minds,” August 27, 2004, linked from Seattle Post-Intelligencer, http://www.seattlepi.com/local/188143_ptsd27.html
10.) Schiraldi, Glenn, The Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook pg. 4.
11.) Schogol, Jeff, “Pentagon: No Purple Hearts for PTSD,” January 6, 2009, Stars and Stripes http://www.military.com/features/0-15240-182414-00.html
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