For the sacrifices they've made, active duty, Guard and reserve service members returning from Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation New Dawn (formerly known as Operation Iraqi Freedom) deserve the easiest possible transition from active duty to civilian life. To that end, the VA's new, streamlined, easy-to-use outreach program helps ensure that separating combat veterans are fully informed about their VA benefits. For seriously injured service members, VA counselors bring the program directly to hospitals and medical centers to make sure service members have their benefits lined up and accessible the moment they leave active duty.
The VA spreads the word about its services through the Transition Assistance Program. All transitioning service members are encouraged to take a TAP class to get up-to-date information on VA and other benefits. Your installation TAP office can provide class schedules and more information. Special service member and veteran groups can get information on VA programs through:
- Transition assistance for Guard and reserve members. The VA is making a special effort to reach transitioning Guard and reserve members at their demobilization sites. The VA has also trained veterans to serve as National Guard Bureau liaisons in every state to help veterans transition to civilian life. Visit the VA for Returning Service Members (OEF/OIF) website for details.
- Disabled Transition Assistance Program. For service members leaving the military with medical disabilities, the VA offers the Disabled Transition Assistance Program, which covers disability compensation, medical services and vocational rehabilitation. For details, visit the DTAP website.
- Transition assistance for wounded service members and their families. To smooth the transition for severely injured service members, the VA offers special liaisons at military hospitals to help them and their families with information on health care, disability compensation, vocational rehabilitation and employment. Before discharge, coordinators work to smooth the transition from the military medical center to VA services nearest the veteran's residence.
While veterans with service-connected disabilities always have access to VA medical services, now all OEF and OND veterans can access medical benefits through the VA for two years after discharge. Medical services can include hospital care, outpatient health care, preventive care and nursing-home services. Visit the VA website for more details.
Other services available to OEF and OND veterans include:
- Readjustment counseling. The VA has expanded its counseling services and added many new mental-health teams based at VA medical centers to focus on early identification and management of stress-related disorders. The VA has recruited about 100 combat veterans in its readjustment counseling service to brief transitioning service members regarding military-related readjustment needs. Visit the Vet Center website for more information.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder program. The VA has activated many new PTSD programs around the country to help veterans cope with the emotional toll of combat. These counseling programs provide easy access to services apart from traditional VA medical centers. Visit the National Center for PTSD for more information.
Caregivers of injured service members and veterans need support too. The VA provides these services through the VA Caregiver Support service. Resources on their website include a caregivers' toolbox, tips and information regarding the challenges of caregiving, a caregivers support line and information to assist in finding local caregiver support. There are also services specific to caregivers of post 9/11 veterans. These services may include a monthly stipend, travel expenses, mental health counseling for the caregiver, respite care or health insurance. Please visit the VA's site Services for Caregivers of Post 9/11 Veterans for additional details and information on how to apply. The website offers details regarding available services and eligibility.
Other Veterans Affairs benefits and services
Many VA benefits and services are extended to both service members and veterans regardless of disability status, including:
- Education. The Post-9/11 GI Bill helps cover the cost of education and training programs for those who have served at least 90 days on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001. Service members who served at least 36 months receive the full benefit amount. Benefits cover the cost of tuition and fees, not more than the highest in-state tuition at a public institution of higher learning. With the new GI Bill program, service members who have served at least six years may be eligible to transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to their family members. Details are available at the GI Bill website.
- Life insurance. Service members, including Guard and reserve members, may purchase $400,000 of life insurance through the VA's low-cost Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance program. After leaving the military, veterans may choose to convert their SGLI to Veterans' Group Life Insurance. Visit VA life insurance for more information.
- Home loan guaranties. The VA's Home Loan Guaranty program helps service members and veterans secure competitive rates on home loans with little or no down payment. The VA guarantees a portion of the loan, but it is funded and processed through a private lender, such as a bank or mortgage company. Your lender can offer more details and interest-rate information for VA loans. Visit the VA Home Loan Guaranty website for details.
- Homelessness Prevention Programs. The VA provides individualized, comprehensive care to prevent and end homelessness among OEF, OND and other veterans. If you or a veteran you know is struggling to find permanent housing or facing foreclosure, make the call to 877-4AID-VET, or chat online to learn more or be connected to the support services the VA offers.
Services for veterans with disabilities
For service members with disabilities, the VA offers additional programs, including:
- Disability compensation. The amount of disability compensation is based on the severity of the disability, with additional payments available if the veteran has a spouse or other dependents. You can use the Veterans Online Application to apply for disability compensation. In addition to regular disability compensation, special monthly compensation is available to veterans with serious disabilities.
- Rehabilitation and employment services. The VA helps disabled service members and veterans by offering rehabilitation and employment services to ease the transition out of the military with counseling, education and training, job assistance and financial aid. The program is also available to active-duty service members awaiting discharge because of a disability. More details are available at the DTAP website.