What Are the Biggest Challenges Facing Young Veterans Today?

Military and Veterans, Military Transition

After leaving the military, veterans often face challenges reintegrating into civilian society.

While more than half of U.S. veterans feel that they weren’t well prepared for the transition, younger veterans report the transition was very difficult.

Challenges Facing Younger Veterans Today

Financial Stress

Veterans who joined the military right after high school have never had to create and stick to a tight budget, as most expenses are taken care of by the military.

You either lived on-base and had your housing and utilities taken care of or if you lived off-base, you had a  Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), which  typically covers the entire cost of rent and utilities. So when you’re suddenly dropped in the real world and realize what you have to pay for rent and utilities out of pocket, it can be overwhelming.

You might even be a little surprised when you realize that your work clothes will no longer be paid for. The military pays for your uniform, but civilian employers will not cover the cost of work-appropriate clothing.

When the military has always covered the majority of your expenses, you’re used to having extra money that you can spend on whatever you want. For many veterans who are entering civilian society as an adult for the first time, creating a set budget and putting a certain amount (typically 20%) of each paycheck away in savings is a new experience.

If you’re in the process of transitioning, it’s also important to keep in mind that, when you take benefits into account, you may not be earning as much money in a civilian job as you did in the military. Military income also includes health insurance, housing, and more, meaning that although a civilian job might technically pay more, you may have to set aside more money to cover these costs. If you’re not sure if your intended job or career will pay enough to keep your quality of life about the same, you can figure it out with the Regular Military Compensation Calculator (RMC).

Health Care

Health care is another great benefit offered by the military. You can leave knowing that you can get affordable health care through the VA. However, VA services can sometimes be difficult to access, because of tedious paperwork and other bureaucratic processes, as well as the long wait times, so you may want to consider other options.

Related: Long wait at the VA? Get mental health help faster.

Difficulties Starting a Career

Getting jobs after you leave the military can be notoriously difficult. Maybe you don’t have the type or amount of experience they’re looking for. Or maybe you’ve made the smart decision to get ahead of the game by looking for jobs ahead of your separation date. But you might encounter a common problem with this strategy – you’re looking for a job for six months in the future, but they need someone now.

Related: Employment Opportunities for Virginia Veterans

You’ve Never Lived on Your Own Before

You may have  never lived on your own. Figuring out how to do your own cooking and cleaning, renting your first apartment, and setting up your utilities can be a lot to handle. You’ll have to go through multiple companies to get services like electricity, water, cable and internet started. You’ll have to pay startup fees for all these services and if you don’t have much in the name of credit, you’ll likely have to also pay deposits. For a young veteran who’s spent all of adulthood in the military, keeping up with all your different bills and their respective due dates can be a lot to handle. 

Living on your own for the first time isn’t only about setting up home services. You’ll also be getting your VA benefits or private health insurance started and choosing a doctor, dentist, and other providers for the first time. If the only health care you’ve ever known is military health care, you might not even know where to start.

Feeling Out of Place at School

Going to college is an exciting experience and using your GI Bill benefits to pay for it can really help you focus less on finances and more on school. Just keep in mind that you might feel out of place among all the 18-year-old freshmen on campus. They’re younger and probably have just left home for the first time. Your life experiences are totally different and you might feel like you can’t connect with your classmates.

Struggling With the Sudden Loss of Structure in Your Life

Military life offers a lot of structure. Even if you weren’t crazy about it going in, you’ll definitely be used to it by the time you depart. Leaving the military structure behind can make it difficult for you to motivate yourself to achieve your goals. It can also mean feeling a lack of purpose.

Little to No Experience of the Outside World

You also might have trouble  functioning in the civilian world or figuring out how to bond meaningfully with civilians. If you’re struggling with connecting with others or finding a purpose in your civilian life, consider reaching out for help via therapy or a peer support group

Related: 5 Tips for a Smooth Transition Into Civilian Life

Support for Military Transition in Region Five

If you’re struggling with the military-to-civilian transition, we can help. Our Service Member, Veterans and Family Members (SMVF) Program offers support and resources for veterans, including:

  • Transition support
  • Access to a vocational specialist
  • Job coaching
  • Peer support
  • Mental health support
  • Case management
  • Job training

Need a little support transitioning?

Get started now.

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