Spouse Series: The Survey Says...
Your spouse’s time in the military is coming to a close. If you’ve been planning things correctly, you may have your next bill-paying job lined up or you at least have a couple of promising leads.
You can now focus on checking items off your ever-growing to-do list:
- Clean out the garage and attic
- Schedule pickup of donations and/or have a yard sale
- Notify the utilities to stop services
- Notify the utilities to start services elsewhere
- Schedule pickup and delivery dates with the movers
- Turn in a change of address card at the post office
- Invest in a new civilian job wardrobe
So much to do. So little time. So much stress.
No worries. You have it all under control. This isn’t your first rodeo, after all. This is, however, your first military-to-civilian career transition. Like it or not, it will be different from past PCS moves on many different levels.
How exactly will it be different? Lucky for us, there’s a survey that gives us all the answers.
What the Survey Says
According to the 2014 Military Spouse Transition Survey conducted by the National Military Family Association (NMFA), the military-to-civilian transition is a stressful one, not just for service members, but also for families in general.
Certainly, that statement isn’t a great revelation in itself. The survey does, however, shed significant light on the specifics that concern soon-to-be-civilian military spouses.
The 427 spouses, who were either about to face a transition or who had experienced one in the past two years, said that these were the issues they were most concerned about:
81% Finding employment for the service member
80% Being financially prepared for transition
74% Understanding VA benefits and services
70% Replacing Tricare
53% Finding employment for self (the spouse)
36% Educational opportunities for the service member
31% Finding behavioral health care
26% Educational opportunities for self (the spouse)
And that’s not all. Almost half the spouses surveyed said they anticipated that they would experience emotional difficulty in the process of transitioning out.
More specifically, they were concerned about losing the military family identity and about fitting into the civilian community.
The survey suggested that more transition-related information is needed for spouses in these areas:
- Financial preparation
- Finding employment
- Health insurance
- Department of Veterans Affairs
Spouses surveyed also reported an interest in peer support, stating that they felt those with a similar background could provide them with the most information.
Finally, spouses noted that it was important to manage expectations during the military-to-civilian transition. Those who had been through the transition reported that they did not have any idea how difficult it would be.
And This Helps You How?
Knowledge, my friend, is power. The abstract concept of getting out will one day become an all-too-concrete reality. It will be to your and your family’s distinct advantage to anticipate these common pitfalls before they become your very own pitfalls.
In other words, ask the questions now. Get the answers now. When that DD-214 is in your spouse’s hand, it’s too late to start the thoughtful, less-stressful process of understanding how things work.
By proactively thinking through these topics, you avoid future information overload and you help to make the transition smoother for everyone in your family.
Maybe the next survey someone conducts on this topic will show that spousal transition stress levels have dramatically decreased.
Now that’s one abstract concept I’d like to see become a concrete reality.
About the Author: Janet Farley is a job search and workplace issues expert and the author of “The Military Spouse’s Guide to Employment: Smart Job Choices for Mobile Lifestyles” (Impact Pubs, 2013) and “Quick Military Transition Guide: Seven Steps to Landing a Civilian Job” (Jist, Inc., 2013).
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