USAA sponsored this post, and I have been financially compensated to write it. Regardless, the opinions expressed are entirely my own.
My mind is made up, after nineteen years one month and three days of active federal service, I’m requesting to retire from the United States Army.
By far, this has been one of the most stressful decisions that I’ve ever had to make. I’m nervous, extremely apprehensive and ultimately uncertain about my future. After all, I’ve been singing the Army song and echoing cadences since I was eighteen.
It’s all I know.
But, at the same time, I’m very optimistic.
While I have the desire to attain the rank of Sergeant Major, I’m not wholly committed to an additional five years of service and potentially three more permanent changes of station.
Being a geographical bachelor for the last fifteen months has motivated me to put my priorities into perspective. Family first, Army always is no longer a mantra that I can comfortably repeat.
I’m experiencing the stresses of transition. Fortunately, I’m not the only one. See, over the next five years, I’m only one of a million service members who will choose to hang up the uniform.
Some will volunteer to separate; others will be voluntold.
Regardless of the reason, separation will never be an easy process.
Introducing Blue Star Families
Luckily organizations exist to help shoulder the weight and mitigate the hardships related to transitioning. Blue Star Families is one of them.
Last week, I had the extreme privilege and honor to be selected to attend “Our Nation’s Call to Action,” at USAAs headquarters in San Antonio.
There I witnessed Kathy Roth-Douquet and Hisako Sonethavily present the facts behind the 2015 Military Family Lifestyle Survey. Specifically, the challenges faced by my predecessors who’ve elected (or been instructed) to leave the military.
I found the survey to be quite enlightening. Also, it will serve as a platform to help identify areas in which I need to focus.
What I thought was a simple survey, will ultimately increase my chances to transition successfully into the civilian sector.
Hopefully, I won’t be alone. I want to encourage all soon-to-be retirees to take a look at the key findings identified amongst transitioning service members and veterans.
16% Of The Force Will Transition By 2018
I have a little more than eight months before I begin my terminal leave, and that’s not a lot of time. Consider for a minute those who are being selected for separation and allocated six months to out process. That’s not an ample amount of time to suitably prepare. It’s even more important that we share the survey findings with anyone considering separation or retirement.
For some veterans, the transition is smooth, but for others it will be marked by challenges with employment, community and family reintegration, and development of supportive social networks. As service members and their families transition or prepare for transition, it is imperative that they properly prepare for civilian life and supported throughout the transition process.
Transition Programs (TAP) Empower Vets To Succeed
60% of veterans who attended TAP felt as if they were prepared to transfer successfully into civilian life. While only half of the respondents had completed the mandated programs, attendance is credited with current employment status.
Transition GPS is intended to help service members successfully transition to the civilian workforce, start a business, or pursue training and/or higher education. Transition GPS consists of an extended five to seven day transition program and includes information on financial planning, benefits, and employment.
Disability Claims Can Be Submitted Before Separation
While trolling disability forums, I’ve periodically read about recent veterans criticizing the VA about delays in claims processing. The survey documented that only half of the respondents looking to transition within the next two years were even aware that they could file a claim before separating.
While it’s unlikely, in my case, I could submit a disability claim as early as September 2016.
56% of post-9/11 veterans are aware they could file a VA claim 180 days prior to discharge and 51% are aware that they are still eligible for VA care for up to five years after separation. For veterans as a whole, only 32% were aware they could file a VA claim 180 days prior to discharge and 25% are aware that they were eligible for VA care for up to five years after separation. It is important to note that nearly 60% of the veteran sample separated from active duty 20 or more years ago and may not have had access to or eligibility for certain transition resources and benefits.
Doug recently published a post explaining why you should file a disability claim and had this to say:
Disability claims: it took me four years after retirement to realize that I had service-connected knee damage. In retrospect, when I was doing my retirement physical I should’ve run my medical record past a VSO so that we could make a decision about a claim. Filing a VA claim during the retirement transition (even if the rating is 0%) is probably easier than filing a claim after retirement when the problems finally surface. The biggest challenges for me were gathering records, refreshing my memory, and understanding the chronology. But Marge is in perfect health after her 25 years and will probably never bother submitting a claim. Whichever way you decide to go, you definitely want the electronic copy of your medical record.
Finding Employment Remains A Challenge For Vets
Veterans reported extreme difficulties finding work that matches their skills, education, and desired career field. Some of the reasons are due to disabilities, family obligations, and the inability to locate a job. Recently I read an article from Career Attraction, which listed nine reasons why companies refuse to hire vets. After reviewing this finding, I wonder if this wound is partially self-inflicted.
The survey asked an open-ended question that required respondents to identify a resource that would enable them to find adequate employment. The top resources where:
• A network of those who successfully transitioned from the military into the civilian workplace (34%)
• Career advisor (32%)
• A job bank focused on military families (29%)
• A program to develop interviewing and networking skills (26%)
• Someone who successfully transitioned from the military into the civilian workplace (23%)
• A program to help place military families in paid internships (21%)
As a service member preparing to retire, I want to offer a heartfelt thanks to Blue Star Families and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families for their commitment to improving the lives of service members, military families, and veterans.
The 2015 Military Family Life Survey is a powerful tool and something that should be shared to enhance the well-being of the military community.
Hopefully, you’re like me and will use the survey to improve the likelihood of a successful transition from your respective branch of service.