Transitioning to civilian life after a military career can be challenging. As a law firm serving military veterans and their families, Hill & Ponton offers this guide to help with the process.
Leaving the Military
Whether you have questions about the military separation process or need more information about the resources you’re entitled to as a veteran, we have you covered.
What is the process of coming home from deployment?
The Department of Defense (DoD) offers a Transition Assistance Program (TAP) with these services to assist you with the transition process.
- Pre-separation counseling, which is mandatory and includes workshops presented by the Department of Labor (DOL)
- A brief presentation on benefits you’re entitled to as a veteran presented by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA)
- Disabled Transition Assistance Program (DTAP) to help with the special transition needs of disabled service members
To receive these services, you must first complete Form 2648 titled Pre-Separation Counseling Checklist. You can indicate the benefits and services that interest you to receive more information about them.
What are the types of military discharge?
Military discharge falls into two main categories, administrative and punitive. The four types of administrative discharge include:
- Entry-level Separation: Commanding officers have the authority to relieve a soldier of duty if he or she has served less than 180 days. This typically occurs when the person does not have the physical or mental stamina to continue serving.
- General Discharge Under Honorable Conditions: You may receive this discharge if you completed your commitment to the military with only minor issues on your military record. Common examples include not maintaining military standards for weight, fitness, dress, or appearance. Minor disciplinary infractions or not maintaining expected progress in your military training are additional reasons you could receive a general discharge under honorable conditions.
- Honorable Discharge: Receipt of an honorable discharge means that you met the standards expected of you upon joining the United States military. This status also indicates that you met the standards of meritorious service and may be eligible to receive a medal for valor or bravery. Soldiers with minor infractions on their military record can still receive an honorable discharge if their superiors feel they performed meritorious service.
- Other Than Honorable Discharge: This status indicates that the military separated you from service early due to some type of serious misconduct. Desertion, abuse of authority, and fraternization are all examples of behavior the military considers serious misconduct.
Bad conduct discharge is a type of punitive discharge. A special or general military court can initiate a bad conduct discharge against enlisted soldiers but not higher ranking service members. Adultery, desertion, writing a bad check, performing military duties while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and disorderly conduct are just some of the offenses that could cause you to receive a bad conduct discharge.
Dishonorable discharge is another type of punitive discharge. Service members typically only receive this discharge after committing serious criminal acts while in the military. This discharge status follows a court-martial conviction.
You could receive a medical discharge if an illness or injury prevents you from completing your duties. Although rarely used, you could be subject to military discharge for the convenience of the government. Each branch of service establishes its own guidelines as to what constitutes an acceptable discharge under these conditions.
What qualifies you to be a veteran?
Under Title 38 of the Code of Federal Regulations, a veteran is someone who completed military service and received any type of discharge other than dishonorable.
How can you check your veteran status?
The VA maintains a website that allows you to track your status regarding veteran compensation, education, healthcare, housing, insurance, and pension. You will need to register for the VA benefits tracking system at this link. Once registered, you can visit the VA eBenefits portal to check the status of your benefits.
Adapting to Civilian Life
Although you lived as a civilian before enlisting in the military, soldiers often experience profound change while away from home. Below are some tips to help ease the transition.
How can veterans best reintegrate after deployment?
- Try to set healthy expectations and not commit to seeing a lot of people or attending multiple events in the first weeks after arriving home.
- Be patient with yourself if you struggle to adjust when you didn’t think you would. Anyone can have difficulty, and resources are available if you need to talk to someone.
- Focus on positive things as much as you can.
- Allow yourself and your family to feel a range of emotions.
What can veterans do after serving in the military?
You could start your own business or look for a new job with a military-friendly employer. An organization called The Military Friendly can help you find these types of companies. You might also consider serving in the Army Reserve or National Guard on a part-time or call-up basis.
Will the military pay for college?
The VA offers various education benefits for military members who meet program criteria. If eligible, you will need your social security number, education and military history, bank information for direct deposit, and general information about the school you want to attend. You should then scroll to the middle of this page under the section titled How to Apply and follow the onscreen instructions.
Connecting with Loved Ones
While connecting with friends and family is helpful after returning home, it can be difficult after serving in a war zone. Here are some tips we recommend.
How can you reconnect with family after deployment?
Keep in mind that your family experienced their own unique struggles while you were thousands of miles away. They may have felt lonely or frustrated about the limited opportunities to communicate with you due.
Now that you’re home, they may be experiencing their own transition difficulties and feel hesitant to discuss them for fear of upsetting you. Try to take it slow with your spouse and children and work up to establishing the bond you had before you reported to active duty.
What resources are available to military families?
Teenagers may enjoy attending a DoD Adventure Camp while children of all ages can attend an Operation Purple Camp to connect with other kids who understand their struggles. The Military Kids Connect website is a safe place for children of service members to connect online. You can view more resources for your kids at this link.
Parents can find several resources to help them with the unique challenges of military life at the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Military Families Resource Center. The website offers specific resources such as how to readjust to family life after the service member comes home and behavior issues like refusing to go to school.
Military spouses might be eligible for their own education benefits or receive assistance with starting a business. The VA maintains a separate resource page for family members of veterans outlining programs available to spouses and how to apply for them.
Veterans returning home can experience problems like flashbacks, sleep disturbances, and stress after being in a war zone. Below are some common readjustment challenges and resources to address them.
What problems do veterans encounter when they come home?
You may struggle with your identity and purpose after coming home. The struggle can be even more significant for high-ranking officers who suddenly don’t have the same respect they had in the military. You could also experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that leaves you with nightmares, guilt, depression, anxiety, and many other difficult emotions and experiences.
A common but often overlooked struggle is reintegrating to a society that values individualism vs. groups, presents a fragmented social structure, and has a wide range of morals and values compared to the military’s strict expectations. It can seem like you’re entering an entirely different world.
What support resources are available for veterans?
The VA offers several resources for mental health and civilian transition assistance. The National Center for PTSD is one example. You can also find help through VA organizations such as Moving Forward and inTransition. Additional information about VA resources is available here.
The National Association of State Directors of Veterans’ Affairs provides numerous resources for veterans and their families such as telephone numbers to the Veterans Crisis Hotline. Members of the organization include State Directors of Veterans’ Affairs for all 50 states and most U.S. territories.
Military OneSource, which also offers a mobile application, is a comprehensive support source with services available such as financial, legal, and health.The website also includes a blog with topics of interest to active and retired military service members and their families.
We hope this guide answered questions you have as a military service member readjusting to civilian life. If you want additional resources to help with your VA claims, we have fantastic posts on our site as well as new videos and livestreams on our YouTube channel each week.
We are sorry that this post was not as useful for you!
Help us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?