Trading military fatigues for civilian clothes doesn’t come easy for every soldier. A Pew Research Center survey of veterans found that 27% struggle with reentry. A sizeable 44% of post-9/11 veterans also report difficulty finding footing in life after the military.
Pew researchers have found a number of factors that can predict the difficulty of a veteran’s transition back into civilian life. The veterans most likely to report difficulties are those who served in combat roles, those who experienced traumatic events or serious injuries, those who were married during their service, and those who knew people who were killed or injured. Veterans who are religious, those who served as officers, and those who understood their missions tend to transition more easily. College education can also help ease the transition
As a project management and operations consultant at Engility Corporation working in health informatics, Joseph Mannato is one of the success stories. While Mannato graduated from George Mason University in 2008 with a degree in criminal justice courtesy of GI Bill® funding, his military experience led him toward a more technical future.
Mannato served as an Army ammunition specialist from 2000 to 2003 and then spent the next four and a half years serving as a logistics analyst for the United States Department of Defense, controlling the medical and dental supply chain for military bases throughout the Washington, D.C., area. After graduating, he was snatched up by Lockheed Martin to serve as a data analyst.
In his role at Engility, he provides program management and program evaluation support, manages risk mitigation and helps collect data on DoD psychological health and traumatic brain injury programs.
While Mannato said the health informatics field chose him rather than the other way around, he’s thrilled to be a part of helping shape modern medicine through the use of healthcare data.
"Healthcare data is shaping modern medicine in many ways, mainly with regards to psychological health and traumatic brain injury," he said.
These advances are among the reasons Mannato is on his current path.
"I didn't start out wanting to be in the healthcare field," he explained. "I received my degree in criminal justice and wanted to go to law school. I soon realized that, being a veteran, it would be more rewarding for me to help those (with whom) I have the strongest bonds and ties."
Mannato’s current post enables him to do just that.
The healthcare field is one that offers much promise for veterans seeking new careers after the military.
Veterans who want to take a path similar to Mannato’s will find a graduate degree or certificate in health informatics can open doors. This degree marries computer and medical science together in one of the fastest-growing segments of the healthcare industry. Professionals in this field are helping healthcare providers across the country meet Electronic Health Record requirements while also striving to use data to improve patient care and outcomes.
Health informatics is also potentially lucrative. The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) reports mid-range salaries for health informatics consultants in the upper $80,000s. Directors in the field earn can earn more than $100,000. A chief medical information officer might earn more than $200,000 a year.
The rewards go beyond the financial, Mannato explained.
"I would highly suggest servicemen and women reentering civilian life consider a career in healthcare," he said. "There are so many jobs and so many different paths you can choose."
Health informatics has left him feeling “highly rewarded,” he said.
"The fact that the work I’m doing now is going to have a major impact on beneficiaries feels really good at the end of the day," he said. "Knowing that I did my part makes it super rewarding."
Hear from USF Health student Deborah Leyva on the benefits of earning a degree from a medical school online.