Getting Organized

Everybody's busy, but getting a few priority tasks done before you leave the military can make your transition more focused and less stressful.  Once out of your uniform, tackling the most immediate tasks and initiating productive contacts may give you much peace of mind as you navigate new experiences and opportunities.

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Paperwork/Planning Priorities: Before Departing the Military

The tasks noted in the "Planning Priorities:  Before Departing the Military" document posted at the end of this section is a "short list" that either can't get done or will be much more difficult to accomplish once you are officially discharged.  

Other Helpful Links

DOD Transition Assistance Program (TAP)/Disabled Transition Assistance Program (DTAP):  The Department of Defense (DOD) is legally required to assist servicemembers with transitioning from military service.   These programs serve Active Component Servicemembers, including Active Guard Reserve (AGR), Active Reserve (AR) and Full Time Support (FTS).  Your local Transition Counselor will initiate a DD Form 2648, "Pre-Separation Counseling Checklist," a copy of which must legally be filed in your official personnel file.  Other helpful links:

Active Duty Pre-separation Transition List:  This active duty military pre-separation checklist starts the transition process 18 months before your final day of service. It includes key links to forms and military and civilian contacts for housing, employment, education, health care as well as veteran benefits and services.

When to Do What:  This military separation checklist reminds you to take care of the many important details that can make a big difference during your final countdown days.

Paperwork & Planning Priorities Before Departing the Military

External Website: Military One Source

Paperwork/Planning Priorities: Transitioning Out/After Departing the Military

Working the more immediate tasks in the "Paperwork & Planning Priorities:  Transitioning Out & After Departing the Military" document posted at the end of this section can help you achieve day-to-day self-sufficiency and prepare for expected and unexpected life challenges. Focusing on what is within your control may also provide some peace of mind during a hectic transition.  

Paperwork & Planning Priorities After Transitioning Out of the Military

External Website: Military One Source

Transition Assistance Programs: Before and After Departing the Military

The Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs and Labor collaborate to offer transition programs to servicemembers and their families to help them more smoothly depart the military and settle down wherever they choose to live.  Education, employment, training, recovery, and continuity of health care are some of the topics covered in the Transition Assistance Program (TAP).

The Department of Defense Transition Assistance Program (TAP) provides information, tools, and training to servicemembers and their spouses to help prepare them for their reentry to civilian life.  It includes education, employment, and starting a business information.

The Department of Labor redesigned its employment workshop, the largest component of the TAP curriculum, to be more applicable to the realities of today's job market. VETS fulfills this requirement for DOL and manages the implementation of the employment workshop at hundreds of military installations worldwide for thousands of separating service-members.

Chapter 11 of the Department of Veterans Affairs Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents and Survivors handbook lists many of these programs.

Reach in and explore what may be there to ease your transition from the military.

Veterans Benefits Timetable: Must-meet Deadline Dates to Apply for Benefits

This form lists the various benefits offered through the Department of Veterans Affairs Benefits Administration.  For each benefit, the time limit to apply and the contact information on where to apply is included.  Some of the benefits included are:  health care, dental care, disability compensation, pension, education, vocational rehabilitation and employment, home loans, life insurance, reemployment rights, and unemployment compensation.

For detailed information about specific benefits, visit this WomenVetsUSa "Other Resources" section link:

2016 Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents and Survivors Handbook, (Department of Veterans Affairs)

Veterans Benefits Timetable--VBA Form 27-0501--Jun 2013

External Website: VBA Form 27-0501: Veterans Benefits Timetable

Applying for VA Health Care & Benefits: Services, Claims, Guides & Other Information

These links familiarize servicemembers and veterans with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care and benefits disability compensation claims processes. 

Applying for VA Health Care

Determining eligibility for VA care begins with completing the VA Form 10-10EZ, Application for Health Benefits.  It takes very little time to complete this form.  Because each veteran's circumstances are unique and VA eligibility criteria changes with the passing of new laws, it is important to submit an application and not self-eliminate.  Let the VA determine your eligibility for care.  Also, you can reapply if not eligible during one VA review.  Your life circumstances may change (unemployment, diagnosis of a registry illness, disability determination, etc.) which in turn, can change your eligibility.

Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Health Care Representatives

If you need assistance with completing the VA Form 10-10EZ, Application for Health Benefits or making contact with a VA health care provider and/or a benefits claims representative, these two individuals in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) can assist:

VHA Women Veterans Program Manager (WVPM):  Women veterans who are interested in receiving VA health care should contact the nearest VA Medical Center and ask for the Women Veterans Program Manager. The WVPM can also connect you with your VA Regional Benefits Office Women Veteran Coordinator (WVC) for assistance with filing a benefits claim.

VHA Military Sexual Trauma (MST) Coordinator:  Female and male MST survivors seeking MST-related care should contact the nearest VA Medical Center and ask for the Military Sexual Trauma Coordinator.  The WVPM can also connect you with your VA Regional Benefits Office Women Veteran Coordinator (WVC) or MST Claims Coordinator for assistance with filing a MST benefits claim.

