Transitioning from Military to Civilian Life


The military is one of the most vulnerable populations in relation to physical and mental health and social work. People who have participated in a war killed someone or became injured due to others’ actions take much time to recover. Sometimes, the hardships experienced during one’s military service cannot be overcome, and they remain with a person for the rest of life, making it impossible to adapt to post-service society.

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The topic of the present research is the social adaptation of former members of the military to civilian life. This theme is highly significant since many of the veterans cannot find their place in the new environment that does not involve aspects of their past professional lives. Usually, former military officers find it difficult to communicate with people due to a lack of understanding. Additionally, veterans may feel uncomfortable in new settings and isolated due to the lack of their comrades. Having lived in the harshest conditions, these people may find it challenging to live in a comfortable house and not be alert all of the time.

The focus of the review is the analysis of scholarly literature dedicated to the problems of the former military. Thus, there is an intention to describe the life of veterans as a social issue on the basis of research articles. The purpose of the review is related to the fact that an opportunity to serve is provided either to US citizens or permanent residents who have already received a resident status before joining. The period for which a contract is signed ranges from two to six years (Leal & Teigen, 2018).

This makes it possible to maintain a sufficient number of military service members and involve immigrants in helping the USA while also benefiting themselves. As of 2019, about 1,282,000 troops are engaged in the US military (“Total available,” 2019). Of this number, 3% (approximately 40,000) are men and women born outside of the USA (“Total available,” 2019).

The target population for this study is composed of former service members in the category of first-generation Latinos whose exact number is unknown and who took the decision of remaining in the US after serving in the US military. The review incorporates a statement of the social problem and its scope. Further, the significance of the researched problem is analyzed in connection with social work. The conclusion of the review offers a brief summary of what has been found on the selected topic.

Statement of the Social Problem

Social adaptation of former members of the military to civilian life is a unique and significant area of inquiry. When considering the cases of former military and their subsequent retirement, Terziev (2018a) notes that they are in difficult conditions. Specifically, individuals may feel uncomfortable due to reasons such as having “information deficit, a level of hostility, and the inability to get used to a new environment” (Terziev, 2018a, p. 620).

There is a variety of factors that can be affected by the transition process, including social status, living conditions, new aims in life, further occupational development, and others (Terziev, 2018b). A rather crucial thing in this list is one’s social circle and the need to adapt to its new dimension. Terziev (2018b) emphasizes that all of the alterations faced by the former military are embedded in the personality and psychological changes of each individual and are different for each person.

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Pease, Billera, and Gerard (2015) focus on the transition to civilian life in general and point out that this process is fraught with challenges in interacting both with other people and with loved ones. A long absence and the need to adapt to new living conditions create a barrier that is difficult to overcome without appropriate support (Pease et al., 2015). As a result, a person becomes tired psychologically and experiences frequent stress and anxiety, conditions that are detrimental to mental health. Hachey, Sudom, Sweet, MacLean, and VanTil (2016) emphasize the importance of social support provided to former military personnel. In their opinion, a soldier who has certain mental and physical health problems feels frightened when caught in an unusual environment (Hachey et al., 2016).

In the case of first-generation Latino immigrants who have served in the USA armed forces and remained in this country after separation, the situation seems to consist of many interconnecting parts. The latter include communication challenges, estrangement from family members, and some others. Blackburn (2016) argues that the transition to civilian life among the military and social adaptation may be difficult due to the lack of supporting resources and motivation, as well as the attitudes and behavior of the individual. In other words, the passiveness of the authorities regarding the issue of assistance to the target population can affect the lives of former members as well as the individual’s actions.

Hence, it is necessary to identify the lived experiences of former first-generation Latinos who decided to remain in the USA after transitioning from service. One of the aspects to be observed during the study is identifying the blocks and/or barriers which this population might have experienced. A viable perspective would be to establish whether sufficient resources are provided and if so, whether the service members are taking the necessary steps to utilize these services.

One of the key terms of the current study is acculturation, which is used to focus on the problem of social interaction of former military personnel with the civilian population. According to Kelly (2016), acculturation is the phenomenon that involves a change in worldview when finding oneself in a new social environment. Wong (2017) reports that in relation to former Latino military service members, the process of acculturation is highly significant.

