Reflective Project

This topic pertains to 9/11 veterans and their transition from the military to civilian life and what support systems are available for them. Every year, thousands of active duty officers return home or are honorably discharged from the military. They attempt to transition into civilian life, and for some, it is extremely difficult. This pertains to me, because NJROTC is my career path and I am interested to investigate as to what occurs when a veteran transitions into the life of being a civilian. The focal point of my investigation will be the whether the transition from military to civilian life is difficult, and if there is help available for them. Perspective A The G.I. Bill refers to any type of Department of Veterans Affairs education benefits, earned by members on Active Duty, Selective Reserve, and National Guard Armed Forces and their loved ones. It is designed to aid members of the service and veterans who are eligible to cover the expenses associated with earning an education and training. The G.I. Bill contains a plethora of programs, each being managed differently, depending upon an individual’s eligibility and duty status. According to military.com, the G.I. Bill contains many programs, those being, “Post 9/11 G.I. Bill, Active Duty Montgomery G.I. Bill, Reserve and Guard Montgomery G.I. Bill, and Vocational Rehabilitation and Education Program.” (https://www.military.com/education/gi-bill/learn-to-use-your-gi-bill.html) According to The Post 9/11 G.I. Bill on va.gov, “If you have at least 90 days of aggregate active duty service after Sept. 10, 2001, and are still on active duty, or if you are an honorably discharged Veteran or were discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days, you may be eligible for this VA-administered program.” (https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/post911_gibill.asp) If one has the eligibility for the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill and any other G.I. Bill Program, a veteran must make an “irrevocable election” of the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill prior before receiving any benefits, meaning, the election is irreversible, final. The Post 9/11 G.I. Bill also has a couple of elements that are not accessible in other G.I. Bill programs: those being the “Yellow Ribbon Program and Transfer of Entitlement Option.” (https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/post911_gibill.asp) In the Yellow Ribbon Program, the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill would pay an individual with all resident tuition fees for a public school, the lower of the actual tuition and fees or the national maximum per academic year for a private school.  There are also several different types of training and assistance, those being correspondence training, cooperative training, entrepreneurship training, flight training, independent and distance learning, institutions of higher learning undergraduate and graduate degrees, licensing and certification reimbursement, vocational/technical training, non-college degree programs, national testing reimbursement, on-the-job training, tuition assistance top-up, and tutorial assistance. For approved programs, the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill provides a suitable 3 years worth of education benefits. In accordance with va.gov, “If your release from active duty was before January 1, 2013, there is a 15-year time limitation for use of benefits.  For individuals whose last discharge date is on or after January 1, 2013, the time limitation has been removed.” (https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/post911_gibill.asp) Institutions of higher learning, such as certain colleges, vocational schools, and so on, that participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program are able to make additional funds available for an individual’s education program without any additional fee to their G.I. Bill entitlement. The payments available also are monthly housing allowance, annual books and supplies stipend, and one-time rural benefit payment. Some members of the service may also transfer unused G.I. Bill benefits to their dependents. Some other things to consider, according to va.gov, is that “full tuition and fees are paid directly to the school for all public school in-state students, for those attending private or foreign schools, tuition and fees are capped at the national maximum rate, and if you are attending a private or public institution of higher learning (either private or public) as a nonresident, out-of-state student you may be eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program and entitled to additional education-related costs not covered by VA. Not everyone is eligible for this assistance.” (https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/post911_gibill.asp) In addition, to the pensions and benefits a veteran may be entitled to receiving, one [veteran] may also be eligible to for certain types of benefits based upon their military services. As stated by military.com, “The Department of Veterans Affairs operates a number of programs providing financial, medical, and other assistance to veterans. For Americans who recieved an honorable or general discharge, there are 4 major benefit programs.”  (https://www.military.com/education/gi-bill/learn-to-use-your-gi-bill.html) Those 4 benefit programs are as follows: Disability compensation, Veteran’s pension programs, Free or low-cost medical care through VA hospitals and medical facilities, and Education programs. There are also benefit programs that concern housing and loan guarantees, job training, small businesses and business loans (through small business administration), counseling, and burials and memorials. If one is to apply for for a VA benefit for the first time, one must submit a copy of their service discharge form, according to military.com, it must be “DD-214, DD-215, or for WWII veterans, a WD form, which documents for your service dates and type of discharge, or give your full name, military service number, branch and dates of service.” (https://www.military.com/education/gi-bill/learn-to-use-your-gi-bill.html) One’s service discharge form must be kept in a safe location that is secure and easy for the veteran to access and his/her next of kin or a designated representative. As per military.com, these documents will be needed for claims relating to a veteran’s death: “1. veteran’s marriage certificate for claims of a surviving spouse or children; 