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Your transition out of the military can be complicated. It seems pretty easy at first: complete your out-processing checklist, get your DD-214, maybe say a little “hooray” as you drive out of the gate. But what comes after those things can be difficult or confusing.
Unlike military life, there are no first sergeants, regulations, or operations orders to tell you what to do. It’s now up to you to figure things out and there’s a lot to figure out --- from where to live, to where to work and what to wear, to how to pay for health care. It’s easy to make mistakes.
Here are five common mistakes transitioning services make, a few of which I made myself:
1. Thinking the Post-9/11 GI Bill is all there is.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill is a fabulous option --- tuition and fees, housing allowance, books. But it isn’t the only option and it isn’t always the best option. Before you elect to give up that Montgomery GI Bill, be sure to investigate the other education benefits out there, such as Guard and Reserve options, vocational rehabilitation and even scholarships and fellowships, to make sure you’re making the right choice for you and your situation. You can find details on the various education benefits on Department of Veterans Affairs website.
2. Not researching health care.
No one ever wanted to be the one going to sick call, but it was there when you needed it. Preventive checks, flu shots, or 800 milligrams of Motrin --- it was always available and always free. Civilian health care is much more complicated and shockingly expensive. Even if you’re retiring from the military and staying with TRICARE Prime, what was covered when you were active duty and what will be covered when you are a retiree are not the same. For example, eye exams on Active Duty are paid for every year, while retirees and their families are only authorized one every two years. Making sure you know your options can save you a lot of money down the road. And, of course, even if you choose not to use it, you should go straight to your local VA clinic and get into the VA system.
3. Waiting to file your VA claim.
We all know the VA claims process can take quite some time. Delaying your filing date, or not staying on top of your claim once it’s filed, is only going to make it take longer. Even if you’re still waiting on one doctor to get you a copy of your record, file your claim anyway. You can always send that record in later, but the date from which VA is going to pay you is based on the day you submit the initial claim. You can find details to get you started here.
4. Not establishing residency.
We get very used to using the term “home-of-record” while we are in the military. We get so used to it that it seems normal to have a home-of-record of Florida, a driver’s license from Virginia, a car registered in California, and be registered to vote in Ohio. But home-of-record only applies while you are on active duty. Once you leave active duty, you have to establish residency in a state and that often requires registering a vehicle, buying or leasing a home, registering to vote, and other actions that indicate you intend to stay --- and pay taxes --- in that state. Residency can become a big issue when it comes to tax exemptions, in-state tuition rates, and other state benefits, like unemployment, and should be addressed before your date of separation. Details on establishing residency can usually be found on your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles or Department of Transportation websites.
5. Being unprepared to go it alone.
In the military, we get very used to being surrounded by people who are dressed like us, who have the same mission as we do, who consider themselves part of the same team, and who are, generally speaking, there to help us out if we need it. Every installation we went to came with a built-in support network; the civilian world doesn’t work that way. There is no sponsor or gaining unit waiting at the end of your final move, no one to show you the ropes and make you feel like you belong. You have to go out and find your new teammates, or you have to be prepared to rely on yourself. Don’t be afraid to reach out; your fellow vets had your back when you were serving, they’ll have your back now, too --- you just have to go find them.
Becoming a civilian isn’t as easy as simply taking off your uniform. There are a lot of moving parts and it’s going to take time and energy to feel like you’ve successfully made the transition. Avoiding some common mistakes, though, can make that transition a little easier.
North Korea threatens to resume nuclear weapons and ICBM tests if US-South Korea military exercises proceed
SEOUL (Reuters) - The United States looks set to break a promise not to hold military exercises with South Korea, putting talks aimed at getting North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons at risk, the North Korean Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.
The United States' pattern of "unilaterally reneging on its commitments" is leading Pyongyang to reconsider its own commitments to discontinue tests of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), the ministry said in a pair of statements released through state news agency KCNA.
Customs and Border Patrol denied a Marine vet entry into the US for his a scheduled citizenship interview
A deported Marine Corps veteran who has been unable to come back to the U.S. for more than a decade was denied entry to the country Monday morning when he asked to be let in for a scheduled citizenship interview.
Roman Sabal, 58, originally from Belize, came to the San Ysidro Port of Entry around 7:30 on Monday morning with an attorney to ask for "parole" to attend his naturalization interview scheduled for a little before noon in downtown San Diego. Border officials have the authority to temporarily allow people into the country on parole for "humanitarian or significant public benefit" reasons.
Navy Secretary Richard Spencer took the reins at the Pentagon on Monday, becoming the third acting defense secretary since January.
Spencer is expected to temporarily lead the Pentagon while the Senate considers Army Secretary Mark Esper's nomination to succeed James Mattis as defense secretary. The Senate officially received Esper's nomination on Monday.
U.S. Special Operations Command may be on the verge of making the dream of flying infantry soldiers a reality, but the French may very well beat them to it.
On Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron shared an unusual video showing a man on a flying platform — widely characterized as a "hoverboard" — maneuvering through the skies above the Bastille Day celebrations in Paris armed with what appears to be a dummy firearm.
The video was accompanied with a simple message of "Fier de notre armée, moderne et innovante," which translates to "proud of our army, modern and innovative," suggesting that the French Armed Forces may be eyeing the unusual vehicle for potential military applications.
A lawmaker wants to know if the Pentagon ever exposed the American public to ticks infected with bioweapons
If you've ever wondered if the Pentagon has ever exposed the American public to ticks infected with biological weapons, you're not alone.
Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) authored an amendment to the House version of the Fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act would require the Defense Department Inspector General's Office to find out if the U.S. military experimented with using ticks and other insects as biological weapons between 1950 and 1975.
If such experiments took place, the amendment would require the inspector general's office to tell lawmakers if any of the ticks or other bugs "were released outside of any laboratory by accident or experiment design."