Partnerships Needed to Support the Military-to-Civilian Transition

Nick ArmstrongOn Saturday, March 6th, The Hill featured IVMF’s Managing Director of Research and Data, Nicholas Armstrong, to discuss the difficulties of veterans transitioning to civilian life. You can read the opening below or the full opinion here.

“Military homecomings are often portrayed as picture-perfect when for many they can be harder than being away. The joy of reuniting fades, routines are disrupted and real-life sets back in not long after the “Welcome Home” ceremony is over.

The eventual transition from military to civilian life can be especially difficult given that, in an instant, you’re uprooting family yet again — but this time — you (and often your spouse) are joining a new, unfamiliar community, seeking a new identity and managing a (typically dual) career pivot all at once.

Today, these difficulties are compounded by the effects of COVID-19 on our economy. The pandemic has displaced millions of workers and quickened the pace of automation. New research suggests that in the face of these changes 40 percent of workers will need reskilling. In light of these challenges, it is more evident than ever that the government cannot support the military-to-civilian transition alone. The private, social and public sectors must come together in partnership to support this process.

To prepare for their transition, every service member must participate in the Transition Assistance Program (TAP). TAP is a series of classes intended to educate service members on their Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits, how to find a job or obtain resources to start a small business. It’s a week-long crash course of post-service life skills during one of the most dizzying moments of a veteran’s life.

Indeed, TAP has come a long way from its inception. Congress and many federal agencies have made a number of key reforms that enhance its overall effectiveness.

Yet, we need to consider this fact: even a perfectly designed and implemented TAP will still be insufficient to fully support a successful military-to-civilian transition.

Nonetheless, almost all of the policy discussions around supporting transition are centered on improving TAP. This is necessary work, but it can’t be our only focus. Truly supporting transition requires a comprehensive set of policies that support service members well after they’ve separated from service.

How can we do this?”

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