Dependent Indemnity Compensation & Why You Should Know About It!

This blog was written by CDR (Ret) Chuck Neu, former Global SOF Foundation SkillBridge Fellow.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation recipients and non-compensable VA claimants, do you know what Dependent Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is and why it is SO VERY important to your dependents?

DIC is a tax-free monetary benefit paid to eligible survivors of military service-members who died in the line of duty or eligible survivors of veterans whose death resulted from a service-related injury or disease.

What does that mean to you?  

Let’s say you have a respiratory condition that you acquired on active duty–as many of us do. If you die from that respiratory condition, your surviving spouse can receive DIC for the rest of their life. You and your spouse need to understand this, and need to create a “Death Packet” that contains your VA file, VA award, etc. so that’s ready for your spouse when you pass on. It doesn’t sound like the most appealing thing to do, but it’s important to ensuring financial security for your family.

There is a job for your spouse– if you do unfortunately pass– he or she must file the claim! Similar to our recent blog on VA Disability Rates for Dependents [link], this is an example of a non-automatic benefit that you must remain current and educated on. It’s important, because DIC is a monthly benefit that ranges between $1,500- $3,500–starting at $1,319 but with a variety of allowances for additional dependents, etc. See the rates on the VA website.

Make Sure Your Family is Taken Care Of

Remember, your compensable, and even your 0% rated disabilities that were acquired on active duty, MUST appear on your VA claim as “Service Connected.”

Here’s a scenario. Imagine that you die from a respiratory illness. It is listed on your VA claim but does NOT have the “Service Connected” caveat when in fact it should. Your surviving spouse and dependents would not receive DIC. This would be a travesty, and this is why you MUST OWN your claim and ensure both you, your spouse, and dependents are knowledgeable about VA benefits.  Review your claim today. Are your disabilities correctly listed as “service connected” where appropriate?

Lastly, ensure your spouse knows what to do when you pass on and knows what benefits they are entitled to. At the very least, ensure that they know to PERSISTENTLY contact a Veterans Service Organization upon your death.

Learn more on the DIC website.

Navigating your VA Benefits: Lessons from Someone Who Messed it Up

This blog was written by COL (Ret) Stuart “Stu” Bradin, the President/CEO of the Global SOF Foundation.

Heading into the Unknown

Navigating Your VA Benefits: Lessons from Someone Who Messed it Up

When I started my retirement process at USSOCOM I had no idea what to expect. I was stressed out more during this period than at any time in my career – including combat. I had been well trained for combat and I knew what I was doing in the field, but I had no clue about transition. I attended the government Transition Assistance Program (TAP), but not knowing what I would be doing and how much money I would get from the government just made it hard.

Almost everyone in transition worries about how much money they will get from the government when they actually separate. If you retire, the finance center can give you a pretty accurate idea of your retirement pay and that helps. What is hard is how to calculate the social security and federal “withholding” on your retirement money. That unknown is stressful, but once you calculate it, you have a good idea of what to expect.

The part that is virtually impossible to predict is the compensation from the Veterans Administration (VA) for disability. You cannot even submit your disability claims until your retirement date, and it can take 6 – 9 months to determine your disability and pay you. That’s 9 months of income you can’t plan for immediately post-retirement, and that is stress on you and your family. In 2017, the Global SOF Foundation (GSF) did a Transition Survey. Financial stress was the number one issue for the 550+ people that responded–and I can tell you I was one of those stressed.

Do you speak Medical?

At retirement I had 2 volumes of medical records. One volume was hard copy, the other was digital. I had collected a huge folder full of forms and write-ups covering over 30 years, but about 7 years before I left the service, DoD shifted to digital records. I had no idea if any of it was cross-referenced. When I retired, I was given a printed copy of my entire medical record which filled a three-inch binder. I had no idea what was in my medical records because at no time in 32 years did I dig into my medical records to see if everything that happened to me was recorded. As I waded into that massive document, I realized that I had a lot of stuff in there. But I really had no idea what half of it said – I did not understand all of the medical terms.

Navigating Your VA Benefits: Lessons from Someone Who Messed it Up
Stu’s actual medical binder, when he was working through his transition.

I was staring at my records not knowing what to do in regard to filing for my VA disability. One of the guys at SOCOM recommended that I go talk to the Care Coalition Team at SOCOM because they had helped others figure it out.

