Your First Year as a Veteran: 4 Tips for Success

Dear Veterans,

I’m still in my first year out of the military, and in my position as the Senior Deputy Director of the Texas Veterans Land Board (VLB), I’ve had the good fortune to talk with many Veterans and subject matter experts about the benefits that we have earned. Early in my first year as a Veteran, I realized that the standard briefings we traditionally receive when we transition out of the military, to understand all the benefits that are available to us, were few and far between. Even if I was aware of a particular benefit, I still needed help to work my way through the bureaucracy of receiving that benefit.

With that in mind, I would like to share four tips for you to consider during your first year as a Veteran:

  1. Ask for help and do it quickly. Visit or reach out to 1–800–252-VETS, and the VLB team will connect you with the right person, or organization, to help you access benefits, programs or services available to you as Veteran. I have learned that there are many things we need to do immediately upon transition to lay the foundation for success in our first year, and the many years to follow.
  2. Engage with the Veteran community. As I stated before, I speak to a lot of Veterans and Veteran Service Organizations. What I’ve noticed is that I’m often the youngest Veteran in the room. I retired after 25 years of service and I’m the young one. As the newest generation of Veterans, we have to take on leadership roles in these different organizations to ensure that the benefits we are receiving right now continue to be accessible to future Veterans. The Veterans that came before us did an excellent job of attaining many of the benefits we enjoy today, but we must come together and take charge, so these important benefits endure. The key component here is the understanding that what we receive as Veterans are benefits, not entitlements. So, get out there and get involved with the organizations that are telling our story and keep these legacies alive.
  3. In the military, we were always told to be mindful of our behavior, no matter where we went, because we were always representing our brothers and sisters. This notion remains the same when we become Veterans. Don’t be that person that ruins it for the rest of us. Recently I was attending a Veterans’ event when another Veteran came double-timing up to the registration desk and cut in front of me to complain that there were not enough disabled parking spots. He made it clear that the hotel staff should be ashamed that he had to park so far away from the event. I was embarrassed by this Veteran’s behavior. Although he may well have had a disability, it wasn’t enough to keep him from running up to the registration desk to be rude to the staff. What kind of an impression did those staff members have of that Veteran, and by association, all Veterans? Don’t be that person. Behave honorably as a Veteran, just as you did while in service.
  4. Whether you’ve just started your journey of transition, or you’ve been a Veteran for many years — find a job. They’re out there and companies do want to hire Veterans. It may not be your dream job, or the pay may not be ideal, but get your foot in the door. The values and work ethic that were woven into the fabric of everything you did in the service is so necessary outside the service. If you’re doing what you know to be right, the company will notice and you could be promoted. If you work for a company that is just not right for you, know that you have gained experience and are now, even more valuable than you were when you started. Get out there and show them that hiring a Veteran is the best thing they can do for their organization. I’m not asking you to settle for less than you think you’re worth, but I am asking that you understand that you may have to start at the beginning, but if you persevere and apply the values you learned in service, you will be rewarded.

In the coming weeks, I have asked each Veteran that I have the honor to serve with here at the VLB, to write a blog post about their experience during their first year out of the military. They will share their success, failures and what they would do differently if they had the chance to do it all over again.

I hope these posts will provide you with some insight on their journey and inspire you to be a success in this next phase of your life as a Veteran.

COL(R) Matt Elledge
U.S. Army Veteran

Be sure to listen to our first Dog Tag podcast: How to be Successful in Your First Year as a Veteran