Thus, the present study is confirmed by relevant findings from scholarly literature, which indicates the need for further research on the topic. The research theme has the potential to contribute to the conversation on transitioned first-generation Latino military service members who remained in the USA. The ultimate goal is to identify this population’s perceptions through their experience.

Significance of the Problem

The selected topic of investigation is closely associated with social work since this occupation’s representatives are the ones who have the potential to help the former military to adapt to the new environment. Terziev and Dimitrova (2014) note that social work can be viewed in three major dimensions: as a branch of knowledge, as an object of study, and in the interaction with people and society. The third dimension is the most relevant to the purpose of the current study. The problem of the former servicemen’s adaptation to civilian life falls into the scope of social workers’ duties. Specific features of social work with the retired military involve transparency, equal distribution of services, and respect toward the transitioned servicemen (Terziev & Dimitrova, 2014).

The role of social workers in the process of former military people’s adaptation is emphasized by Carrola and Corbin-Burdick (2015). Scholars note that social workers’ most crucial duty is to view the situation of each veteran as a whole rather than singling out only psychological problems. Carrola and Corbin-Burdick (2015) argue that holistic interventions should be designed when working with the former military. The authors emphasize that if social workers do not pay due attention to every individual veteran, they risk stigmatizing all veterans as a group unintentionally.

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When conducting social work with former servicemen, specialists need to arrange a complex cultural transition for better accommodation in the new environment. Since the “rules” of military and civilian settings are different, social workers have to pay due consideration to each veteran’s adaptation plan (Cooper, Caddick, Godier, Cooper, & Fossey, 2018, p. 156). Additionally, as Hachey et al. (2016) note, social workers need to make sure that veterans receive proper social support from family and friends, as well as cultivate the sense of community belonging in the transitioned servicemen.


The review of literature is an effective way of investigating the prospective research question and crystallizing it. The conducted literature review allows making some crucial conclusions in regard to the research topic. Most importantly, the analysis of scholarly studies made it possible to identify the most significant aspects of the problem, as well as some gaps in the existing literature. Specifically, researchers investigate the problem of former service people’s adaptation and discuss the premises of social work with such individuals. However, there is not much discussion of the first-generation Latino military who experience transitioning.

This aspect enables narrowing down the research question to the analysis of the defined population group’s lived experience associated with the decision to remain in the USA after transitioning. Thus, it is viable to say that the reviewed scholarly studies have enriched the knowledge on the topic and promoted further understanding of the research question and goals.


Blackburn, D. (2016). Transitioning from military to civilian life: Examining the final step in a military career. Canadian Military Journal, 16(4), 53-61.

Carrola, P., & Corbin-Burdick, M. F. (2015). Counseling military veterans: Advocating for culturally competent and holistic interventions. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 37(1), 1-14.

Cooper, L., Caddick, N., Godier, L., Cooper, A., & Fossey, M. (2018). The transition from the military into civilian life: An exploration of cultural competence. Armed Forces & Society, 44(1), 156-177.

Hachey, K. K., Sudom, K., Sweet, J., MacLean, M. B., & VanTil, L. D. (2016). Transitioning from military to civilian life: The role of mastery and social support. Journal of Military, Veteran and Family Health, 2(1), 9-18.

Kelly, D. R. (2016). Applying acculturation theory and power elite theory on a social problem: Political underrepresentation of the Hispanic population in Texas. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 38(2), 155-165.

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Leal, D. L., & Teigen, J. M. (2018). Military service and political participation in the United States: Institutional experience and the vote. Electoral Studies, 53, 99-110.

Pease, J. L., Billera, M., & Gerard, G. (2015). Military culture and the transition to civilian life: Suicide risk and other considerations. Social Work, 61(1), 83-86.

Terziev, V. (2018a). Building a model of social and psychological adaptation. IJASOS – International E-Journal of Advances in Social Sciences, 4(12), 619-627.

Terziev, V. (2018b). Possible aspects of occupational and psychological adaptation of the military, discharged from military service and their families to a new activity life cycle. International E-Journal of Advances in Social Sciences, 4(12), 786-794.

Terziev, V., & Dimitrova, S. (2014). Social adaptation as a social process in the adaptation of military personnel. EBES 2014 Anthology, 28-44.

Total available active military manpower by country. (2019). Web.

Wong, M. J. (2017). Culture-bound syndromes: Racial/ethnic differences in the experience and expression of ataques de nervios. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Transitioning from Military to Civilian Life'. 5 July.

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