The Care Coalition Team invested a lot of time in me and started by educating me on Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQs) and helping me understand what was in my medical records. I met with them several times, and I did everything they recommended. I felt like I was ready when I submitted my disability request to the VA because I had invested in the process and I knew what issues I had that fit into the DBQ.

Getting Your Disability Percentage

The one thing I still did not know was how much money would I get for disability. During my final meeting with the Care Coalition Team I asked them what they thought I would get for disability. I was stunned to hear them say that in their opinion, I was certainly 100% disabled. I had never really talked to anyone about their disability because that is not something you ask someone, so I was really amazed. I challenged them about being 100%, but they quickly pointed out the issues I had and how those issues would get worse with every year I age.

Like most SOF operators, I felt like 100% was reserved for people who were missing body parts or had taken a lot of hits. I knew I had a lot of wear and tear over the 32 years, but I never thought about it. Most of the people in SOF went through their careers hiding their injuries and ailments. Going on sick call or missing a deployment or exercise because of an illness or ailment was seen as a sign of weakness, and 99.9% of the people I know would never do that. It was not our culture and nothing anyone said or did would change that behavior.

Navigating Your VA Benefits: Lessons from Someone Who Messed it Up
Stu’s Retirement Ceremony in action!

During transition I was 53 years old and still felt like I could keep going. My body hurt, and I had issues, but nothing that seemed capable of stopping me. When I talked to friends that had previously retired, or mustered out, I listened to them bitch about their health. I thought it sucked to be them because I was still moving forward. When my VA disability came back it was 80%. The Care Coalition Team looked at my VA findings and recommended that I submit for a review of my records because I was awarded a lot of “Service Connected” items, but I did not get any percentage for those areas.

We deferred our medical issues until a later date and because we believed that when we could no longer go, we would just shut down – that is the person we assessed and selected.

At that point I knew what my VA disability was and I just moved forward to get the GSF up and running. I did not listen to the Care Coalition Team. For the first time I ignored their advice and that was a mistake on my part.

Getting what you deserve from “The System”

Fast forward 4 years and I ran into a good friend that was also 80% disabled and he had just challenged the VA and was now 100% disabled.

Seeking more compensation from the VA is a sensitive issue with a lot of people. We have all heard about the person that never did anything getting 100% disability, and we all felt like they were cheating the system. I can tell you that most of us have no real idea what “the system” for VA disability really is, or how they calculate compensation. We are not experts on the VA or medical disability ratings, so we feel lucky to be alive, eager to get on with the next phase of life, and cluelessly take what we’re given. I know a lot of people that have never filed for VA because they think it is weakness. I know others that just took what they were given and never challenged “the system” because they assumed the system was giving them what they deserved.

I had been out of the military for 4 years and I was now 57 and feeling my age. I had good days and bad days and there were just things that I could no longer do. It is hard for SOF with “big personalities” to accept the fact that there are things they can’t do. I was beginning to see that the wear and tear was catching up with me, and I was that old guy that I swore I would never be.

My friend encouraged me to do what the Care Coalition recommended I do 4 years ago. I reflected on all of the HALO/SCUBA physicals that I had taken and how much more thorough those physicals were than the VA physical that determined my disability.

I had no idea how to do it so I asked my friend to introduce me to the company that he hired to help him maneuver through the VA disabilities process. I was introduced to CW4 (Ret) Dwayne Moorehouse with Eagle Rising Veteran Consulting. Dwayne looked at my disabilities and my records and told me that I should go through the process because he felt I should have been rated to 100%. He was the second person that told me that.

I signed a contract with Dwayne and we moved forward with Eagle Rising Veterans Consulting. After 7 months my new disability came through. I was not making anything up – I wanted my VA claim to ONLY be what I deserved. I did not want anything that the system does not support. Hiring a professional is what we recommend. Eagle Rising Veterans Consulting knew what to do and once my disabilities were upgraded, writing a check to them was the easiest thing I have done in a while.

Many Veterans are not getting what they should

Being in the GSF allows me to interact with a lot of veterans and I often see folks that are struggling with their health. Like most older people, our conversations center on our health, our friends and our families. People ask me all the time about my transition, and money and VA disability benefits come up every time. If I have time to talk, I tell them my story and recommend that they see the Care Coalition Team to get pointed in the right direction. I also tell them to NOT assume that VA disability process will do the right thing, and now I recommend they talk to Eagle Rising Veterans Consulting.

