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  • Posted November 19, 2019

You’re Not Entitled

When you’re a part of the military, you live a lifestyle that’s different from what most civilians experience. After spending a few years retired from the Navy, I’ve begun to notice a lot about the way civilian life if different from the principles you learn in the military. There’s a pervasive sense of entitlement that’s shared by people of all walks of life and all ranges of abilities. It’s saddening to see. People would rather wait for somebody to give them a handout rather than make an effort to improve their life or the life of someone else.

There’s a difference between receiving the benefits you’ve earned and feeling that something is owed to you.  As a retired, disabled vet, I feel I’ve earned the benefits I receive from the VA. Even though I earned these benefits, I’m still grateful for programs like Yellow Ribbon, because I recognize I’m not owed this. This way of thinking also applies to getting military discounts at stores. When you sign up to join the armed service, there’s nothing that says every store will have a discount for Active Duty members or veterans. It’s great if they do,  but when automatically start calling every business without one “unpatriotic,” or something similar,  it crosses the line into feeling entitled. The business owner set up their shop to make money, not provide charity.  There may be legitimate reasons why they can’t offer a discount, such as a razor-thin profit margin or they’re supporting other causes that you don’t know about. If you really want to know their reason, you can ask politely & professionally. Just remember that they don’t owe you an answer, so don’t be upset if you’re shown the door.

The issue of feeling entitled also applies to efforts to find jobs for Veterans after they’ve finished their service. This push to employ Veterans is certainly a good thing, and things are far better in this regard than in the past. However, this may not always be the status-quo, and Active Duty military (and veterans) need to think about life post-service. Many of the jobs performed in the military translate into something an employer is willing to pay for.  And not just security services that need strong individuals with good marksman skills. Soldiers develop soft skills, like conflict resolution, communication skills, team management, etc.  Rather than feel entitled to a job due to your service, you can leverage these skills on your resume and interviews to make yourself the best candidate.  It can be difficult to relate to people who don’t have military backgrounds but don’t hesitate to network with those who have never served. Maybe they won’t truly “get” you, but so long as they recognize your skills and value, that’s all that’s important. They’ll pay you, and at the end of the day, that’s why you’re networking with them in the first place.

The issue of entitlement becomes more complex when we think about the needs of families with Special Needs children. These families are entitled to help when a child is diagnosed with a disability. Often, the support comes through the school system. Schools provide a lot of educational support to special needs families. Though the laws we support, our society has made it clear that special needs families are entitled to this support. The problem for many of these families is that this support stops when the child leaves High School, whether it’s because they graduated or the individual has aged out of the school system at 21.

These families can feel thrown to the wolves because the support system they have grown to expect and rely on has been taken away. A special needs individual who needed support when they were 20 years, 364 days old, needs the same support when they turn 21. Unfortunately, our system treats 21 like a magical number that eliminates the need for special needs assistance. However, resources are limited, and difficult choices have to be made about how the money will be spent.

Ideally, we could improve our support systems for older adults with special needs. Until that happens, schools and organizations that support special needs parents should do more to educate families about what happens when their child leaves school. As a special needs advocate, I explain that when a child leaves school, and the special needs assistance that comes with it, DDA and support organizations will screen the individual, and provide services based upon need and the resources they have. It’s very likely that families will not get the level of resources they feel they need or deserve. It’s another situation that parents will be better served if they don’t feel entitled to limitless amounts of taxpayer money, and instead be grateful for what they can get and make the most of their circumstances.

Like my earlier example of about Veterans looking for work, caregivers and friends of special needs individuals need to be proactive and think about life after school. When considering special needs planning, think about things they can do now to help their child have a successful transition. You know this time will come eventually, so you should start working on it before the school says it time to discuss the transition.

The school is required to help families with the transition process, but your child benefits the most when you put your full effort into making the transition work. Take advantage of the help that the school, but do your own homework. For example, networking with families that have made the transition can help you know what works well, what actions are problematic, and pitfalls you need to avoid. You’re not entitled to a happy ending, and it’s something that you and your family will have to work toward on your own.

This is not to say that people shouldn’t take advantage of entitlements they qualify for, and they should do everything in their power to get what they deserve. Organizations like the DAV and VFW are phenomenal resources for veterans, cost nothing, and you don’t need to be a member to be helped. In many other cases, you will need to do some research or hire an attorney to take your case.  One of the benefits of talking to a good attorney is that they will let you know ahead of time whether you have a case or not. At the end of the day, though, you are the one being affected – so whether you’re entitled or not, it’s in your best interest to plan for the worst-case scenario.