Separating from the military is tough enough in and of itself, but many veterans leave the military with issues that make their transition much more difficult.

You may have the ambition to attend school, but find yourself struggling to stay focused in class, or you may find employment only to eventually lose the job because of a disciplinary issue.

Whatever the case, you must be prepared to work on the issues that could hamper your ability to make a smooth transition — before your last day in uniform.

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Among the issues that prevent some veterans from making a smooth transition: disciplinary issues, money problems, family complications, combat-related conditions such as post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, and drug or alcohol abuse.

That's just a short list; there are many variations of the above, and many other issues as well. Working with veterans looking for job opportunities on a daily basis has brought me face to face with so many veterans dealing with different difficult situations, any and all of which hamper your ability to hit the ground running the moment you separate.

Attending college will take your attention at all times, and require a will to succeed. Working at a job will take the strong work ethic you gained while in the military and will require you to constantly push yourself to be the best you can be. It may not be as regimented as military life, but civilian life will place its own demands on you.

As you make this important transition, here are a few simple but important things to keep in mind.

1. Prepare and plan. Before you start looking for a job or decide to attend school, be sure you're ready. Clearing up issues before you take the next big step will only help you take on these new and exciting challenges.

2. Accept the help you need. In the post-9/11 era, the number of support programs for veterans has exploded. Support is out there; if you think you need help, don't be too proud or stubborn to get it.

3. Take care of yourself. Sometimes we do so much for others, we tend to forget about ourselves. But you're no good to anyone if you're not good to yourself.

4. Stay focused on your goals. This is the essence of the "tactical veteran" — developing a sound plan and sticking with it.

Some of us are fortunate enough to make seamless transitions to civilian life. But for those who have a few wrinkles to smooth out, it's well worth spending some time and attention on squaring away those issues. Your odds of being ready to stay focused in the classroom with a clear head or begin a job with confidence will be greatly improved if you take a little time to work on yourself.

Steven Maieli is the founder of, which highlights links to federal, state, for-profit and nonprofit veterans benefits and other resources. He also writes a blog on transitioning veterans' issues at

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