Military to civilian transition experiences of women veterans : a phenomenological study.


Since its inception, women have served in the United States Military but were not given formal military status until 1901. Throughout the 1900s, women slowly integrated into the military but remained in support roles (National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, 2017). Upon completion of their service, women often returned to their homes to assume more traditional gender roles. As a result, women veterans have been termed “invisible” (Thomas & Hunter, 2019) and often receive little recognition for their military service. The United States finally removed all gender-based restrictions from military occupations in December 2015, creating an increase in service opportunities for women, leading to more women veterans than ever before (Pellerin, 2015). As of 2017, there were nine million women veterans, and estimates show a growth rate of 18,000 women veterans per year over the next decade (Department of Veteran’s Affairs, 2019; National Center for Veteran Analysis and Statistics, 2017). Women veterans differ from their male counterparts in various ways, yet research into women veterans' lived experiences is limited. As the women veteran population grows, a greater understanding of their transition experiences is required to provide the necessary services and programs. To understand and describe women veterans' lived experiences as they transition to civilian life, the researcher conducted a descriptive phenomenological study using a conceptual framework based on feminist theory and further grounded in military transition theory (Castro et al., 2014). Descriptive phenomenological research provides meaningful insights and understanding of the phenomenon of interest through the participant's viewpoint (Wojnar & Swanson, 2007). The researcher conducted in-depth interviews with a small group of women veterans recently separated from the military, focusing on their military to civilian transition stages. As a result, eight key themes were identified and include the following: reasons for separating, command response, transition programs and services, emotional nature of transition, the effort required during transition, career outcomes, health outcomes, and change in identity. Each of these identified themes provided opportunities to improve support programs and expose further research opportunities.



Military. Veteran. Women veterans. Military to civilian transition. Military transition. Military transition theory. Women in the military. Female veterans.