The transition from military service to life as a civilian can be very jarring and stressful. Murphy’s Law, anything that can go wrong will go wrong, can become the driving force in life. Here are some tips on how to ease the transition.
Attend transition classes
Each service branch sponsors many different classes to educate you on your benefits, train you on how to succeed in finding post-service employment, and moving from your duty station to your new home. Congress has mandated that every service member attend pre-separation counseling and each branch has different requirements for attending a Transition Assistance Program class so check with your leadership on what classes you’re required to attend. The best idea is to attend as many classes as possible regardless of what is required by your branch!
Begin your VA disability claim as soon as possible
You will quickly learn that VA disability offices are undermanned and always have a backlog of claims to process. Your wait for any disability payment will be greatly reduced if you’re proactive and respond to any requests for additional information quickly. Ensure you complete all physicals when scheduled to avoid further delays. Mostly importantly, be polite and patient.
Make copies of everything
Many say documentation beats conversation and that is especially true with military service. Everything you did is somehow documented. Make copies of your service record, medical records, dental records, and any other paperwork that is important. It isn’t uncommon for some things to be lost. Protect yourself and maintain physical and digital copies of everything. Make sure to keep your records safe, since some of the information in your records could be used to steal your identity.
Check and double check all paperwork
Ensure you look at and understand all paperwork, especially your DD-214. There are processes for getting corrections made to your service record, but it can be a long and difficult process. Take the time as you transition to make any changes needed so you aren’t rushing as your transition date approaches or having to communicate with your old duty station over the phone or email to correct mistakes.
Asking questions is the most important part of the transition process. Do not leave the front gate wondering what the next step will be. A vast majority of people separating are doing so for the first time and don’t have past experience to draw upon. Your may think your question isn’t important, but this is your transition and you must have all information to make it as easy as possible.
Good luck on your transition and thank you for your service!
Photo thanks to WarriorForge under creative commons license on Flickr.