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Veterans

Armed Forces Veteran Transition And Survival Guide

Be sure to tick these things off your list before your last day in unit

Veteran Survival Guide Picture: BFBS

Here, Julian Perreira, who served with the Grenadier Guards for more than 14 years, gives his advice on leaving the service.

As the saying goes, get all of your admin 'squared away' before you pull the trigger and decide to leave the Armed Forces.

Because once you leave those station/ship/barrack gates, you're on your own. Unless you ask for help. So if you require support, reach out.

You spend years training yourself for the rigours of warfare and the skills required to survive on the battlefield, so why when it comes to transitioning are you not doing the same?

You will need to adequately prepare to give yourself a fighting chance to succeed.

Being in the military gives you many skills that can help you ‘make it’ on civvy street, you just need to ensure you unlock that talent and accept that there will be challenges ahead.

As brutal as it sounds, the world owes you nothing. You decided to spend your time in uniform and you’ve probably done well from it. You owe it to yourself and your family to continue doing well in your next venture.

However, once you have served your time, you owe little to your chain of command but they owe you the time to prepare yourself for what will be a rough ride in transitioning.

So, my advice to anyone in the Chain of Command (CoC) who has subordinates transitioning, please look after them, your decisions could make the difference between them finding a decent job or finding themselves on the streets – that is the reality of poor resettlement.

So, you’ve decided the time has come for you to hang up your beret, belt and boots …

As obvious as it may sound, the sooner you prepare, the more chance you have of making a success when transitioning to 1 UK (Civ Div) – but you’d be surprised how many people leave it until the last few months. In most cases, that is not enough time.

Knowledge is the key to making your transition a success and you need to know what your entitlements are. I am now going to impart information which will help you through what is sure to be a tough journey.

Get yourself booked in with the Career Transition Partnership (CTP) as soon as you can because the sooner you do, the sooner you can unlock all the benefits available to you.

The CTP provides resettlement services for those leaving the Royal Navy, British Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Marines. Regardless of time served, all members of the Armed Forces can benefit from CTP support when leaving Service and afterwards.

For those with families, the Families Federation is a very good place to start because they have a helpful confidential signposting service for information and support.

For British Army personnel, it’s the Army Families Federation, for the Royal Air Force, it’s the RAF Families Federation, and for the Royal Navy, it’s the Naval Families Federation.

EDUCATION

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All illustrations in this article are made by @Ward.Draws Copyright of BFBS

First and foremost, it is never too late to learn and if that means going back to do your GCSE’s or education, then do so.

There are many free NVQ courses available through your local education centre including maths, English and computing skills – use them before you lose them.

Having the correct qualification is not always the only thing that matters when finding a job, but it is a good start.

Do your research and find out what qualifications are required for the job market you wish to work within.

You may not have time to study for a degree, but maybe you can find time to study for a post-graduate diploma. If you have the relevant experience, you do not need to have prior qualifications coming out of your ears.

If the course you want to study is registered with ELCAS, winner. If not, a diploma qualification course which can cost in the region of £5,000, is money well spent. If you do not have the funds, don't hesitate to ask for support, that is what the Royal British Legion and regimental charities are there for and they may be able to help part-fund the course.

Make sure it is an industry-recognised qualification. There is no point in studying a course which is not worth the paper it is written on. Again, speak with someone from your chosen field and ask what qualification they are looking for when employing someone.

Experience matters. You can have all the qualifications you could wish for, but without any prior experience you may be less appealing to hire.

How do you get experience while you’re still serving, I hear you ask? It's easy but you must put in the extra time and work. Ask friends or family to take you on to build experience or if they can direct you to someone who can.

Failing that, email around companies and offer them any free time you have, even if that means using your leave, evenings or weekends.

Emailing around can be very daunting as you may have many rejections but keep at it.

There are many people who landed their first job after being taken on for free or unpaid work experience.

Don’t follow the crowd, do your own thing, do what you’ll love and what you are good at.

Just because your mate went into private security or to go and fight pirates, spending months away at a time again and making lots of money doesn't mean it will work for you or your family. So, really think about what it is you want to do.

MONEY

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Try to get all of your finances in order before you leave.

Start saving the cash because undoubtedly, you’ll run out of cash at some point during your transition.

Having some spare funds will give you a bit of breathing space, so that you are not under pressure if you don’t land a job immediately upon leaving.

Don’t be afraid to walk into your local Job Centre and claim Universal Credit/Job Seekers allowance if you need to. You’ve been paying tax and National Insurance for years so claim what you’re entitled to. I had to do it for a short period of time, to cover the cost of living before I found my first job after leaving.

Most Job Centres have a dedicated 'Armed Forces Champion' - someone who can give you tailored advice and support, so ensure you ask to speak with them.

To find out more about your pension, contact Veterans UK, which is an MoD department with all the up-to-date knowledge. Forces Pension Society is another good place to start. They have a subscription fee but will give you independent advice about your pension.

Career Transition Partnership (CTP) run free Financial Aspects of Resettlement (FAR) briefings for serving personnel and their spouses.

FINDING A JOB

It is going to be a bumpy road, so keep your dogged determination in everything you do.

Know your worth and don’t let anybody tell you your military experience counts for nothing, they’re talking s**t. Your years of experience in leadership and management, self-discipline, punctuality and selfless commitment, are all things sometimes lacking in the civilian world and you will most likely have them in abundance.

Be prepared to negotiate your salary. In the military, your wages are set by time served and rank, in the civilian world this is not always the case and is based on experience and skill set.

This will most likely be the first time you have had to negotiate your salary so do not be taken advantage of. Your salary can include certain benefits such as free private healthcare, travel expenses, and bonuses so do your research before the interview and know what is on offer before accepting a salary.