VA disability has changed a lot over the last 15 years because Congress has added several laws that support veterans. The VA system is a huge bureaucracy, like most major government programs, and if you do not know what you are doing you might not get good results. All of this is on each person and your decisions on how to address VA disability is bigger than you.

My father-in-law recently passed away after serving for 26 years in the Navy and Air Force. He was a great man that I respected because he served in Vietnam and sacrificed a lot for our nation. He was a proud Mid-Westerner who did not want to complain or ask for favoritism. It was not his nature to seek help or to challenge “the system”.

Navigating Your VA Benefits: Lessons from Someone Who Messed it Up
Stu’s father-in-law, Gerald R. McCluskey.

When he retired in the 1980’s he did what most veterans did and just accepted the VA findings and went on with his life because he believed he was fine.  He died of cancer and with a very long list of other issues that can be directly connected to his service, but because he did not challenge the system the VA claimed they were not “service connected” medical issues.

My mother-in-law was married to him for 50 years and she is now left with very little VA financial support. We will get through this, but I encourage everyone to put your pride aside and think of your family and assume at some point all of the wear and tear on your body will become an issue.

Resources that may help:

Modern Warfare Symposium: SOF for Life and Looking Forward

The SOF for Life Seminar

On Thursday, the exhibit hall of the Modern Warfare Expo had no remaining signs of its 35+ exhibitors and the Symposium room was broken down into smaller meeting rooms for local use. However, the Global SOF team still had a small presence in the Iron Mike Conference Center on Ft. Bragg in the form of the SOF for LifeSeminar!

SOF for Life is a program consisting of three non-profits: the GSF, which maintains a resume database and distributes job postings; AAFMAA, which provides free wealth management services; and The Honor Foundation, which runs a robust transition course that goes above and beyond what is offered by military branches.

The goal of this multi-faceted program is to arm retiring or separating active duty SOF and SOF support with the tools and knowledge necessary for success post-active duty.

The SOF for Life Seminar is a one-day crash course that highlights the offerings of the full 12-week program offered by The Honor Foundation. It is taught by Mr. Joe Musselman, the CEO and Founder of the Foundation, who provides impassioned leadership to these seminars.

We hold these seminars in conjunction with many US-based GSF Symposium events, and we had around 15 individuals attend this specific workshop.

For those interested in enrolling in the full 12-week program, there are physical campuses in San Diego, Camp Lejeune, and Virginia Beach. The THF is also about to launch its “proof of concept” virtual program next week on August 29th, which will run through December 13th. If you’re interested in participating in the virtual program, contact Jeff at

Venues for the Future

The Iron Mike Conference Center is located conveniently close to U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC), which made it an ideal venue for the inaugural Modern Warfare Symposium. However, it was full to the brim with our 449 attendees, so after cleaning up the last of our GSF Signage, we used Thursday to check out some other local venues.

There aren’t a lot of options to host the Symposium and Expo, as our space requirements are fairly extensive, but GSF COO Meaghan Keeler-Pettigrew and Director of Marketing Chelsea Hamashin did get a good look at the Embassy Suites Conference Center along with its neighboring Springhill Suites. The Conference Center was all setup to host the Fayetteville Observer’s Reader’s Digest Awards, and it looked like it was going to be a spectacular (although crowded) evening.

Meanwhile, GSF Director of Partner Relations, Steve Jones, went with Rick Lamb on a tour of the history museums on Ft. Bragg. Although we think Rick already knows everything there is to know about SOF history, especially since he’s experienced at least 30 years of it first hand, it looks like they had a great time.

Chelsea and Meaghan took that as inspiration and decided to visit the Airborne and Special Operations Museum Foundation in downtown Fayetteville. This walk through SOF history is very impressive and educational, and we highly encourage a visit if you have not already been. We know the museum won’t work to host a Symposium, however we think it could prove to be an excellent venue for a closing reception! We hope to make that work in 2019, but don’t let that stop you from visiting before then.

Until our next Reunion…

As we’ve said before, the GSF is a family and our events are our reunions! We are luckier than most families, as we get multiple reunions per year, with the next one right around the corner in Madrid.

As a telecommuting non-profit Foundation, we value these opportunities to work together, solve problems, meet new people, and develop plans for the future of the GSF.

We can’t do any of this without our Members and Corporate Partners, so thank you again for your support, and we’ll see you soon!

