3 Steps to Ease Back Into Civilian Life


If you’re preparing to leave the military and re-enter the civilian world, you’ll find that many things have changed since you first joined up. Even if you’ve been stateside, there have been changes in everyday life you know about but haven’t had to deal with. For example, you can’t put off health insurance decisions anymore, credit is harder to get from banks (but many places will go the extra mile for veterans) and you have more choices for services that demand more of your time to review.

Review Your Vehicle’s Readiness

Does your car qualify for your state’s “historic” license plate? It may really be a beauty, but is it something you can drive all over, in all kinds of weather? If you’re going to be interviewing for work, you want a reliable ride to get you around. Even if you’re retiring, you still need dependable transportation. Don’t insist on a new car. You can get great deals on late models through places like DriveTime. Drive Time’s Military Merit program guarantees a car for veterans regardless of their credit score. They also offer a generous leasing program for those who prefer to have a new ride every few years.

If you have a mobility-related disability, check out USAA, the financial services firm created for veterans and military families. It has negotiated discounts with manufacturers who modify vehicles to accommodate disabilities.

Get Health Insurance

The Affordable Care Act requires the VA to notify the IRS of veterans’ enrollment status. Shortly before your separation date, you will get a letter from the VA explaining your health insurance options. In addition to the VA, you may be eligible for TRICARE, Indian Health Service care or Medicare. You can combine VA care with these and other plans you enroll in through the Healthcare Marketplace or at a job. Or you can leave the VA entirely.

If you have a job lined up that provides insurance, review it carefully to make sure it covers you and your family’s needs. Some employers are now offering cash incentives for employees to find insurance on their own through the Marketplace.

Just be sure you do enroll in a health insurance plan. There are small, pro-rated penalties for each year you are not enrolled in a plan. A few people may be able to get an exception, but odds are pretty high that you or a family member will need medical care at some point. Paying out of pocket for medical care is extremely expensive, so get coverage.

“Civilianize” Your Outlook

Most businesses are actually quite eager to interview veterans. Your mission is to convince them that you are the best hire for them.

Creating a civilian resume may be a bit daunting. MilitaryOneSource recommends these preparation steps:

  • Get contact information from your favorite supervisors and colleagues.
  • Get copies of performance appraisals to identify areas where you excelled.
  • Get copies of ACE transcripts to identify special skills and education.

To communicate effectively in the civilian business world, you need to “civilianize” yourself, recommends Bradley-Morris, a firm that specializes in placing veterans in civilian jobs. This means translating your resume into language a non-military HR rep can understand.

  • List your main responsibilities in the military, particularly those that have a civilian application.
  • If you can’t avoid acronyms, explain them.
  • Always provide a cover letter that highlights how you can help the company you hope to work for.

About Roger Young

Roger served with A Troop, 3/17th Air Cav "Silver Spurs" as a Scout Crew Chief in Vietnam from '69 - '70.
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