What is the ONE thing about your transition that you would have changed/wished you knew about?
One thing every service member transitioning to civilian life should know is this: Every injury you sustained while enlisted is considered a service-connected disability. It doesn't matter if you were working, at home, or on leave. In the military, you are considered on duty 24 hours a day. Keep this in mind when going to the VA to file for service-connected disability. Be sure to include mental disabilities you suffered too.
That back injury from playing flag football is service connected. The mental anguish you suffered from combat duty or a divorce is service connected. That knee injury from helping your friend move is service connected. As long as you were in the military, it is all service connected and you deserved to be compensated for it.
Amazing question, Erik. Seeks advice and advises. In the words of Aristotle, “He who cannot be a good follower cannot be a good leader.”
My military training and leadership skills were much more valuable than recruiters lead me to believe. They gave my first employer a bargain. While I didn't have experience I was able to learn the skills needed very quickly. That combined with the leadership skills and ingrained culture of teamwork, I was very soon not only doing my work but helping others learn their assignments, helping the team accomplish goals and I wasn't even a supervisor. The work ethic and character can't be taught, skills can. Sell the fact you can lead and work well on a team.
Thank you for your question, that's a good one! Aside from knowing about this awesome program, ACP (the Veteran Mentoring Program), I wish I would have listened a little more. The civilian world is very different, as you have seen. It was hard to differentiate what information was going to be useful or pertinent to me so I blocked a lot of it out. I was a little stubborn, thinking I could navigate the civilian world on my own after being immersed in military lifestyle for over four years. Yeah, used a lot of logic and common sense on that one.
People on the inside would say, "good luck, I hope you have a plan," or "employers love to hire vets, you'll get a job easy as cake." I was certainly confused by this, but figured I was in good shape, I had my degree, was running my own shop in the Marine Corps, and talking to my Sergeant Major on a regular basis, I figured I was "good to go."
If I would have taken in that information, processed everything, and then evaluated my post-military plan I think I would have been in a much better position and alleviated a lot of stress in my transition. I think the Veteran Service Organization space can be hard to navigate due to the over saturation, but taking the time to listen to all the information and decide what is helpful for you can certainly help as you transition and navigate the civilian world.
I wish I would have known that the VA would cover my healthcare. I probably learned that in TAPS, but retaining any of that information is like trying to take a drink from a firehose. I did not learn that for about another year or two after I got out. I could have saved some money.
I'd like to drill down on Adam's comment that "Given my situation, I wish I had taken more risks. I don't know the stats but I believe many veterans don't have as many liabilities (houses, cars, kids, etc.), especially young veterans. This enables them to try things without much to lose. One can move to new places, get into new industries, etc.
In a competitive job market you have to bear the cost of any advantage you have. In today's America being ready, willing, and able to move to a job is a strong advantage:
"...the rate of interstate moves has fallen by 50% in a single generation. In the 1980s, about 3% of the population moved to a new state every year. Today, that figure has fallen to less than 1.5%."
Given my situation, I wish I had taken more risks. I don't know the stats but I believe many veterans don't have as many liabilities (houses, cars, kids, etc.), especially young veterans. This enables them to try things without much to lose. One can move to new places, get into new industries, etc.
Professionally, I would have tried more 1099/Independent contract work. There are financial upsides to the 1099 work and helps you get comfortable with more advanced financial concepts while opening up more professional opportunities.
Also, I would have saved more money since the biggest financial advantage many veterans have is time. I didn't do bad but could have done much better at this.
To the point of others in this thread, keep in touch with people (even the ones you didn't always appreciate), keep asking questions, leave no stone unturned, and continue learning. And last, have a plan to work towards. As with the military, you have a plan and adjust since the plan usually never lasts the entire operation (life) but, at least you have something to work towards.
I been out now for 20+ years. I one most important thing is Networking, Networking and Networking. This is the best way to get know in the Sicilian world and get into position of employment and understand how the civilian world works.
Let me know if I can be of any help.
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I wished there was more time spent on helping me navigate my medical benefits once I got out. Though I went directly into working as a NJROTC Instructor and then into the federal government, I feel that information would have been extremely helpful.
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