Don’t miss the recaps of the Lead UpDay 1, and Day 2 of the inaugural Modern Warfare Symposium and Expo.

Checking in with Chuck: More from our SkillBridge Intern

A SkillBridge internship does not excuse from all of your military responsibilities – you still have to manage your leave and keep your medical and retirement appointments.  After a whirlwind week 1 with GSF, I travelled with my family to Houston for spring break. After I returned I had two eye surgeries (yes, I can now see how handsome Stephen Jones is) and worked my way through a slew of VA appointments, x-rays, MRI’s, etc. related to my retirement. After weeks of not being able to read for more than ~10 minutes, or look at a computer screen, I was ready to get back to work.

Thankfully the GSF crew was understanding and I am now able to “Charlie Mike.”

Between my medical requirements, Chelsea and I had a luncheon with Design Interactive (a new GSF Small Business Partner) with the topic of discussion revolving around how they can get the most out of their partnership. The technological solutions they develop are fascinating to me and could clearly benefit our Warriors, so I’m looking forward to helping them get into our community.

I was also able to attend both days of the Synapse Innovation Conference, which was recently held at Amalie Arena in Tampa. There I distributed some GSF marketing items to attending Warriors and to potential GSF Partners.  On display at the conference were various medical inventions, software applications and additionally, there were many interesting keynote speakers. I highly recommend attending this conference!

Additionally, I spent some more time with Jim Frey and the GSF Small Business team. We re-grouped to analyze the results of our recent survey and keep pushing forward on improving GSF’s reach to small businesses.  (If you ARE a GSF Small Business Partner and have yet to reply to the Small Business survey–there’s still time!) We will ensure GSF’s outreach continues to broaden and provide ROI to our small business partners and the SOF community at large.

As my last comment for this week, I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible at the AFCEA Luncheon at Macdill on 18 April (1130 at Surf’s Edge) and at the GSF Huddle at GEOINT Symposium on 24 April, 1700-1900hrs at Jackson’s Bistro on Harbour Island.

– Chuck

Checking in with Chuck: Week 1 of my GSF Internship

Week #1 of my DoD SkillBridge Internship with the Global SOF Foundation (GSF) was a refreshing step into the civilian world. On Day 1 I found myself in my first virtual weekly staff meeting discussing an After-Action Report (AAR) for the Global SOF Symposium that occurred two weeks prior. It was nice to participate in an open forum with a respectful exchange of ideas and criticism – my first experience with civilian employee interaction.

That meeting transitioned into the weekly staff meeting and I was given an aggressive list of 15 goals to work toward during my internship. One of the goals–to join the small business committee and increase our touch-points with small business–requires access to, and training on, some online software platforms.

I met with a mentor, Mr. Ivan Roney, President and CEO of Farfield Systems, which is a Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business. My goal for the meeting was to better understand what information was publicly available and how to structure my queries to find small businesses that are doing business with the SOCOM enterprise. Ivan explained and demonstrated the System for Award Management (SAM) which I will use to reach out to small businesses that GSF may partner with. First business luncheon complete!

Later in the week I met with Meaghan Keeler-Pettigrew, the COO of the GSF, to better understand some of our existing IT capabilities. We met on the 41st floor of the Bank of America building in the Tampa Club–what an amazing view of Tampa! The training was great as well, and it provided me with an opportunity to get better acquainted with both Meaghan and Rick Lamb, another new addition to the GSF staff.

Finally, on Thursday I met with the new Chairman of the Small Business Committee, Dr. Jim Frey of Aero Simulation Inc. We discussed our committee goals and strategies, but first he gave me a tour of the ASI plant and even let me fly a flight simulator. It was very, very awesome (and educational)!

Since I am still in the middle of my transition, this internship is great because it still allows me to keep up with retirement preparation tasks. I checked some of those boxes with a few military medical appointments, a morning with AMVETS and the VA working on my retirement processing, and a morning cup of coffee with a local business as I continue to expand my professional network.

Full speed ahead and SOF for Life!


Skillbridge: The Veteran Internship Program that brought us Steve Jones

This post was written by Stephen Jones, the GSF Director of Partner Relations

A year ago, this week, I was attentively listening to my instructor guiding me through to rituals of the Department of Defense (DoD) mandated Transition Assistance Program, or TAP. I felt prepared for my transition from the military because I began planning my departure almost two years in advance. Beyond the hours of Veteran Affairs (VA) benefit briefings, the was one slide that caught my attention. Buried in the myriad of resources available to transitioning veterans, there was a program called DoD SkillBridge.

