If you are transitioning out of uniform you likely know that there are many resources to help you and your family. However, you might not know where to start.
To make your transition easier, the Real Warriors Campaign partnered with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to produce this article.
Follow our three-part series entitled Transitioning to the VA:
This introduces you to the VA and the VA health care system. To get you started we answer a few of the most common questions from veterans and their families.
1. Am I eligible for VA health benefits?
If you served on active duty for at least 24 months you likely qualify—unless you received a dishonorable discharge.
The minimum duty requirement of 24 months may not apply if you were discharged for a service-related disability, for a hardship or “early out,” or if you served before Sept. 7, 1980. There are other exceptions. As a result, the VA encourages all veterans to apply.
Visit the VA’s “Veterans Eligibility” web page for more detail.
For benefits questions call 800-827-1000. You can also contact or visit your local VA facility. If you are in a crisis, call the Veterans Crisis line at 800-273-8255 and press 1.
2. Am I eligible for health benefits if I served in the National Guard or Reserve?
Maybe. If you performed active service with pay from the federal government, you may qualify for some VA benefits. To learn more visit the VA’s National Guard and Reserve web page.
3. What benefits does the VA offer?
The VA offers a wide range of benefits for psychological health concerns. These include:
- Residential care
- Outpatient mental health care
- PTSD services
- Homelessness prevention
- Sexual assault care
- Substance misuse care
- Suicide prevention
Visit the VA’s mental health home page for more information.
Other VA benefits you or your family may be eligible for include:
Visit the VA’s active-duty service member benefits web page for more information.
4. Will the VA help me transition from military to civilian life?
Yes. The VA recently improved its portion of the Transition Assistance Program brief you will receive before separating from your branch of service. The VA brief will now focus on your unique needs by including tailored information that will be helpful to you depending on where you are in your life and career. Topics that may be relevant to you include buying a house, going to school or starting a business.
Beyond that, the VA has transition services including:
- Job and Career Aid with Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment
- Education and training through the GI Bill
5. Are there services tailored for service members who served in combat?
If you deployed, Vet Centers are an invaluable source of support and information. They can help you and your family readjust to civilian life. They offer employment assessments and referrals that can help you find a job, guidance to cope with family stress, help getting treatment for psychological health concerns, and more.
Vet centers are located across the country. They are staffed by counselors who understand your experiences in uniform and can offer support that truly meets your needs.
Even if you haven’t deployed to a combat theater or area of hostility you may still be eligible for Vet Center services if you:
- Served on an unmanned aerial vehicle crew in support of hostile operations
- Gave medical care or mortuary services to casualties of war
- Experienced sexual assault
Contacting a Vet Center is easy. Locate one to visit in person or call 877-WAR-VETS (877-927-8387).
If you served in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, or Operation New Dawn, you may be eligible for additional aid and support. This includes free medical care for any combat-related condition, for five years after the date of your discharge and some dental care.
6. When should I start applying for VA disability benefits?
You can apply for disability compensation 90 to 180 days before you separate. The VA’s Benefits Delivery at Discharge program ensures that you begin receiving the help you are entitled to as soon as possible after you separate. This can be for physical wounds or invisible wounds like posttraumatic stress disorder.
Finally, remember that transitioning can be stressful to both your mind and body. It is important to take care of your physical and psychological health. If you or a loved one needs additional support, contact the Psychological Health Resource Center 24/7 to confidentially speak with trained health resource consultants. Call 866-966-1020 or use the Real Warriors Live Chat. You can also see a list of key psychological health resources here.
- Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). Vets.gov.
- Department of Veterans Affairs. (2018). Veterans Eligibility.
- Department of Veterans Affairs. (2017). National Guard and Reserve.
- Department of Veterans Affairs. (2018). Mental Health.
- Department of Veterans Affairs. (2018). Vet Center Program.
- Department of Veterans Affairs. (2017). Returning Service Members (OEF/OIF/OND).
- Department of Veterans Affairs. (2018). Pre-Discharge.