Many Veterans transition back to civilian life with few, if any, problems. Others may find the change difficult and may even get into legal trouble related to a variety of issues including anger or drug and alcohol use. For the Veterans in this video, these experiences provided an opportunity to improve. VA support was part of the solution.
Whether disagreeing with your family about household finances, facing foreclosure or bankruptcy, or being sued or arrested, money issues and legal problems can be very stressful for Veterans to deal with.
Some Veterans may have money problems because they are out of work, perhaps due to medical issues, lack of job openings, or not knowing how to present their military job skills in the civilian world. Other Veterans may have large debts as a result of not budgeting properly, or from unplanned expenses such as hospital stays or other emergencies. Relationship disputes or arrests for illegal activities can also lead to legal and financial problems.
“It just didn’t make sense to me that the entire time I was serving overseas, I was also falling deeper and deeper into debt. I was in denial for way too long and it wasn’t until I addressed my financial issues the same way I would an operation in the military that I got things turned in the right direction.”
Financial and legal problems can go hand in hand. Although ineffective, some people turn to illegal activities as a way to try and solve their money problems. People who are in trouble with the law or involved in a lawsuit may have difficulty paying their legal expenses.
If you are having financial or legal problems, you may feel embarrassed and wonder what other people will think. Perhaps you have kept the problems to yourself and made hasty decisions in order to cover up what you’re going through. You may feel as if you don’t know what to do or where to turn for help. No matter the reason for your legal or money problems, you should reach out for support.
What financial or legal-related issues should I keep an eye out for?
Sometimes even the most responsible person can run into financial or legal problems. If you are dealing with money issues, your first impulse may be to borrow more money. However, the additional debt and terms of the new loan can quickly put extra strain on your finances and may lead to even more serious financial trouble.
Some Veterans are dealing with physical or emotional issues that may be related to financial or legal problems. You may lose sleep or feel severe stress because of the money or legal issues you are facing. Alternatively, your physical or emotional issues may be contributing to your financial or legal problems. For example, some people may gamble, spend money, or buy things because they think it will make them forget their other issues, but later they regret these actions.
What can I do about financial and legal issues?
There are steps you can take to help improve and better cope with your financial or legal situations. Try to remember to:
Develop a budget for your expenses
Avoid quick fixes to debt like short-term loans or maxing out your credit cards
Be cautious of scams that may sound “too good to be true”
Let trusted people or reputable organizations help you avoid financial or legal trouble
Avoid drinking too much alcohol, especially when making financial decisions
Take medications only as directed by your doctor and do not use illegal drugs
Be open to changing your behavior and habits
It’s important to be aware of the resources available to you in order to overcome your financial or legal problems. As a Veteran, information about legal services and financial guidance are available to you from reliable sources such as VA, Vet Centers, and accredited Veterans Service Organizations. In some states, there are special courts available for Veterans with mental health needs, including those related to substance use. You may want to see if your community operates a Veterans Treatment Court if you are facing criminal charges.
Take the next step – Make the connection.
Every day, Veterans connect with resources, services, and support that effectively address the issues impacting their lives. If financial or legal issues are interfering with your health and well-being or getting in the way of your relationships or daily activities, you may want to reach out for support. Consider connecting with:
Your family doctor: Ask if your doctor has experience treating Veterans or can refer you to someone who does
A mental health professional, such as a therapist or counselor
Your local VA Medical Center or Vet Center: VA specializes in the care and treatment of Veterans
A spiritual or religious advisor
Explore these resources for helping Veterans address legal and financial issues.
Learn more about the possible associations between financial and legal issues and other concerns such as alcohol or drug problems, gambling, homelessness, and posttraumatic stress.
VA Loan Program
This website provides information on the VA Loan Program that offers trustworthy loans to qualified Veterans, and the VA Regional Loan Centers, which have technicians available to conduct financial counseling to Veterans in serious financial trouble.
If you are a combat Veteran or experienced any sexual trauma during your military service, bring your DD214 to your local Vet Center and speak with a counselor or therapist—many of whom are Veterans themselves—for free, without an appointment, and regardless of your enrollment status with VA.
VA Medical Center Facility Locator
Some legal problems might be signs of health conditions that need attention. This link will allow you to search for VA programs located near you. If you are eligible to receive care through the Veterans Health Administration, you can enroll in one of VA’s mental health treatment programs.
Moving Forward: Overcoming Life’s Challenges
Moving Forward is a free, on-line educational and life coaching program that teaches Problem Solving skills to help you better handle life’s challenges. It is designed to be especially helpful for Veterans, Military Service Members and their families. However, Moving Forward teaches skills that can be useful to anyone with stressful problems.