The DoD SkillBridge initiative promotes the civilian job training authority available for transitioning military Service members. Service members meeting certain qualifications can participate in civilian job and employment training, including apprenticeships and internships. DoD SkillBridge training opportunities are available for transitioning Service members. A Service member must have completed at least 180 days on active duty and be expected to be discharged or released from active duty within 180 days of starting their job training. Moreover, Service members must receive approval to participate, and the training opportunity must meet certain conditions.

I realized that getting an internship is going to be problematic due to the fact I was not located in a fleet concentration area. Additionally, when I asked the counselors at Fleet and Family for help, they admitted to knowing very little about the program. I knew I wanted an internship but finding the opportunity was going to be of my own creating. A simple Google search brought me to the DoD SkillBridge website, and from there I found the Navy Administrative Message (NAVADMIN) that governs the program for the Navy.

My biggest take away from the instruction was that the program is adaptable to the service member’s situation. Meaning, the internship agreement is between the service member, the command of the service member, and the company providing the internship.

Bottom line: this is a local agreement without undue amounts of bureaucratic hurdles that ultimately block or delay service members from receiving benefits.

With a clear understanding of the guiding instructions, I approached the GSF about providing me an internship. The timing was perfect–they were in the market for a Director of Partner Relations, and I felt that the training that I would receive within a small business that cared about me would be great for my professional development.

The Foundation agreed to provide the opportunity and I cleared my participation with my chain of command to allow 116 days of training provided by the GSF while I was still on active duty. Since I was the first participant in the program within my region, I also included my local Fleet and Family Center so they could learn about my experiences and then transfer the knowledge gained from my experience to other service members in the future.

As an intern, I was put to work right away recruiting new corporate partners and learning the day-to-day struggles and rewards of working in a small business. The learning curve was steep, despite my years of education and military experience. Working for a small company is rewarding, but not for everyone. Team work is essential and every member of the organization plays an integral part–otherwise, we don’t eat. Even though you always hear people say that they want to own their own business, very few know what it takes to survive as an entrepreneur, especially immediately after military service. This type of work is not for everyone!

Thanks to the SkillBridge program and the GSF, I was given the opportunity to get a small glimpse into the dedication it takes to run a small business.

At the conclusion of my 116 days of extreme on-the-job training, I met their stringent standards and was given an offer to join the Foundation as the new Director of Partner Relations. My hard work paid off and I ended up in a position that I never dreamed of having when I began TAP.

I have shared my story with many people over the last few months, one of whom is CDR Charles Neu, a Navy Supply Officer. He was one of the first individuals that I shared my adventure with a year ago, and what do you know–CDR Neu is now an intern with the GSF, preparing his own lessons learned and passing the knowledge forward. He’s doing a great job, and he’s even documenting what he’s doing and learning in a blog series called “Checking in with Chuck!”

See stay posted to the GSF Blog, and see how Chuck is doing with Skillbridge!

Special Operations Seminar Prepares Veterans for Careers after Active Duty

Special Operations Forces (SOF) are the most elite units of the military, and according to the SOF for Life Survey, they aren’t getting the support they need to transition to meaningful employment after their military service ends.

This survey was developed by the Global SOF Foundation, a non-profit professional association for SOF around the world, and The Honor Foundation, which provides veterans with a 12-week transition course, graduates of which have a 99% job placement rate into Fortune 500 companies. The survey was opened in Aug. 2016 and has over 550 responses from SOF and SOF support personnel who have already transitioned from Active Duty, whether through retirement or separation.

While the survey results report gaps in physical well-being, mental health, and medical benefits for respondents, the SOF for Life program was developed to focus on the career and financial preparation gaps. The program is supported by both the Global SOF Foundation and The Honor Foundation, as well as AAFMAA–which provides participants with wealth management support.

Click here to watch a video about the mission of The Honor Foundation.

The SOF for Life Seminar on Feb. 19th is a one-day teaser for the full course provided by The Honor Foundation, and it’s open to SOF or SOF support from any nation, provided they are within two years of their date of separation from active duty (whether before or after). The Seminar is also open to participants’ spouses, as the information provided is valuable for both.

Global SOF Foundation President Stu Bradin, himself a retired Army Special Forces Colonel who went through the military’s transition process, continuously preaches the lack of preparation most members of the SOF community have for life after they leave the military. “They expect someone to come up to them and start offering them a paycheck. They aren’t prepared to find and keep meaningful employment after they leave the military.”

