Mandatory Career Change: Transition Experiences of Canadian Armed Forces Veterans
For all serving military personnel, transition to civilian life is inevitable; however, a release may come as a surprise for the approximately 2000 service members who retire annually as a result of a medical condition (Department of National Defence, personal communication, 28 June, 2017). These Veterans will leave the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) under vastly different circumstances than those who voluntarily release. A medical release can be a result of a visible or non-visible wound suffered in an operational theater, a training injury or a chronic disease diagnosis. In a follow-up to landmark cross-sectional survey, Veterans Affairs Canada (2017a) concluded that 32% of releasing Veterans experience a difficult transition to civilian life; which, indicates the need for tailored transition services and research into the causes of these struggles. The trinity of an unexpected truncation of one’s career, a medical diagnosis coupled with an uncertain health status, and a precarious future signal the start of a soldier-to-civilian transition that many Veterans are ill-prepared to confront. Service members finding themselves on this trajectory are faced with a myriad of decisions that impact the totality of their lives. Aspects of military life are not limited to a predictable daily regime, rather service extends beyond the uniform affecting family and friends; a truly a unique way of life. One condition of military employment is that soldiers and families must move to various Canadian Forces Bases located in both major metropolitan areas with the associated high cost of living to rural locations with limited prospects for spousal employment, school choices for children, reduction of some community services offered in either French or English, or readily available access to family health care. When soldiers are leaving the CAF for civilian life, some of these considerations must be addressed to contribute to a successful transition. This study investigated the individual decision-making process surrounding a mandatory career change with a view to better inform policy-makers and transitioning Veterans. Findings indicate that a more deliberate institutional approach to transition will empower Veterans to realize their post-military potential with the assistance of a tailorable transition decision-making aid.
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