As we settle into 2024, it’s important to think realistically about anticipated life events on the horizon. For many women service members, that might mean transitioning from the military. This is a pivotal moment! Planning early for this transition is not just advisable; it’s a strategic imperative. And, it can make the difference between a smooth transition and a challenging one. For transitioning Women Service Members, this is your ultimate transition guide.
The Importance of Early Planning
The transition from military service to civilian life is a multifaceted process that demands careful consideration. Planning early will help you avoid common pitfalls and ensure a smoother entry into the civilian world.
This guide aims to shed light on what’s at stake, the challenges that good planning can prevent, and a five-step approach to empower you in your transition.
What’s at Stake
As you may already know, women often face more serious or more difficult transition challenges than their male counterparts. This is true at all stages of transition. You can read more about those challenges here, but suffice it to say employment gaps, homelessness, and loss of identity are among the top challenges.
Without a solid plan, the prospect of facing these challenges increases. Consider the ways that advanced planning for your transition from the military will help you avoid these challenges.
Without a strategic approach, the transition from military service to civilian employment can lead to significant gaps. Studies show that Women Veterans experience higher rates of underemployment and lower salaries. Plus, it takes Women Veterans an average of three months longer to secure civilian employment.
Early planning ensures a smoother shift and increased career satisfaction.
Employment struggles often lead to financial insecurity, which can impact Women Veterans’ transition experience in an even more serious way. For example, Women Veterans experience higher rates of homelessness than male Veterans, and they are the fastest-growing subgroup of homeless Veterans. Plus, Women Veterans experience higher rates of food insecurity, which is often associated with Military Sexual Trauma or depression, both of which are more prevalent in the Women Veterans population.
But, before they transition to civilian life, Women Veterans can take action to plan ahead, which can help alleviate financial stressors, budget realistically, and utilize resources available.
The military community provides a unique sense of camaraderie. When women leave the military, they often cite a loss of identity, as they’re no longer surrounded by people who share their experiences. Plus, by and large, Women Veterans don’t feel like the general public recognizes them for their role in service.
That’s why forming connections ahead of time can help. Numerous organizations, clubs, and programs are available for Women Veterans. Many of them are rooted in community-building and sisterhood – WVIF is one of them. Connecting with these organizations in advance will ensure that you have a smooth transition from one community to another.
5 Steps to Plan for a Successful Transition
So, with that in mind, what do you do now? Follow these 5 steps to make sure you have a network and supportive resources in place before you officially transition from the military.
1. Transition Assistance Programs
Take advantage of transition assistance programs available to you. And, explore different types of transition assistance. You’ll find that organizations as well as VA offer transition support in healthcare, workforce development and mindset.
- TAP: VA’s Transition Assistance Program, or TAP, offers essential resources and guidance for service members and families transitioning to civilian life.
- VA’s Women’s Health Transition Training: This program focuses on the unique health and wellness needs of Women Veterans during and after their military service. And, it familiarizes you with the services and care available at VA.
- Women Veterans Transition Space and Beyond the Transition: WVIF offers periodic transition programs to support Women Veterans’ professional development and empower them in their approach to civilian life.
2. Professional Networks
Connecting with career-focused groups or workforce communities will expand your professional network. This can help you make connections for future jobs, help you prepare for interviews or negotiations, and engage you with invaluable mentorship experiences.
- LinkedIn Networking: Find industry-based networks in your location, and sign up for an event or meet-up. Online groups here can also be a valuable network!
- National Women Veterans Leadership and Diversity Conference: Every year, WVIF holds this conference over Veterans’ Day weekend. It’s become the premiere event for Women Veterans, as it connects them to industry leaders, guides them through career issues, and engages them in multiple networking opportunities.
3. Community of Shared Experiences
Find a sense of belonging in communities who share your experiences and understand how your role as service member impacted your life. Feel seen, heard, and valued when you’re surrounded by Veterans like you!
- Volunteer: If there’s one thing we know about Veterans, it’s that they don’t stop serving once they hang up their uniforms. Engage with a local veterans-focused volunteer organization or charity. Sign up for an event to join with other Women Veterans and service-minded individuals to continue making the world a better place!
- Pink & White Empowerment Summit: WVIF’s annual Pink & White Empowerment Summit is an excellent way to engage with a community of sisters who share your experience.
4. Financial Planning
Financial planning ensures a stable foundation, preventing unexpected debts, housing challenges, and budgetary constraints. Financial planning involves creating budgets, understanding benefits, considering housing options, and leveraging resources through the VA.
- VA Financial Literacy Support: VA offers financial planning assistance to all Veterans. Budget calculators, mortgage education, homelessness prevention programs, and financial counselors can help you make sound financial plans for your future.
5. VA Benefits:
Early enrollment in VA ensures seamless access to healthcare, preventing critical gaps in medical support. By understanding and utilizing available benefits in advance, you’ll prioritize your health and wellness during the transition from military service to civilian life. Early engagement with VA resources is a strategic step toward a healthier post-military journey.
- Learn and Apply: Learn about your VA benefits — the benefits you earned and deserve! Then, familiarize yourself with the application process to enroll in VA. Applications can be done easily online, taking only about 30 minutes from start to finish.
- Women Veterans’ Call Center: Call or chat online with representatives at the Women Veterans Call Center. It’s free, confidential, and tailored to support Women Veterans’ unique needs. Get help navigating VA, finding the right form of care, and connecting with the Women Veterans Program Manager at your local VA medical center.
Get Involved with WVIF
If transitioning from the military is on the horizon this year, the Women Veterans Interactive Foundation stands ready to support you. In fact, we’re here for you no matter what stage of your transition you’re in.
Join our community of Women Veterans, access resources, and engage with a network dedicated to empowering women in their post-military lives.