The Seminar takes place on the first day of the 2018 Global SOF Symposium – US, which is hosted by the Global SOF Foundation annually at Innisbrook Golf and Spa Resort in Palm Harbor, Fla. This year’s event will kick off on President’s Day, Feb. 19, with the SOF for Life Seminar, the Global SOF Golf Tournament, and a welcome reception. A packed agenda of Symposium events will follow from Feb. 20 to 21, and will include engaging speaking events and an abundance of networking opportunities.

The SOF for Life Seminar costs $30 per participant, although attendees are welcome to stay for the entire Symposium for a total cost of $100. Register for the Seminar at

Want to share this information with someone you know? 2018-02-19 SOF for Life Seminar Flyer_Email.

This blog was originally released as a press release on PRWeb. You can see it here:

SkillBridge: An Opportunity for Interns and Transition Training

By Stu Bradin, GSF President

Please give me five minutes of your time to provide you with something I think might help you. If you are a GSF Corporate Partner or an Individual Member you should learn more about the Department of Defense (DoD) SkillBridge initiative.

The DoD SkillBridge initiative promotes the civilian job training authority available for transitioning military Service members. Service members meeting certain qualifications can participate in civilian job and employment training, including apprenticeships and internships. DoD SkillBridge training opportunities are available for transitioning Service members. A Service member must have completed at least 180 days on active duty and be expected to be discharged or released from active duty within 180 days of starting their job training. Moreover, Service members must receive approval to participate, and the training opportunity must meet certain conditions.

The military Services will allow eligible Service members to participate in industry training instead of performing military duties during the closing months of their careers.

Industry training providers will offer training at little or no cost to eligible Service members on or near the installations where they are stationed for the closing months of their military careers.

Many companies and training providers have already set up or are setting up DoD SkillBridge training programs. Companies already participating range from Fortune 500 companies and public utilities, as well as a variety of labor unions and other groups. The programs established by these companies and organizations are helping Service members transition to new civilian careers.

If you are a GSF Corporate Partner this is a great opportunity to have government “interns” working for you prior to separation from the military. If you are a GSF Individual Member, then this is a great opportunity to work for a company that interest you prior to leaving the service and giving you experience that you might not get anywhere else.

The rules for this are laid out on the SkillBridge website at For the GSF Corporate Partners I know finding quality people is tough and I think the SkillBridge initiative gives you opportunities to reach out early to transitioning military members with an opportunity to intern with your company.

If you are a GSF Individual Member this is something that should be considered. I know the SOF community is at its highest operations tempo level in years so this initiative can really help those that are forced into a compressed transition period.  Service specific requirements apply; however, many companies have the capacity to operate virtually and permission temporary duty is authorized not to exceed 30 days if travel is required.

The SkillBridge initiative is not all things to all people but it is a tool that GSF Partners and Individual Members should at least consider. The key to success with the SkillBridge program is communication between the local command authority, the desired Service member, and with the company provided the training opportunity.

Finding Passion and Purpose in Work when the Mission was your Life

A Successful Transition – Finding passion and purpose in your work when the mission was your life
By Chris Clary
Project Manager, Spirit of America

Any veteran who has been downrange and experienced the thrill of serving abroad knows that our civilian careers will likely never match the level of intensity we experienced in uniform. Our successful transition from military service to the civilian world hinges on finding a fresh sense of passion and purpose in our new lives.

I enlisted in the military to become a Green Beret, to join the brotherhood of an elite group of men devoted to serving their country. I poured everything into making it through the selection and training. When I made it, all I wanted was to fight alongside my brothers to make a difference in the world. Being a Green Beret, serving in combat was more than a job. It was my life. When I returned from my second deployment to Afghanistan in 2012, I was faced with stepping back from what I had committed the last five years of my life to and finding a civilian job. As I looked at transitioning, I had the same question that many soldiers have: What job will ever give me the same sense of purpose I had while wearing the uniform?

I needed a job that gave me the same sense of mission as my life as an operator. Personally, I found my answer when I came across a job posting with Spirit of America.

Spirit of America (SoA) is a groundbreaking nonprofit organization that provides private assistance in support of US missions abroad, providing critical aid where US Government resources can’t be applied. Everything from metal detectors for partner forces to medical supplies and humanitarian assistance for refugees and vulnerable local communities. Shortly after coming onboard with SoA, I was back in Afghanistan alongside some of the same men and women I had previously deployed with, focused on a new mission: supporting the safety and success of US personnel and helping build security and stability in some of the world’s toughest places.

Chris during his time in service in Afghanistan, then continuing to support the mission by providing humanitarian assistance to vulnerable refugees in northern Iraq.

Two years into my tenure with SoA, I was called up for what would be my third and final time to deploy to Afghanistan. This experience reinforced my need for a mission-driven civilian career. It was a hard deployment, which only complicated the emotions I felt about getting out. But, when we returned from the deployment in 2016, I knew it was time for me to make the full transition out of the military.

I also knew enough about myself to understand I couldn’t successfully transition alone. The field team at Spirit of America, comprised entirely of combat veterans, were exactly the kind of people I needed to be around. We all come from a similar set of experiences and have benefited from finding a fresh sense of purpose in the mission of Spirit of America.

Three of my colleagues also come from the SOF community, and they understand the need to continue to serve a greater purpose. Nicolette Doliva is a former active duty sailor and Spirit of America’s South America project manager. She has deployed around the world, including trips to East Africa, Spain and most recently Afghanistan as a Cultural Support Team member in support of Naval Special Warfare’s Cultural Engagement Unit. Her passion to engage with and understand cultures outside the borders of America made Spirit of America a natural fit when she left active duty.

Gabe LaMois, a former Special Forces officer, set out to become a Green Beret following the attacks of 9/11. After nearly a decade of service and multiple deployments to the Middle East and Southwest Asia, Gabe made the difficult transition to civilian life and joined the team at Spirit of America.  Managing projects in the Middle East and North Africa has given him the opportunity to continue his mission in a part of the world he is passionate about and to assist the US effort to defeat ISIS by supporting many of the local forces he trained and fought alongside in uniform.

Chris VanJohnson joined the Spirit of America team after completing multiple deployments to South Asia as a SOF officer. His passion to better understand the world drove him to pursue his master’s degree in International Affairs and Development from the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. He now manages projects in Africa countering Boko Haram and other extremist organizations, working alongside SOF personnel seeking to prevent war in some of the most fragile communities in the world.

We all had a strong desire to continue to serve, which was a driving factor in our job selection. To that end, we were all impassioned to leverage our unique set of skills as we made the journey to the civilian sector.

As veterans, we have experienced one of the greatest senses of purpose through service to our nation. When we transition to a civilian life, the loss of that sense of purpose can be one of the most challenging barriers to overcome. My personal transition has not been an easy one, but it has been far smoother than I ever thought possible due to the continued sense of mission and the camaraderie I have found at Spirit of America.


If you are approaching, or already went through, your transition and are in need of support, please look at SOF for Life for job opportunities, transition seminars, and other means of financial and career path support:

Big Jobs for our SOF…for Life

“Big jobs usually go to those who prove their ability to outgrow small ones.” – Theodore Roosevelt

We know that SOF are elite, and they have truly “big” jobs while they serve.  At the GSF, we strive to ensure that they transition into big jobs after their military service.   We do this in a few ways through our SOF for Life program.

First off, we’re happy to announce that we’ve just added a Jobs section to our website. If you look at the tab above that says “Members,” you’ll see a “Job Postings” option.  This is where we list open jobs from our Corporate Partners.  At the GSF, we only partner with the best of the best, so these are high-quality positions from top-notch companies.  And these companies want to hire SOF veterans.

The second way the SOF for Life program helps employ SOF is through our resume database.  Here we collect the resumes of vetted SOF and store them in an easy to navigate database that is only accessible by our Corporate Partners.  Those companies can search that catalog of SOF individuals to find suitable candidates for their job openings.

A third employment-focused element of SOF for Life is a transition program, which is run by The Honor Foundation.  This course is unmatched for transitioningSOF, with a 100% job placement record…into Fortune 500 companies.

In order to keep this program growing, thriving, and meeting the needs of our force, we’re conducting a SOF for Life Survey.  If you haven’t taken the time to take this survey, to help the past, current and future members of SOF, then you don’t truly care about our SOF community.

Take the Survey here.

We’re offering a one-day seminar where you can learn more about SOF for Life at the 2017 Global SOF Symposium in Innisbrook.  If you’d like to learn more, we highly recommend that you register for this free seminar.