Life after military service is a challenge for many veterans. A successful transition often involves retraining and finding a job, and many veterans are already prepared and well-suited to maritime careers. Many government and private programs support these efforts.
New Legislation – Military to Mariners Act
A new law, if passed, would make it easier for veterans to join the U.S. Merchant Marine (USMM). The USMM is made up of privately-owned merchant ships that are not part of the military, but that run in a similar way with officers and a chain of command.
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The federal government supports the USMM to maintain a fleet of ships and a group of mariners that can be called upon in times of war. The Department of Transportation oversees the USMM, which currently has about 10,000 vessels.
Members of the USMM are certified mariners. The new law would cut out some of the red tape of achieving that certification for military veterans. Working in the Merchant Marine is a great option for many veterans and eases their transition from military to civilian work.
Several maritime academies already host programs that help veterans become merchant marines or mariners. Some programs begin while servicemembers are still on active duty so that they can qualify and complete certifications sooner upon transitioning.
VA Programs to Help Veterans Leaving the Service
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides several services to help veterans become successful in civilian life, from job and skills training to regular check-ins by VA representatives.
Transition Assistance Program
The Transition Assistance Program (TAP) begins one year before servicemembers plan to leave or retire from the military. It includes a one-day VA Benefits and Services course that explains all the benefits veterans can take advantage of upon leaving. Other optional TAP courses include:
- Women’s Health Transition Training
- VA Benefits 101
- VA Education Benefits
- Community Integration Resources
- Mental Health for Families
- Social and Emotional Health Resources
- VA Life Insurance Benefits
- Disability Compensation
- VA Home Loan Guaranty Program
Warrior Training Advancement Course
The Warrior Training Advancement Course (WARTAC) trains servicemembers for positions with the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA). The training begins while they are still on active duty and leads to a position at one of the VBA’s regional offices.
WARTAC trains servicemembers for various veteran service representative positions. It’s a good opportunity to transition to a long-term civilian career.
The Department of Defense works with the VA to help servicemembers develop skills that will lead to civilian careers. SkillBridge includes training, internships, apprenticeships, and employment assistance in partnership with both private and public organizations.
VA Solid Start
The VA Solid Start program is a service that contacts veterans three times in their first year after a transition to civilian life. Veterans receive a call from a trained and qualified representative to ensure their benefits information is up to date and provide resources for medical or mental health care as needed.
Department of Labor Programs for Veterans
The U.S. Department of Labor also offers programs to help veterans make the transition to civilian careers. The Employment Navigator and Partnership Pilot programs provide both veterans and their spouses with one-on-one career and job counseling. Locations are at select Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force bases.
The Off-Base Transition Training program provides career workshops for veterans and their spouses. They include topics like planning for a civilian career, job searching, resume essentials, interviewing, using LinkedIn, employment rights, and more.
Private Industry Support for Veterans
Companies and organizations in the private sector also help to transition servicemembers. The Commit Foundation helps veterans with career transitions. Resources include one-on-one assistance, online workshops, mentoring, and networking.
A veteran who struggled to transition to civilian careers and life created Purepost, a database and job site. The purpose of PurePost is to help veterans match the skills they developed during active service with civilian careers. Resources include networking, online resources, and funding.
Many veterans find that they have gaps in their education and qualifications when it comes to finding a civilian career. Several programs offer tuition assistance:
- VA education benefits include the GI Bill, which helps pay for job training or college tuition. The GI Bill also offers several additional scholarships and funding opportunities. For those who do not qualify for the GI Bill, there are some other options, including the Montgomery GI Bill and the National Call to Service Program.
- The Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education is a Department of Education program that provides funding and grants for veterans to pursue college certifications or degrees.
- Many universities also offer programs, scholarships, and grants for veteran students. Some host programs that help transition veterans into life as a student.
Transitioning from the structured lifestyle of the military to civilian life is always challenging. It’s a big step, and some people struggle with the change more than others. Understanding benefits and taking advantage of resources are important ways to make the shift a little easier.