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Jobs and Employment

Veterans' Voices on Jobs and Employment

Work-related problems may signal other issues

Some work-related problems may be signs of other challenges that need to be addressed. Hear from Veterans who talk about working extremely long hours or having conflicts on the job. Others discuss losing their jobs or being unable to find good work. They all took advantage of VA resources to find solutions to work problems and get back on track.

It can be a challenging time in your life if things aren’t going well at work, or if you’re having trouble finding a good job. Work-related problems affect many parts of your life, so it’s important to find effective ways to cope with concerns related to jobs and employment.

What work-related issues should I keep an eye out for?

Most people experience stress and frustration in their jobs, which is normal in the workplace from time to time. But when stress or frustration are disruptive enough to interfere with your productivity or create other work issues, your physical, mental, and emotional health can be affected. Job stress can put you on edge, keep you up at night, and make life at home difficult for you and your family.

“Some of the stuff that happens in my civilian job would never fly in the military and a lot of times, it really makes my blood boil.”

As a Veteran of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, or Coast Guard, a National Guard member, or a Reservist, you bring unique skills to the workplace, but you may also face unique challenges when it comes to doing your job or finding employment. You may find that some of the skills that were effective, even essential, for life in the military do not work as well in the civilian workplace. Perhaps you no longer feel challenged the way you once were, or maybe you see ways your co-workers could do things more efficiently. Reintegration to life and work at home can be tough, especially if you’re dealing with bosses or colleagues who seem insensitive to or unfamiliar with your situation.

If you are a Veteran transitioning from military to civilian work, you may:

  • Miss the teamwork or unit cohesion you felt during your military service
  • Feel like co-workers or supervisors don’t understand or appreciate your experiences
  • Find it difficult to adjust to new rules and structure—or lack thereof—in your new job
  • Consider your work in a civilian job as pointless or trivial
  • Feel on-edge or easily distracted
  • Feel frustrated when co-workers or supervisors are inefficient or ineffective

“I was having trouble remembering my assignments, and then I’d get criticized for dropping the ball.”

Even if you’ve been out of the military for some time, your work situation might be a source of stress in your life. Perhaps you are irritable on the job and get into conflicts with your boss or co-workers. You might have trouble concentrating and completing assignments. Maybe you’ve been passed over for a promotion, and you feel frustrated or stuck in your current position. You may feel pressure from the demands of your job and its impact on your financial situation and your life outside of work.

What can I do about my work-related issues?

You don’t need to make a huge change to improve your situation at work. Instead, focus on the smaller, more manageable things you can control. For example, to cope with work-related anger, conflict, or stress, try:

  • Taking breaks when needed and going for a walk or taking deep breaths
  • Focusing on tasks one at a time instead of worrying about your entire workload
  • Thinking positively, looking for ways you can solve the problem
  • Sharing your thoughts calmly with a trusted supervisor or co-worker
  • Exercising regularly
  • Centering your mind once a day, such as through meditation or prayer
  • Taking care of your body by getting enough sleep and eating healthy meals regularly

“I had heard about someone in accounting who also is a Vet. I didn’t know him but as soon as we got to talking, I realized that we shared many of the same frustrations and he had good advice on how to cope.”

If your work issues don’t improve or seem to get worse, you may want to reach out for support. Your co-workers, close friends, or family may be the first to notice how your concerns about work are interfering with your life. You might try talking to a colleague or someone in your company’s human resources department. If you are in the National Guard or a Reserve unit, your commanding officer may have experience advising others in similar situations.

There are people who care about you, so turn to them for help in finding solutions to your work-related concerns. Sharing what you’re experiencing can be helpful and may lead you to services that address the issues you’re dealing with.

Take the next step – Make the connection.

There may be underlying issues contributing to your problems at work. Learn more about the possible associations between work-related issues and other concerns, such as feeling on edge, relationship problems, difficulty sleeping, alcohol or drug problems, posttraumatic stress, and depression.

Every day, Veterans connect with resources, services, and support that effectively address the issues impacting their lives. If issues at work are interfering with your health and well-being or getting in the way of your ability to do your job, your relationships, or other 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
  • Your local VA Medical Center or Vet Center: VA specializes in the care and treatment of Veterans
  • A spiritual or religious advisor
  • Vocational rehabilitation services through your local VA or the Veterans Benefits Administration

Sometimes problems at work can feel completely overwhelming—especially if you’ve been laid off, can’t find full-time employment, or can’t keep a job. If your work situation is leading to a bigger crisis in your life, there is free, confidential support available for you. If you’re in crisis and need to talk to someone, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1. You can also use the Veterans Crisis Line online chat, or send a text to the Veterans Crisis Line at 838255. The Veterans Crisis Line offers free, confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Explore these resources for helping Veterans address work-related issues.

Vet Center
If you are a combat Veteran or if you 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.

Moving Forward: Overcoming Life’s Challenges
Moving Forward is a free, online educational and life-coaching program that teaches problem-solving skills to help you better handle life’s challenges. While it’s designed to be especially helpful for Veterans, Service members, and their families, Moving Forward teaches skills that can be useful to anyone with stressful problems.
Take an online workshop with interactive exercises to help you evaluate how you handle work adjustment issues, and hear from other Veterans and Service members dealing with similar situations.
This resource offers tools and tips for any Veteran looking for work. Veterans with a VA service-connected disability rating of 10 percent or more may be eligible for vocational rehabilitation and employment services.

You can also explore these other federal programs promoting jobs for military Veterans:

VA Medical Center Facility Locator
Problems at work might be signs of health-related 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.

Listen: Browse the video gallery to find stories most relevant to you. Locate: Find resources near you that can help get your life back on track.