4 Essential Things to Know Before You Leave the Military

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The time is near. You’re almost done. Counting down the days to ETS. You’ve started out-processing. Made the rounds to gather signatures. Packed your bags and turned in gear. You’re pretty sure you’re good to go. Covered all your bases. Yet despite your efforts, there are 4 essential things to know before you leave the military.

1. File for disability while you’re still on Active Duty

First, even if you aren’t heavily disabled, that doesn’t mean you don’t qualify for disability. As a military member who served your country, you deserve compensation for any service-related problems. Even problems you aren’t sure are disabling might qualify you for a 10% or higher VA rating, and that’s money and benefits in your pocket for the rest of your life.

There’s no time limit on when you can file for disability. You can file while you’re on Active Duty, after you ETS, or even twenty years from now. But for the best chance to get rated for service-connected disabilities, you’ll want to file sooner rather than later because the longer you wait, the less likely you are to receive proper consideration for compensation.

Another reason it’s better to file before you leave the military has to do with your career. Disabled Veterans get preference for disabilities because employers can claim a 40% tax credit on the first $24,000 of wages for Veterans with service-connected disabilities when you’ve been out of the military less than a year.

2. Make backup copies of everything, especially your DD-214

Paperwork…nobody likes it, but it’s necessary, and there’s a lot of it when you ETS. One of the best decisions you’ll ever make is to keep copies of all your important documents in a special folder for later on. Keep your medical records, training records, fitness records and extras of your DD-214. Some of these you may never need, but others you’ll use all the time.

For instance, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve needed copies of my DD-214. You’ll use it to get VA benefits, prove your military affiliation, get Veteran’s preferences for jobs (more on that in a minute) and for a bunch of other purposes.

Some of your records may not seem useful to anyone but you; however, you should keep those too because they might come in handy if you ever decide to re-enlist or go part-time with the Reserves or National Guard. Basically, keep everything because you never know what you’ll need.

3. Determine your career path before you make the leap

Another essential thing to know before you leave the military is what career path you’d like to embark on. Not considering your career before you ETS can lead to low-paying jobs and stagnant wages. In January of 2018, nearly 38,000 Veterans were homeless, and it makes sense when you think about it.

When you leave the military, you return to a world you were isolated from for years. You have to readjust to the challenges of modern life. For instance, you might pay utilities and rent, cover your own food costs, and compete for employment in a system that values social engagement over qualifications. Those are just a few challenges that await.

One way to ensure you don’t wind up on the streets is to get trained for a top-paying career where demand for employees is higher than supply. Careers in fields like Cybersecurity aren’t based on how much a hiring manager likes you, but rather on how much they need you and the skills you possess. So think about your career now before it’s too late.

4. Set up VA benefits to support your transition

If you want to train for a high-paying skill in an in-demand career field, then it’s important to set up VA benefits before you ETS. That way you can get trained and certified in skills like CompTia Security+, CISM, CRISC or other I.T. certifications that position you for a six-figure salary even without a degree.

What makes this one of the 4 essential things to know is that the longer you wait, the longer it takes the VA to get you processed and paid. When your goal is to enter a top-paying field immediately, and hit the ground running, (and it should be) then you need to get set up with the VA for your Post 9-11 GI Bill or other benefits before you transition.

The VA has a history of being slow to process claims. In fact, some Veterans fought for their benefits for years before receiving what they earned. But if you get started early, and stay on top of your status, you’ll have your benefits when you need them most.

Cover the 4 essentials for a smooth transition

All four points really are essential considerations. You should think about them now while you have time. So many Veterans wait until they’re forced to deal with these issues, and it really puts them in a tough place. Do yourself a favor and take care of these now because it will make your life so much easier later on. And if you need trained for a high-paying career, that’s what we can do. Click here to apply so we can help you.

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Veteran Transition Mission is a veteran-run non-profit founded to help veterans build the careers they deserve after the military.

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What will my GI Bill cover?
Your benefits may cover up to 100% of your 9 weeks of training, books, testing vouchers, practice tests, exam crams, and can provide with additional benefits to help pay for food or expenses back home. We understand the needs of military veterans who want to further their post-military careers, and we can help make the process of applying for and getting your GI Bill benefits easier than you think.

What are the first steps?
Our experienced team of Veteran Career Specialists will work with you to determine if you qualify for veterans education benefits towards our programs. You will need to provide a copy of your VA GI Bill COE (Certificate of Eligibility) or screenshot of your COE from VA e-Benefits website to begin. We will assist you through the application process so you can start your training as quickly as possible.
If you are enrolled or have utilized your Post 9/11 entitlement for any training from August 1, 2017 to the present, you must also provide a copy of your most recent Award Letter from the VA. This will show what amount of entitlement has been used in the current calendar year. Once we evaluate your COE and the Award Letter (if applicable) up to 100% of the cost of your training may be covered.
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