There are ways to smooth your transition when you hit bumps in the road.

Excerpted from Veterans Handbook:
Tactics for Civilian Life. Copyright © 2012, Lightbulb Press.

If the transition to civilian life were simply about a change of address and a new job description, it wouldn’t be such an ordeal. But as millions of men and women have discovered, there’s a lot more to transition than most active duty military members might think—for both them and their family.  There are unexpected hurdles that may be encountered, as well as unexpected costs that may need to be factored into the household budget.  Knowing about these potential obstacles beforehand can allow servicemembers to be financially and mentally prepared before they transition out of the military.

Opportunities for Spouses

If a spouse isn’t a member of the military and eligible for transition assistance and veterans benefits, he or she may find it difficult to make personal and career decisions, especially when the military member is still sorting out his or her own future.

Spouses are eligible to attend the same transition workshops and job fairs that are available to military members. However, access to many of the spouse-focused career and education programs, including tuition assistance available through the MyCAA program and the Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP), ends when the servicemember is no longer on active duty.

If a spouse has a scholarship through the National Military Family Association, or other education or training benefits, it’s smart to investigate what effect, if any,  leaving the service will have on continued participation in the program and if any action is required.

Remember, you do have the right to assign the education benefits to which you’re entitled under the Post 9/11 GI Bill to your spouse or children, rather than using them yourself. But the servicemember must make that decision while still on active duty and meet other conditions that may apply, including incurring service commitments.

Moving Out/Moving On

The DoD covers the expense of moving a household from the servicemember’s last duty station.

If leaving the service voluntarily, the DoD will pay for the move within 180 days of separation, provided the servicemember returns to his or her home of record or moves somewhere that’s an equal or shorter distance. If the new home is farther away, the additional cost of the move will be out of pocket. If leaving the service involuntarily, the distance limits do not apply to moving costs and the time limit is extended to one year.

Fighting Other Battles

Despite the best planning and the help available from a number of sources, not everything may go as smoothly as transitioning servicemembers may like. One area of potential frustration is in obtaining benefits—disability in particular, but also healthcare, education, and others—if the VA turns down the claim.

If the separating servicemember appeals and is again turned down, there is a process for taking the case to the US Court of Appeals for Veterans Affairs.  Information on how to file can be found at www.uscourts.cavc.gov.  Attorneys, always a good idea for court filings, must be accredited by the VA (there is a list of accredited attorneys here: www.va.gov/ogc/apps/accreditation/index.asp) If a veteran can’t afford a lawyer, he or she can contact the Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program at www.vetsprobono.org

Dealing With Stress

While a certain degree of stress is natural when transitioning, if issues are weighing a military member down, there is help at hand.  Online resources are often the most accessible way to get started, including establishing ties with a community of other veterans.   The websites www.maketheconnection.net and the National Resource Directory at www.nrd.gov are a good place to start.

Veterans will also want to investigate the VA’s VET Center Program (www.vetcenter.va.gov), which provides counseling for combat veterans and those who experienced sexual trauma and harassment while on duty. It’s community-based and free of charge.

In an Emergency

A Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 provides trained professionals available to take calls at any time. There’s also a chat feature at www.veteranscrisisline.net or veterans can text 83-8255.

More Resources

In addition to the extensive resources available through the DoD, DoL, VA, ED, and other federal departments, there’s an extensive list at of veterans organizations, including some with specialized missions, at www.veteransnetwork.net/directory.php.

Other valuable transition resources are available on the websites of the National Resource Directory (www.nrd.gov), the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.iava.org), and Military Exits (www.militaryexits.com).

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