2. Veteran’s death certificate if the veteran did not die in a VA health care facility; 3. Children’s birth certificates or adoption papers to determine children’s benefits; 4. Veteran’s birth certificate to determine parents’ benefits.” (https://www.military.com/education/gi-bill/learn-to-use-your-gi-bill.html) Eligibility regarding most VA benefits is based upon discharge from active military services under other than dishonorable release. As claimed by military.com, “Active service means full-time service as a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, or as a commissioned officer of the Public Health Service, the Environmental Services Administration or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.” (https://www.military.com/education/gi-bill/learn-to-use-your-gi-bill.html) As for current and former members of the selected reserves, veterans may be qualified for certain benefits, some being home loan guarantees and education, if one meets the time-in-service and other specifications. Those that have honorable or general discharges permit a veteran for most VA benefits. Dishonorable discharges, however, are issues by general courts-martial may not be eligible for VA benefits. Veterans whom are incarcerated or on parole may possibly be eligible for certain VA benefits.  The Veterans Affairs (VA) regional offices will be able to make clear the eligibility of prisoners, those on parole, and people with several discharges issues under varying conditions. PerspectiveB Military service is difficult, demanding, and dangerous. Returning to civilian life inflicts challenges for the men and women who have served, according to a recent study of the “Pew Research Center survey of 1,853 veterans. While more than seven-in-ten veterans (72%) report they had an easy time readjusting to civilian life, 27% say re-entry was difficult for them- a proportion that swells to 44% among veterans who served in the ten years since Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.” (http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2011/12/08/the-difficult-transition-from-military-to-civilian-life/) Some veterans have a hard time transitioning to civilian life, others do not. Pew researchers examined attitudes, experiences, and characteristics of veterans, in order to identify the factors that predict whether a member of the services will have an easy or difficult time adjusting. According to the study itself, commissioned officers, those who hold a sense of authority, and those who are college graduates are more likely to have a simple time adjusting to the civilian life than enlisted staff and those who graduated high school. Veterans who had a clear understanding of their missions while serving in their military branch, also experienced limited difficulty transitioning into the life of a civilian than those who did not fully understand their assignments or military agendas. Contrary to this study, veterans who say that they had an emotionally traumatic experience while serving or had been inflicted with a service-related injury were more likely to report with issues with re-entering the civilian world. Those who did serve in combat zones and those who knew who was killed or injured faced more difficult odds of transitioning to civilian life. Veterans who have served the post 9/11 period also report having more difficulties transitioning back to civilian life than those who served in the Vietnam, Korean War, or WWII era, or in periods where there was hostility. There are also two factors that crucially changed the transition of post 9/11 veterans, but seem to have had a small-scale impact upon the men and women who served in previous years prior to the 9/11 attacks. Post 9/11 veterans who had a spouse, whom they were married to, had a more difficult time transitioning than married veterans from years prior or people who were single, regardless of the time that they served. There are several factors that also make readjustment to civilian life more difficult. According to Pew Social Trends, “the survey found that a plurality of all veterans (43%) say that had a ‘very easy’ time adjusting to their post-military lives, and 29% re-entry was ‘somewhat easy.’ But an additional 21% say they had a ‘somewhat difficult’ time, and 6% had major problems integrating back into civilian life.” (http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2011/12/08/the-difficult-transition-from-military-to-civilian-life/) Among the 18 people that were assessed, veterans who have experienced any kind of trauma, whether physical or mental, while serving had more of a risk of having a difficult time adjusting to civilian life. “According to the analysis, having an emotionally distressing experience reduces the chances that a veteran would have a relatively easy re-entry by 26 percentage points compared with a veteran who did not have an emotionally distressing experience. Similarly, suffering a serious injury while serving reduces the probability of an easy re-entry by 19 percentage points.” (http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2011/12/08/the-difficult-transition-from-military-to-civilian-life/) The analysis indicates that having a disturbing experience while serving minimizes the probability that a veteran would have a simpler time readjusting by 26% compared to a veteran who had no such traumatic experience. In addition, if an injury had been inflicted while serving in the military also reduces the likelihood of an easy reentry into the civilian world by 19%. In relation to Pew Social Trends, “Nearly a third (32%) of all veterans say they had a military-related experience while serving that they found to be ‘emotionally traumatic or distressing’—a proportion that increases to 43% among those who served since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. About one-in-ten veterans (10%) suffered a serious injury; of those who served in the post-9/11 era, 16% suffered a serious injury, in part because service members with serious injuries are more likely to survive today than in previous wars, when those with serious injuries died.” (http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2011/12/08/the-difficult-transition-from-military-to-civilian-life/) The study indicates that severe injuries and subjection to traumatic occurings are fairly common in the military. In compliance with Pew Social Trends, “More than half (56%) of all veterans who experienced a traumatic event say they have had flashbacks or repeated distressing memories of the