Military Discharge: it’s a point in time that awaits all service members. For some, it may mean a transition into a more comfortable and relaxed life in retirement. But for many, it means transitioning into the civilian sector. In either case, military discharge is the start of a new life for everyone. Bottom line: if you are a service member facing and upcoming discharge, there are steps you are going to want to take to make transitioning into your new life easier.
Prior To Military Discharge There Are Steps You Should Take.
If your military discharge date is fast approaching, there are several tasks you are going to want to accomplish in order to be prepared. These steps are critical in ensuring your smooth transition from military to civilian life. Some of these steps will be set up by your chain-of-command, but most are completely dependent on you.
STEP 1: Review and make copies of all records.
We can not stress enough how important it is to review your military personnel record and your military health record prior to discharge. Many a benefit has been lost due to missing or lost paperwork. Don’t let this happen to you. Once you have reviewed your records for completeness, make copies of everything. Once you have your own complete personnel and medical record, make sure you save them in a safe fireproof place also have a digital copy.
STEP 2: Review and make copies of your DD-214.
Most veterans are so anxious to get their discharge paperwork completed that they fail to take the time to really review their paperwork. We can not stress enough, the single most important document is your DD-214. You must make absolutely sure that everything is complete and accurate.
For example, failure to notice that you are missing an award. Imagine if you fail to realize that your Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, or your Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, is not listed on your 214. This could result in your loss of benefits because you can not show that you deployed to a combat zone. You might be able to prove it if you were smart enough to follow step one from above, but it’s just easier to make sure your DD-214 is accurate.
STEP 3: Attend All Military Discharge Preparation Classes.
Different branches call them different things. But the reality is that every branch of military service offers some form of transition classes. In the United States Navy, it is called “TAP Class.” It stands for Transition Assistance Program. TAP was created by law and it established a partnership between DoD, The Department of Veterans Affairs, The Department of Transportation and the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS). For more information, you can visit the Transition Assistance Program online. Most often these classes will be set up by your Chain-of-Command and in most instances, attendance is mandatory.
STEP 4: Get Involved With the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars).
The Veterans Of Foreign Wars organization is probably one of the best assets at your disposable. They specialize in helping veterans transition into civilian life. To learn more about all of the benefits and help they can provide you can visit the VFW website. This is especially true if you are seeking disability.
As per the VFW; “Imagine spending years wading through the bureaucratic red tape offered up by the VA only to find you’ve been denied a disability claim. Where do you turn? Don’t walk away in defeat. VFW understands the frustration associated with claims and that’s why our National Veterans Service (NVS) program was formed. VFW Service Officers have the expertise and guidance you need.”
STEP 5: Get Started On LinkedIn.
Whether you like it or not, LinkedIn has become a necessity in today’s job market. Report after report has shown that there is nothing more powerful in helping you secure a new job than a properly written and formatted resume and a powerful profile on LinkedIn. To learn more about “why” you need a LinkedIn profile you can read; “Networking – Veterans Most Potent Weapon To Land Their ‘Dream’ Job. To learn “how” to create a LinkedIn profile you can read; “5 steps to Creating A Professional LinkedIn Veteran Profile.”
STEP 6: Do Your Research – Get Training and Get Educated.
The fact of the matter is that there has been a drastic rise in the number of unemployed veterans in this country. In fact, according to the Veterans Administration and the US Department of Labor, the total number of unemployed veterans is 12.1 percent of the total population of the unemployed in the U.S.
According to Jose Coll, an associate professor of social work and director of veteran services at Saint Leo University; “Many veterans separating from the military report feelings of anxiety, frustration, fear and even loss. The absolute best defense against these overwhelming emotions is through training and education.”
Another great way to get involved with your community is to participate in your child’s education or by volunteering or joining a religious organization which can further help to create a sense of community and cohesiveness. You can also research support groups in your area.
By taking proactive steps early in the military discharge process, you can make a successful transition from military life to civilian life. But the key point to remember here is do not wait until the last minute. You should start the discharge process and take proactive steps at least six months before your actual discharge date.