Before applying for a job, check out your social media pages, as a silly tweet or Facebook post from five years ago may prevent you from being chosen for the job. Be under no illusions, your potential employers will be checking you out online.

Attend job fairs, sign up to LinkedIn, and other job searching or networking websites. They are a great way to meet the right people who can point you in the right direction.

Have a killer C.V. and make sure you check it for errors, then check again, then get your careers advisor to check it, then get someone in that industry to check it. Don’t just add in cliché statements but, if you do, make sure you back it up and explain using real examples.

Speak to someone who has already made a successful transition themselves, especially if they are working in your chosen sector.

FINDING A PLACE TO CALL HOME

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The more flexible you are on potential job locations, the more chances you will have on finding a job so try not limit yourself to one area to live.

Struggling with paying the mortgage or paying rent while you study and transition?

Why not move back in with relatives? It may seem like a bit of a backwards step. But, that is what I had to do, I moved back in with family for six months and rented my property to cover the cost of the mortgage.

You could also look to take in a lodger, as this allows you to earn up to £7,500 a year tax-free before you have to declare them as earnings.

When you have finished your studies and get back into full-time work, move back into your home.

Those struggling to find a place to live can get help through the Joint Service Housing Advice Office (JSHAO).

They will help you find a civilian home to move into before you hand over your married quarter. 

If you are ‘single living in’ and require a home once you leave the block, you can get help from the Single Persons Accommodation Centre for the Ex-Services (SPACES).

SPACES help personnel find housing throughout the United Kingdom.

YOUR HEALTH

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The chances are, multiple operational tours and arduous courses have taken a toll on your body. Knees that now creak and a bad back, or you might be suffering from tinnitus and/or hearing loss.

I urge you to go speak with Veterans Hearing UK. There are long delays in receiving hearing aids but what have you got to lose? It was the best thing I did.

Stop putting it off and go to see you doctor. Now is the time to start looking after your health and well-being.

Before you leave, make sure you get your medical records release form from your Medical Officer. This is so, when you have found a suitable GP surgery in your local area and have been signed up as a patient, they can request your medical documents.

You will need to do the same in finding a dentist - just remember, you will now have to pay to keep your gnashers looking nice and shiny, so look after them.

When you sign up to your local GP surgery, ensure you are correctly flagged/marked as a ‘veteran’. This will mean any injuries or illnesses sustained during service will be correctly catered for and enable you to access dedicated services for those who have served in the UK Armed Forces.

These include services for mental health and physical health conditions.

A study found that more than 300,000 ex-service personnel are living with hearing loss within the UK.

The government has put aside £10 million to fund Veterans Hearing UK who provide free hearing aids and treatment to veterans with hearing loss or tinnitus.

Now is probably a good time to stop paying the ridiculously high injury and life insurance premiums, switch to a cheaper civilian plan. 

HOW TO BE A 'CIVVY'

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A lot of people who leave the military will cut all ties to their former past to help with the adjustment but some may join the Reserves.

Joining the Reserves may help give you that same belonging feeling. But remember, it's another commitment which will add to your already busy schedule if you plan on moving into full-time work.

Find your own time to do PT, you will be very lucky to find another career which will allow you to do PT in work hours (maybe your lunch break) so find time after work to get in at least 30 minutes of PT.

Most importantly, don’t stop doing the things you love, keep yourself fit and healthy by working out. Hoorah, you can now decide what meals you want to eat each day.

Unpack your grip bag. This may sound silly but because you have been so used to living from kit bags and MFO boxes it's important to unpack properly and get settled into a routine in your new home.

Civvies don’t operate on ‘five minutes before the five minutes’ before meetings or briefings. Some may not even turn up on time or at all but don’t let that p**s you off or ruin your day.

Get used to it, you are now the minority and unfortunately some things are not the same out here on civvy street … do what they do.

Your language is key, just be mindful that in some environments the colourful language the British military is renowned for can be very offensive to some. That doesn’t mean, do not be yourself.

Make new friends, you really will need to if you want that similar camaraderie you had while serving.

Your military buddies will seldom have the same leave time as you, so you cannot rely on them to be around all the time.

The best way you can start new friendships is to join a local club or gym. Many CrossFit gyms have a veteran community, so that may be an option for you.

You’ll be keen to impress in your new job but remember to take some time out. It's unlikely that someone will tell you when and where to take your leave.

Be in control of your own life and make sure you take a day off when you need it.

You will not always be told to do things so just crack on with the task at hand and be prepared to learn … a lot. Even if it may be from someone much younger than you, they may have years more experience than you have. Have the humility and understand you may have to start right from the bottom again.

Challenge the stereotypes about veterans, which seem to suggest all veterans are broken or suffer poor mental health or can’t hold down a stable job. Because there are hundreds and thousands that can, and do so.

Daily life can and will be challenging at times. Combine these small things with the fear and anxiety about the future after you have left the forces and things can get very overwhelming.

You will have just turned your whole world upside down and things will take time to settle down, until you’ve relaxed into your new way of life.

If you are struggling and things get too much, you really need to put your hand up and seek support as there is plenty out there, but it can be a bit of minefield trying to find what works for you.

There is a misconception that you must have a serious physical injury from an operational tour or that you have to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for you to be eligible to ask for support/charity. This is incorrect, so please, TALK.

Feel free to connect with me via Twitter, @PerreiraJulian for any help or questions that you may have regarding your transition.

Here is a link to the MOD's official Service Leavers Guide

This article is part of 'Life After Service' - a week-long campaign of positive stories about ex-servicemen and women which will be running every day across all the BFBS media channels.