experience, and nearly half (46%) say they have suffered from post-traumatic stress. Predictably, those who suffer from PTS were significantly less likely to say their re-entry was easy than those who did not (34% vs. 82%).” (http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2011/12/08/the-difficult-transition-from-military-to-civilian-life/) The study recognizes that some specific issues that returning service members who were afflicted by service-related trauma, whether physical or emotional. The study’s evidence says that serving in a combat zone lessens the odds that a veteran will have a smoother time adjusting to civilian life. Knowing someone who has been injured or killed in combat diminishes the probability of having an easier adjustment from military to civilian life. There are several organizations that aid in veterans transitioning from military to civilian life. In the post 9/11 period, veterans have more trouble transitioning to the life of being a civilian. The difficulty of transition increases if the veteran had some sort of traumatic experience during their service. Finding a job in civilian employment may be frustrating and stressful for a veteran. There frequently may be a language barrier between actual military experience and what civilian employers see.  Relative to military.vista. Edu, This “language barrier” may result in a person who successfully managed “x” amount of people in the military only to be qualified for an entry-level position in the civilian work world. (http://military.vista.edu/military-veterans/10-organizations-that-help-veterans-transition-to-civilian-life/) There are a plethora of reasons why the return to being a civilian is difficult. Civilians often do not understand what those in the military have experienced or what the job itself requires. This results in a gap of communication and understanding. Some reasons may include returning to family life. After deployment or being discharged from active duty, there is a transition when returning to the family as roles have to be re-developed from one parent being there to now both. Looking for a job is also very difficult and overwhelming, reason being that many a time, veterans have held a job other than the military or never gained any sort of skill to seek a job. Food, clothes, shelter, and other necessities on the hierarchy are provided in the military, as well as agendas for things, such as the time when a meal is served. Having a transition to providing these necessities for oneself as well as not having a set schedule can be troublesome to adjust to. In several civilian job situations, the culture can be utterly competitive, people are looking to help only themselves as opposed to working as a team to help each other. This is much different than the military, teamwork is the foundation of many characteristics. According to military.vista.edu, “There are many veterans support organizations that can help you with the education and career transition, and also the readjustment to civilian life itself.” (http://military.vista.edu/military-veterans/10-organizations-that-help-veterans-transition-to-civilian-life/) There are several organizations that have the mission to assist veterans, one of them being the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA.) IAVA was founded in 2004 when it had been noticed that there was a massive gap between what was actually occuring in Iraq and Afghanistan versus what the public perceived was going on. Nobody acknowledged the people in service, who were wounded, injured, had faced and dealt with on a daily basis. According to military.vista.edu, “The mission of IAVA is to connect veterans to one another and educate them on: mental illness, healthcare, education benefits of the G.I. Bill, and more.” The organization works with elected officials to ensure veterans are not ignored and receive the care and honor that they deserve. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America provides many possibilities and resources for veterans to associate with each other, as well as getting information and resources for education, employment, healthcare, and so on. This helps to assure veterans that they have a support system and what they need to successfully transition to the civilian life. Another organization is the American Legion. It is a very known organization with a mass amount of programs dedicated to promote citizenship for the youth and aiding veterans to accustom into their communities. According to military.vista.edu, “The American Legion provides a community for veterans to volunteer, connect, and generally feel like they have somewhere to belong.” (http://military.vista.edu/military-veterans/10-organizations-that-help-veterans-transition-to-civilian-life/) The organization also provides resources in order to help veterans understand their benefits from the G.I. Bill and what is required and needed in order to pursue a higher education. It offers help with job searches and information about it as well. American Legion has a prominent political presence, and actively keeping Washington D.C. accountable to certain veterans’ benefits. The Legion, in addition, has a very strong fundraising program, raising millions of dollars a year to provide veterans and their families with aid during the most difficult of times and also opportunities for scholarships to continue on an educational path. In conclusion, there is help available for veterans, such as any sort of organization that associates with helping veterans, whether it is adjust to civilian life, physical, medical, or financial, or educational help. They not only aid in the veterans themselves, but also their families. Some veterans have a more difficult time adjusting to civilian life, some do not,  some veterans suffered physical or mental trauma from their time serving in the military, which made their adjustment more difficult, not just for them, but also their families. When a veteran comes back from the military, it may be difficult to adjust to civilian life. In the military, food, clothes, necessities were provided for them, meal times were on a schedule. If a veteran also has a difficult time adjusting, he or she had a specific job in the military, that may have been assigned to him or her, depending on rank and position. It may be difficult for them to find a job, and help is available for them. Through the aid of the government and military organizations, veterans will have a smoother transition.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *