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When the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces serving in Iraq and Afghanistan end their tours of duty, tough challenges await them as they return to civilian life. takes a look at the process of coming home from war and offers this list of some of the resources available to the men and women of the military. Topics include families, work, finances, health and disabilities.

Returning from deployment  |  Reunion with family  |  Returning to the workforce/financial assistance  |  Mental and physical health  |  Returning disabled  |  Staying in contact

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Returning from deployment
When troops return from deployment, they are usually flown back to their home states. There, they receive a post-deployment assessment from the military, according to Dr. Gerald Cross, deputy undersecretary for health with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). During the assessment, troops are given physical and dental examinations and an individual transition plan. Dr. Cross says the troops also take part in a three-day Transition Assistance Program seminar from the departments of Defense, Health, Labor and Veterans Affairs, where they receive benefits information and adjustment advice.

Ninety to 180 days after the post-deployment assessment, troops get a follow-up assessment from the Defense Department. For those troops who are leaving the military altogether, the VA and groups such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars offer benefits ranging from health care and insurance to job training, counseling, loans, discounts and down payments for house purchases. These links give information on post-deployment and veterans' benefits:

Reunion with family
Even before troops leave home, the military advises them and their relatives that family dynamics can change during deployment. Literature and counseling are available to troops and their families before and after deployment to outline some of the challenges they may face before, during and after deployment. For instance, returning troops and their spouses may begin to experience emotional detachment and intimacy problems; they may have difficulty reasserting family roles; and abandonment issues can resurface, the military says. Babies may cry when held by the returning parent, young children may experience guilt or fear about separation and teenagers may seem apathetic and moody after the initial family reunion. The departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs remind troops post-deployment that coping mechanisms such as violence or alcohol/drug abuse are unhealthy and that counseling is available for them and their family members at one of some 200 VA locations around the country. The following links provide information about family challenges and veterans' assistance:

Returning to the workforce/financial assistance
The departments of Labor and Veterans Affairs (VA) provide workshops and career counseling to troops once their deployment is over during a three-day Transition Assistance Program seminar. Services include job fairs and searches; tools for resumes, cover letters and federal job applications; and assistance preparing for interviews and making career decisions. Troops also get information about their military pay and benefits, including separation pay if they are leaving the military. The VA also provides assistance for education, vocational rehabilitation and home loans, as well as assistance for homeless or incarcerated veterans and former prisoners of war. The following links provide information about veterans' benefits:

Mental and physical health
Troops receive health care from the military while on active duty. Once they leave, veteran-specific health care options are available. By joining the VA or groups like Veterans of Foreign Wars, veterans and their families also have access to large health care networks.

After they return home, troops should expect to have some behavioral adjustment issues such as "battlemind," or "hypervigilance", according to Dr. Matt Friedman of the VA's National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The VA provides psychological counseling to veterans for war-related trauma as well as social services-type assistance to veterans and their families. VA personnel are trained professionals who were also, in many cases, veterans of active combat. The following links provide information about health care and counseling:

Returning disabled
Some troops return home early because of debilitating injuries. These troops are not flown to their home state right away, but are taken to one of the major military hospitals, including Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Families of those needing medical attention from these hospitals can often stay at one of 37 Fisher Houses, in many cases for free, as their loved ones receive treatment. These houses, part of a public-private partnership, are usually within walking distance of military hospitals and can accommodate dozens of family members.

The Department of Veterans Affairs identifies soldiers from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for specific programs to provide a smooth transition from active-duty health care to VA care, including benefits, rehabilitation and employment help. After they are discharged from the military hospital -- where amputees, for instance, are fitted for prostheses -- troops may be taken to a VA outpatient or specialty center for rehabilitation, training and job services. The following links provide information on disabled troops:

Staying in contact
Communicating with friends and loved ones while on deployment has been easier and faster for military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan than in any other campaign in U.S. history thanks to e-mail, webcams and instant messaging. Once troops return home, communication with their war buddies can be as important to the coping and healing process as communication with loved ones was when the troops were in the field. The following links include veterans' groups, military blogs, news sites or online forums:

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