Visit WomenVetsUSA Heath Care pages for more information about health care plans, services and other resources..

Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) Claims Representatives

Most importantly, remember you are not expected to be a compensation claims process expert. Work with a VA or an accredited, knowledgeable representative who will advise you from the beginning to end of the claims process.

Women Veteran Coordinators:  All VBA Regional Offices have a Women Veteran Coordinator (WVC) to assist women with military service.  You can request to work your claim with the Women Veterans Coordinator by contacting the nearest VBA Regional Benefits Office.  

Military Sexual Assault (MST) Claims Representatives:  All VBA Regional Offices have one or more MST claims representative(s).  Female and male MST survivors can request to work their claim with a designated MST claim representative or the Women Veterans Coordinator by contacting the nearest VBA Regional Benefits Office.  Ask to be connected with the MST claim representative or the Women Veterans Coordinator. 

Visit WomenVetsUSA Health Care pages for more information about health care plans, services and other resources.

Veterans Administration-Accredited Claims Representatives

These claims representatives are not VA employees.  However, the VA recognizes them as VA-accredited claims representatives.  They may be located closer to your home.  VA-accredited attorneys and claim agent representatives may lawfully charge fees for their services, a percentage that is capped by law.

State/County Veteran Service Officers: Each state has accredited Veteran Service Officers (VSOs) to assist with claims processing. Contact your State Veterans Affairs Office for referral.  State/county VSOs have not traditionally charged fees for their services.

Veteran Service Organization, Attorney and Claim Agent Representatives:  Individuals filing benefits claims with the Veterans Benefits Administration should seek accredited representation by referencing the information maintained by the Office of General Counsel (OGC) at their "Accreditation Search" for accredited claims representatives.  VSO claims representatives (VFW, American Legion, DAV, etc.) do not charge fees for their services.  While some VA-accredited attorneys and claim agent representatives offer pro bono (free) services, they may lawfully charge fees (20-33 1/2% for successful appeals handling) for their services, a percentage that is capped by law.  See 38 U.S.C. § 5904 and 38 C.F.R. § 14.636.

For additional information, visit these links:

How to Apply for Disabilty Compensation Claims

Types of Disability Compensation ClaimsPre-discharge (within 180 days of discharge), pre-service, in-service, post-service and special circumstances

Guide: Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents and Survivors (2016 Edition Handbook):  Veterans of the United States armed forces may be eligible for a broad range of benefits and services provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Some of these benefits may be utilized while on active duty.

Veterans Benefits Administration: Home Page/Quick Navigation List

Media and Publications

Veterans and Survivors Pension Program

Veteran benefits are codified in Title 38 of the United States Code.

External Website: Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) Programs Portal

Nonprofit & Profit Organizations Assisting Veterans

There are many non-profit and for profit organizations serving veterans. Most of these organizations focus on specific populations of veterans or offer specialized services and/or products to better serve their clients with their available resources.  Some are vet-to-vet enterprises and others are founded by citizens choosing to work with military veterans.

Visit the WomenVetsUSA "Organizations & Sites" for some of the many resources you may wish to contact.  New organizations are continuously added to this list.  If you wish to research an organization's legitimacy (accreditation, licensing ratings, allocation of monies, etc.), there are several agencies listed who offer this service.

External Website: WomenVetsUSA Organizations & Sites

How to Request Your Military Discharge, Personnel and Medical Records

Your official discharge/separation document is one of the most important military service documents you and your family or caregiver will need.  This official separation form verifies and characterizes your active military service. You may need it for employment, education, home loans, filing a benefits claim or other federal, state and community veteran benefits and services.

Active Duty and Reserves

Military records for World War I and later are are archived at the National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records (NPRC-MPR) in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Standard Form 180, Request Pertaining to Military Records (SF180), is used to request the following types of archived military-related records.

  • Discharge/Separation records including replacements:  DD Form 214, Certificate of Release of Discharge from Active Duty from the United States, or equivalent. This form contains information normally needed to verify military service.
  • Personnel records
  • Medical/Health records

To correct your DD214, you'll need to complete a DD215, Correction to DD Form 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty.

National Guard

NGB Forms 22 and 22A is the official record of Army and Air National Guard service.  The NGB Form 22, Report of Separation and Military Service, includes information about your National Guard service time, military job, decorations, reason for discharge, and discharge characterization.

There is not a central repository for National Guard records as the National Guard belongs to the individual state, not to the federal government.  To obtain a copy of your NGB Form 22/22A, you have to contact the National Guard Adjutant General's Office for the particular state in which you performed National Guard service. For contact information, visit the National Guard website.

Safeguard this document and be sure someone else you trust knows about this form should they need to assist you!

External Website: National Personnel Records Center

What's next?

Be sure to visit the other WomenVetsUSA Benefits and Services pages for more helpful tips and tools.